Most professionals in a wide variety of industry verticals are aware that they need to create a positive impression when they meet a potential client or colleague. Service pros of all stripes have at least some understanding and self-awareness regarding the impression they leave people with upon first meeting. What many neglect however, is that branding is an ongoing activity, and that if you want to activate the positive impression you’ve created with that person or group, you need to keep providing evidence to reinforce this impression – that brand is yours to damage or degrade, and a few smart, conscious choices can help you provide reinforcement to that initial impression and enlarge upon it in a productive, actionable way.
Branding has much to do with consistency, and human beings by nature are rather arbitrary, although certain behaviors are potentially predictable. Behaving the same way, reacting in a similar way to certain inputs and stimuli, developing routines and habits that are simple and obvious are ways you can reassure those around you that you are dependable, reliable, solid and can be counted on to to be reasonable. This requires a level of maturity, self-control and self-awareness, but once mastered, you might be surprised how effective it can be. Something as simple as arriving at the office at the same time a majority of the time, if possible, lets people around you know that if they’re patient, you’ll arrive in time to assist them if they need it.
Work on picking a style of clothing that really works well for you, is comfortable for you and others around you, is appropriate for the situation, and still expresses your individuality. Steve Jobs locked onto a pair of dark jeans and a black mock turtleneck, and wore them constantly for years. Not only does it save you some time in the morning “deciding” what to wear, but it sends a consistent message that says “I’m reliable, and focused on behaving consistently with your expectations.”
Be honest, straightforward, transparent and ethical in your dealings with clients and colleagues. Trust is the core of every brand, and if there’s a hint of inauthenticity, people will pick up on it and shy away when given a choice. Authenticity is critical to those in more publicly-visible positions. If you represent the face of your company, it is absolutely critical that you be as authentic and direct as you can, to stay in keeping with the brand expectation of stakeholders everywhere. People will sense a false note, and equate it with hiding something or covering up.
Treat everyone equally. Be as egalitarian in your dealings with everyone in the building as you can be. Treat the maintenance workers and cleaning crews with the same respect and attention that you pay to the CEO or Chairman. A quick word to everyone carries an amazing amount of weight with everyone you encounter, and it makes you personal, approachable and memorable, because very few can pull it off consistently.
Every move you make, every meeting you attend, every memo you send out, can either work to build the brand or dilute it – the choice is really yours. If you’re someone who is consistently late for appointments, meetings and happy hours, when you start to show up on time, it actually builds the brand, as long as you can keep it up! The opposite is true if you’ve started off being the first to arrive and then slip into sauntering in at ten minutes after . . . If your emails win awards for brevity and succinct word choice, and later you start to elaborate some, it builds the brand, and lets you open yourself up a bit, makes you approachable. If you push out 800-word tomes regularly, when you shift to the short and sweet formula, it can be interpreted that you are upset or angry at the recipient, or don’t care to include them in your thinking.
Stay on point. Everyone has goals, but few write them down, and fewer revisit them, review and revise them regularly. When your actions start to drive you toward your goals, staying on point and on message will help you build and maintain momentum. It also helps you hone and maintain your core message consistently, which builds trust with stakeholders throughout the organization, both up and down the org chart.
Devising a personal brand can be a terrific springboard to career and personal success. It plays to others’ expectations and allows them to feel comfortable with you more quickly and completely. Some self-reflection, self-awareness, self-control and self-discipline will help you craft a brand that propels you forward almost effortlessly, and will be worth the effort and time it takes to do it “right”.