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Not long ago, a colleague asked if I would speak to a group of executive-level women about personal brand protection.  While I’ve helped scores of companies define and articulate their brand, I hadn’t given much thought to my own.

Soon I was reading everything I could find on the topic.  What I learned is that the line between personal and corporate branding is almost invisible–at least in principle.  A strong brand is about being known for something that distinguishes you, your company or product  A strong brand is about building and sustaining positive perceptions in the minds of key stakeholders, whomever they might be.

But there is one key distinction between the two: ownership.  Every day, in everything you do, you tell the world about yourself, your values, your goals and your skills.  It’s the collective sum of who you are.  It’s what people say about you when you leave the room.

Understanding what personal branding is, starts with understanding what it isn’t.  Here are some basic lessons to consider when it comes to the brand called “you.”

  1. Personal branding is not a one-time event.  It’s something you cultivate over time as your professional capabilities and relationships mature.
  2. Personal branding isn’t something you develop when you’re looking for a job.  Your brand is your essence. Your DNA.  It’s what you’re made of.  The image you project should be consistent across all audiences at all times regardless of your professional goals.
  3. Personal branding is not about creating a pretty image for yourself. An image is merely the physical articulation of a brand.  Successful brands, whether personal or corporate, find the best ways to articulate their value, and then deliver on that promise.
  4. Personal branding is not defined by what you say about yourself.  Anyone can applaud their own talents.  But what others say about you is much more impactful than what you say about yourself.  There is nothing more authentic than the word of credible third-party speaking on your behalf.

Having a strong personal brand is vital to advancing your career.  As communications professionals, we focus every day on building credibility for companies, products and services.  Don’t forget yourself in the process.  The brand called “you” is the only one you’ve got, so get it right.  And the next time someone says, “your reputation precedes you,” you’ll know your personal branding is working.

Connect with me and Write2Market and let’s continue the conversation.

LinkedIn: Karen Kaplan | Write2Market  Twitter: @write2market