How to make the most of your personal brand

26 February 2015 -


Don’t just look in the loft for what needs a clear-out this spring – look in the mirror. Personal branding experts reveal their secrets to a successful spruce-up

Caitlin Mackesy Davies

In this day and age, a personal development plan is key in focusing on and achieving career goals – and your personal brand is central. It can just take a tweak, or it could mean a complete turnaround, but there’s sure to be something everyone can do to promote their profile, increase their impact and create a new buzz around their personal brand.

Not got a brand? Oh yes you do – although it may not be what you intend it to be. Of course, your CV is the most obvious way in which you present brand “you”, and you’ll have taken the time to fine-tune your language and your presentation to ensure it draws positive attention. But your conduct, dress, email signature, voicemail greeting – even your office furnishings – combine to create a “brand experience” that communicates your personal values and can affect the perception of your personal value to the company. So it’s time to take control of it, capitalise on it and even rehabilitate your brand if necessary. Taking the lead from an expert panel, here are some simple ideas.

Think inside-out

Is your signature style the same-old, same-old? Your look may not be important to you, warns career coach and image expert Mandy Lehto (, but it matters to those who work around you, because you reflect on them if they promote or champion you. Those in more junior positions may need to fix basics – where a tie should end, for example (it should reach the belt buckle or waistband), says Lehto, while at a senior level, what’s important is to bring out what’s amazing about you as an individual. It’s tempting to stock your shelves with more of the same, but Lehto advises taking some incremental and well-advised sartorial changes to ensure your outward appearance reflects your most marketable qualities.

Make your passion pay off

Are you passionate about your work, industry or sector, but unknown online? “Sharing your enthusiasm and expertise through a well-researched and constantly updated blog is a sure-fire way to build your profile,” says Dan Schawbel, the author of Me 2.0. It also identifies you as an expert and lets you build relationships with people interested in your subject matter. “Before going live,” he advises, “get feedback from potential readers and have at least six posts completed so that people will take you seriously and you’ll be more visible on search engines.” Finally, check your company policy on social media to make sure your plans are compliant and generate the positive impact you are aiming for.

Watch your language

Catherine Kaputa, author of You Are a Brand!, says that women, in particular, can often make a large impact by making small changes in their language. “While women generally have better verbal dexterity and ability,” she says, “they often fail to capitalise on this talent when it comes to interviews or negotiations on salary.” They also tend to downplay accomplishments, and use mitigating language, which brands them as weak or lacking strong opinions. Using direct, clear language will get a better message across.

Be seen and heard

Visibility in the workplace is important and there are easy ways to increase yours. “One simple idea,” offers Kaputa, “is to set up and promote monthly ‘lunch and learns’ in your business, which lets people share what is going on in their area, and offers networking opportunities that can help you build support and win internal sponsors. And ensure that in group decision-making scenarios or meetings you ‘take a seat at the table’,” she says. To be viewed as a leader (current or potential) you’ve got to be part of the business conversation.

Focus on WISE words

How you communicate is obviously crucial, but it’s something many of us struggle with. “Yet the basics of great communication are simple,” media trainer Robert Taylor says. First, know your audience. Whether you are presenting a project to the top brass, interviewing for a new position or speaking to a junior colleague, focus on what that audience wants to know and what you want them to do with the information, then tailor your message. Whatever the setting, conversational language works best. So ditch the jargon and be WISE – warm, intelligent, sincere and enthusiastic – for the best chance to connect.

Going up? The perfect elevator speech

It may just be a minute or a few sentences long, but when it comes to perfecting your personal brand, an effective elevator speech is your best weapon. An idea lifted from the film industry, this brief speech should be memorable and capture what is different about you.

“You are aiming to get them from the start,” says Catherine Kaputa, “so make the beginning good.” Her other tips: “Don’t reel off a laundry list of roles; instead use one metaphor, catchphrase or comparison. Finally, consider it a “living document” that will evolve over time.”

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