Build Your Personal Brand

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The first thing most people notice about Anne is her hat. In an era when head wear for women pretty much begins and ends with the royals, Anne stands out because of her chapeau. As I got to know and respect Anne for her humor, warmth, creativity and candor, it began to dawn on me that her crazy hats were no mere personal quirk, but a studied, deliberate, brilliant way to set herself apart from the crowd.

Anne’s brazen act of branding didn’t make her a success; instead, it served as a visual reference for those who aspired to emulate the many tangible and intangible qualities that set “the hat lady” apart from the herd.

Branding poorly done calls attention to itself. Branding done correctly calls attention to you – your style, your vision, your effectiveness, and ultimately, your value to others. Once people engage you, it also provides them with an easy reference, be it a jingle, a meme, or yes, even a funny hat, to use when sharing their successful experience with others.

How does a meeting and event planner establish and build an effective individual brand? Follow these 5 steps to separate yourself from the pack.

  1. Be your brand: It’s tempting to build your personal brand on qualities you admire in your heroes or hope to acquire in time. The problem is, at some point you’re bound to fall short of the expectations you’ve created. Instead, take stock of yourself – your personality, your style, your quirks and the attributes that lift your work above the rest – and let that self-awareness guide how you present yourself to the world. Being honest and human, even copping good-naturedly to your flaws and idiosyncrasies, helps instill trust in others. People want, nay need, to connect with the real you. Do your utmost to make sure your brand serves that purpose.
  1. Find your hat: Anne’s hat distills a handful of her best qualities: confidence, poise, quick wit, professionalism, commitment and yes, daring. What’s your “hat?” Are there aspects of your life that others would enjoy knowing and can relate to? Are you a pet person? Music lover? Sports fan? Gardener? An ounce of introspection can deliver a pound of direction for your budding brand, whether by suggesting a visual calling card like Anne’s, blog topics about your hobbies, public service leadership opportunities, or signature touches that will soon become subliminally associated with your work.
  1. Play to your strengths: Question: What do you do well that others do not? Got it? Now tell the world. Sharing your strengths with others, whether through social media posts, speaking engagements, blogs, webinars or videos, can build your brand quickly, provided your message is clear, cohesive, entertaining – and most importantly, engaging. If you can keep your sense of humor at the ready, stay vulnerable and spontaneous, and have content worth sharing at the ready, what you say and how you say it will form a likable link between you and your audience.
  1. Meet the press: Invest enough time in sharing your professional passions and interests with your peers and the media will eventually find its way to your inbox. This provides the opportunity you need to make the quantum leap from industry insider to industry expert and spokesperson. The great thing about media coverage is, it tends to feed more media coverage as print and online publications, productions and websites discover you quoted elsewhere. Every media mention you receive helps build your brand authority.
  1. Refine your brand: Now that the word is out about you, it’s time to refine your brand. Narrow your focus and outreach on those interests and issues closest to you and jettison the ones that always seemed a bit of a stretch. Now that you’ve got the world’s attention, what you say and how you say it may open new doors you never imagined. Here’s where you reset your sights on new targets, whether that’s writing books, building a company or even hosting a reality TV show (who’s ready for “Meeting or Beating,” hmm?).

Tip of the hat (so to speak) to Anne Ballard, president of marketing, training and development services for Atlanta-based Universal Storage Group.

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

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