Key to recession success: A great brand

Do you know how others see you? Mastering the message you project could help you weather the downturn, says personal brank consultant Tessa Hood.
Written by Tessa Hood, Contributor
As we are all too aware, we are in a recession. So how are you going to cushion yourself against the potential fallout of a deep downturn?

One way is to invest time and effort in developing an effective personal brand. This will highlight your skills and experience, and positively differentiate you from your colleagues and competitors.

Like it or not we all have a personal brand, and we are continuously broadcasting it through how we appear and act. Once you start to think of yourself as a product, it is a natural progression to think of how you package and market yourself - remember, each one of us is as marketable as any famous brand, and every brand has its values.

The first step in developing your personal brand is to pinpoint your values. Brand is all about how you are perceived by others. Have you any idea how others see you? Is what you see in the mirror every morning the same as what other people see?

Start by conducting a review of your brand. One simple method is to ask a number of friends, colleagues and relatives to complete a short questionnaire with questions such as: how would you describe me to someone who didn't know me? What are my main weaknesses? My main strengths? Alternatively, you can provide them with a list of adjectives and have them tick the ones which describe you. Ask that the responses be anonymous so you get honest answers.

In the meantime make a list of what you see as your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (Swot). The results from your focus group brand audit and your own Swot analysis will hold the basic information about the values you are and aren't broadcasting to others.

If there are values you lack but need for your career, you now have the opportunity to start improving yourself.

One way to do this is to find someone that will agree to mentor you and advise you about where you need to improve and how well you are doing. Look at the people you know and admire and ask for their help in developing your opportunities.

Once you are confident you possess the values you need for your career, start thinking about projecting that brand to others. People see what you offer in terms of your personal rapport (i.e. telephone manner, email communications, quality and speed of response), online profile and skill set.

For those of you who are in client-facing roles, the way you physically and verbally communicate really does matter; people will make instant decisions about you that can be very hard to change, so make sure the right perception is created at the outset and that you are in control of that perception.

Ensure that your online profile is squeaky-clean - people are making great use of Google and other search engines to check out people they want to work with. Does a search lead to any photographs of you coming feet first out of nightclubs at 4am? The minute people start to have a mistaken view of who you are and what you do, then you have lost control of your personal brand and all that it can do for you.

Then examine your skill set. Is it as rounded and current as it could be? What are those weaknesses you could work on - for instance, public speaking? If you need good presentation skills to progress your career then consider joining a speakers club such as Toastmasters.

Next, think about how you 'package' your brand. Does that mean jeans, trainers and any old top? Probably not. It should mean looking 'business ready', not necessarily formally booted and suited, but professional in manner, smart and dressed appropriately to your industry.

When it comes to promoting your brand, start within your own company and then look for ways to go further afield. Find ways to network, whether by joining trade associations or getting active on social networking sites such as LinkedIn. Check to see if anyone recommended you or your work. If not, ask trusted colleagues for recommendations.

In difficult times like these we need to have every ounce of advantage on our side. Developing and promoting your brand values will help others to see your potential and strengths - and will build your reputation through recognition of your values and qualities.

There are few better ways to ensure you prosper in a downturn.

Tessa Hood is managing director of Changing Gear, a UK reputation and personal brand consultancy based in London and Surrey. She is a recognized expert in the field and has an international portfolio of clients including banks such as HSBC and The Clydesdale, airlines such as British Airways and a variety of City companies. She lectures on Masters courses and is a regular media contributor. Her book, "The Personal Brandwagon - and how to jump on it" was published in March 2006.

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