The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
Brand, or be Branded!
1997. Reverberating rave music generated a hip vibe. Cameras flashed as the crowd studied the student models.
Attending my first fashion show, I sat at the end of the runway—as one of the judges. The dean of my alma mater had appointed me to the board of the fashion school (long story). I and my fellow judges —all of whom were in the business of fashion models and designers—were responsible for appraising the graduate student champions of design.
Despite my initial excitement over the opportunity to act as a fashion critic, I quickly realized my business skills didn’t match my responsibility. And if you have seen my tie collection, you would understand. I felt as out of place as a punk rocker at a symphony.
But I gained one valuable lesson through that experience. The beauty of a model or her or his clothing design didn’t captivate me. The confidence with which the model walked did. They defined their brand despite the fabric or color.
Whether or not you embrace it, the cold, hard truth is that you are judged daily. Minus your own purposeful brand, your board, executive team, peers, subordinates, and business associates will do the branding for you.
In fact, you already have a brand and you don’t even know it. The work has been done for you. Rather than accept a label that may or may not be accurate, take responsibility and define and project your brand.
Borrowing a truism from my friends in marketing, brand or be branded.
First, do some intensive soul searching and decide on the brand you want. Examine your life. Ensure that your chosen brand is aligned with your core competencies and your personal vision. I posted on this subject several years ago in Taking Control of your Destiny.
Once you’ve defined your brand, here are a few ideas to create and manage it:
Continually expand the breadth and depth of your professional and personal network. Proactively reaching out to others saves you from isolation and becoming irrelevant.
Editors are interested in genuine stories from real leaders. Send queries and don’t give up when initially rejected.
- Online services
Get over your fears. Presenting forces you to nail your subject matter and confront doubts.
- Professional societies
- Neighborhood associations
- Your organization
- Church, Synagogue, etc.
Jump into the community. Let leaders know you’re interested in adding value.
- Professional societies
- Special interest groups
Find regular opportunities, and your network will expand.
- Internal to your organization
- External to your organization
Build in times to review progress and make adjustments. Ask for feedback.
Take the initiative to self-educate. Learn from inside and outside of IT and healthcare.
- Marketing resources
Add to the Existing Body of Knowledge
Comment on what others have to say (you don’t always have to be the author).
- Post to blogs
- Contribute whenever the opportunity presents
No action will spoil your brand more than damaged credibility. While I’m all about a personal hallmark, it must be built upon a solid foundation of execution and excellence. These are not sequential tasks. Proactively improve performance and brand simultaneously.
Critics will say your brand is created and reinforced by your actions. This holds some truth, but it would be foolhardy not to be deliberate. Please! Take a look at politics for a second as we head into the presidential election. According to this study in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, when evaluating others, people prefer the potential of an individual over their past accomplishments. I maintain that this propensity for potential is stimulated by an effective brand.
Keep your brand in perspective, and let it humble you. The value of a stellar brand should reach far beyond you, and its primary benefits should accrue to the people and the organization served. If not, then it’s all about you. Possessing a personal brand, which should never come from arrogance or false humility, is key to success. For without it, you are allowing others to determine your brand and possibly your future.
You’re on the runway — lights flashing, cameras clicking. You may not always be able to select the specific clothes, but you must maintain poise and grace.
Make no mistake: the crowd is analyzing your every step. Brand yourself and accentuate it with confidence.
Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook and you can follow him via Twitter — user name marxists.