When most of us think of the word "brand," we think about huge companies like Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and Apple. But did you know that any person, place, or thing that's in the public eye has a brand … including you?
A brand is nothing more than a sum total of perceptions about something. The New York Times and Wired are both publications but have very different brands. So do Nike and Reebok. So do Houston and Austin. So do Rice and Baylor.
The thing about brands is that if we don't create them deliberately, they tend to evolve on their own. People develop perceptions about us based on everything they see, hear, read, and experience over time. That means everything about you — from the jewelry you wear to the way you answer the phone to the events you attend to the people you hang out with — works together to create your brand.
And then there's social media, which has made public figures of us all. Every tweet, every snapshot, and every video that you put out there — or that someone else puts out there concerning you, tagged or not — can either reinforce or change how people perceive you. Consider how a single video sent United Airlines' brand perception into a tailspin from which it could take years to recover.
So, what's the big deal? Well, if you're a business owner, the way people perceive you is pivotal in their deciding to do business with you or not. And if you work for a company, consider that you could for whatever reason be on the job market at some point, so now is the time to start building up some "brand equity."
Take a few moments to consider how people might be perceiving you, based only on what they see, hear, read, and experience. Do they see you as professional (but not stuffy)? Knowledgeable (but not a know-it-all)? Engaging (but still able to get down to business)?
As you go through your brand evaluation, make sure to consider the following:
Your appearance. How do you show up in the world, particularly the business world? Of course, we can't all be supermodels, but we can all make the best of what we have. As a friend of mine used to say, "At least look like you're tryin', girl!"
Your social profile pictures. On LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, look at your profile pictures and cover images, and ask yourself if they give the impression you want to project. Do you look friendly? Professional? Would you want to get to know you, based solely on this photo?
Your social posts. It's not that we all have to be "capital-P professional" every time we snap a pic for Instagram. By all means, have fun, be personable, and engage … just do so with the knowledge that every post is contributing to people's overall perception of you.
Remember, if we don't manage our personal brands deliberately, they'll evolve on their own. Not willing to take that chance? Then do yourself a favor and give your own brand a little attention.
Throughout her 20-year marketing career — five of those at one of Houston’s largest advertising agencies — Rachel Parker has helped brands such as Reliant Energy, Hewlett Packard, AIG American General, and SYSCO Foodservice to connect with their customers. Over the years, she’s developed a distinct talent for being able to communicate in the voice of the client, often eliciting the comment “You get us, Rachel. You just get us.”
Parker is Founder and CEO of Resonance Content Marketing and is also a classically trained soprano (though these days she has little time for singing), an avid gym rat (boxing, anyone?), the happy wife of a software architect/fellow geek, and the proud mama of three rambunctious dogs (Sophie the Pug and beagles Hermione and Cooter). This year, she’s set her sights on completing a second triathlon … and maybe taking a vacation.