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Personal Branding

Brand Phobia: How to fight your personal brand demons and win
by Lyn Chamberlin

In the personal branding workshops that I teach, I can feel the air getting sucked out of the room when I ask the group of successful, savvy, world-smart women to begin the process of identifying their own distinctive brand by listing their accomplishments. Eager faces suddenly turn apprehensive. A couple of people make self-deprecating jokes. Then, dead silence. I tell them that, like the cobbler's children who have no shoes, this was not an easy exercise for me to do either. When I liken it to emotional Rolfing--digging into all the uncomfortable places until you've worked out the kinks and devised a brand identity--they all laugh, and with some additional coaxing and cajoling, the pens begin to fly.
There is no magic wand here. No brilliant, earth-changing discovery or patented formula. What happens is very simple: women get the go-ahead to pat themselves on the back, to acknowledge all the accomplishments in their professional and personal lives, and to look at themselves and their enterprises in a new way.

Why is it that the women with the guts to start their own businesses, women who have fought their way to the top of big, big companies struggle so mightily with branding themselves? Why is it that most of us would rather bungee-jump than take credit for our accomplishments, for our talents, for our contributions?

My non-scientific analysis is that we are caught in a self-perpetuating, interconnected web of myths, myths that have been handed down to us in one form or another ever since Eve took a bite out of the apple. Myths such as:

Myth #1: If I Am Good, They Will Come
Myth #2: Marketing Myself Is a Dirty Business
Myth #3: I Can't Control What Other People Think
Myth #1: If I Am Good, They Will Come
Being good is not enough. Being all of the things you are and have accomplished is not enough. Toiling away when everyone else has gone home will not leapfrog you to the front of the pack. Creating the greatest widget will not by itself drive sales. You must find a way to tell your story to people who will listen. And your story must be the answer to a question that your customers, clients, and colleagues need the answer to. Otherwise, it's the proverbial sound of one hand clapping. If a tree falls in the forest, and there's no one to hear it, does it make a sound? The answer, in an increasingly competitive, dog-eat-dog, 21st-century world, is a resounding NO.
We assume that if we quietly build it behind the scenes, they will come. We shy away from promoting ourselves, from taking credit for our successes, from being our own best advertisement. This is the biggest hurdle that we, as 51 percent of the population, must overcome--whether we're at home, in the workforce, or in the C-suite.

Myth #2: Marketing Myself Is a Dirty Business
Successful personal branding means continually standing far enough away to see yourself and your work as if it were not you and your work that you were looking at.

Successful personal branding means taking a 50,000-foot view of yourself and your business, looking down on yourself from a remote-enough planet that your "buts" and "not reallys" and every other self-qualifier you can come up with cease to exist. Learn how to look at what's left of the former you as just another product on a very crowded shelf, where every other can of soup is jockeying for position and trying to knock you off in the process.

Successful personal branding means wearing labels such as "leading" and "expert," "sought-after," "popular," and "well-regarded." It means creating a brand identity that is authentic, consistent, and memorable, one that you own and are proud of.

Myth #3: I Can't Control What Other People Think
You must learn to be the marketing manager of your own brand campaign. Why do we associate Volvo with safety or FedEx with overnight delivery? Because millions of dollars were spent to create that association for us. Nike, Coke, Xerox, and Microsoft tell us how they want us to perceive their products--and we do, thanks to tightly honed messages that are reinforced and repeated over and over again.

Here are several simple steps you can take right now to bottle and market YOU:

Figure out who you are, what you stand for, and why you are different than anyone or anything else.

Create a story that communicates your value and your market differentiation.

Pull the key words that you have used to create that story and weave them into everything that you say, do and publish about yourself and your business.
Tell your story relentlessly, passionately, and unapologetically to anyone who will listen. You will refine and improve it as you go along, figuring out which parts work and which don't.
So don't be afraid to let your pen fly, to begin your exploration of your personal brand identity. Claim your rightful role as chief flag-waver for your company, your product, and ultimately, for yourself.