Who Are You?

Since I created this blog page, many different people have suggested that I should do a piece on personal branding, as it is a topic that is obviously near and dear to everyone.  It is also extremely important in all aspects of life, from establishing one’s career path, to developing a business, to finding the right partner in life. Creating one’s personal brand can be difficult, as it requires deep personal reflection, and it often times takes the help of one’s close friends and family to figure it out.  Yet, once you understand who you are, what you represent, and what your goals are, making critical life decisions becomes a lot easier because the direction becomes clear. There are many different bloggers out there who offer a variety of tips on how to present yourself to your audience, and proclaim this as personal branding.  However, I find that they do not address the core issue – who are you, and how do you let people see who you are? The approach I have taken for myself is very similar to how I try and determine a business’ brand identity.  My roadmap starts with David Aaker’s Brand Identity Planning Model:

More specifically, I perform a strategic brand analysis of myself, identify my core and extended identities in order to develop a value proposition that I can then execute. The goal is to identify the core characteristics that make you unique and define who you are, combine them with traits and qualities that you do well, and deliver value to whomever your target audience may be (boss, client, interviewer, cute girl having a coffee at Starbucks, etc).

Strategic Analysis

Using David Aaker’s model as a guide, the first part of unlocking your personal brand is putting together an understanding of who your audience is, who else may be courting the same people, and what your strengths, weaknesses and values are. As an example, let us assume that you are looking for work in finance, but aren’t quite sure yet what it is you would like to be doing in finance. You will want to examine numerous job boards to find out what employers are looking for in an employee, and gain an understanding of what other types of people might also be interested in this job. This information is readily available through job descriptions, and career websites. The meat of the strategic analysis will then involve you spending some time brainstorming what your strengths and weaknesses are – both hard and soft skills, what you are looking for in a job, what kind of people you like to associate with – basically anything you can think of as to why people like you, and why people may not like you.

Core Identity (i.e Soul Searching)

This is where some soul searching comes into play. Now that the brainstorming session is complete, the real question now is, what are the 2-3 attributes that make you unique? This can be a very difficult question to answer, and I find that a lot of people tend to focus on their hard skills (i.e math skills, proficiency in Excel), as opposed to their soft skills (i.e ability to ease a tense situation, empathy towards others). The core identity of any individual are the pillars of what define you as a person; the attributes that make up your core are present in everything that you do, say, act, and feel, no matter whether you are on a date, job interview, or on the soccer field.  Often times it is the soft skills that are present wherever you go, and simply unique to you (unless you are the greatest mathematician that ever lived…then maybe your math skills might be more a part of your core).

Extended Identity

Once you have established your core identity, you can now look at what other attributes make you great. Your extended identity will include attributes that do not necessarily define who you are, but are added qualities that make you attractive to your prospective audience. Unlike your core identity, which is fixed, your extended attributes may vary over time, and may depend on your audience (i.e your math skills probably won’t be useful to you when you present yourself to that cute girl who is still sitting at the Starbucks, but will be for that financial risk management job), and can include hard and soft skills. Your list of extended identity attributes will generally be your 4-6 best, and most relevant attributes that are specific to the audience that you hope to attract.

Value Proposition

So you have now managed to find all those attributes that make you wonderful, and categorized which ones make up your core and extended identities.  But how does this help you?  Well, these attributes should help give you a sense of how you can benefit your audience (or how you make the world a better place). There are three types of benefits one can provide to their audience: functional benefits (what tasks can you accomplish that will make other people’s lives easier), emotional benefits (your ability to make others feel good), and self-expressive benefits (how you improve the image of your audience). Your promise of value to your audience should be able to deliver on all three fronts in some way, shape or form. This means that when you walk into that job interview, simply telling them that you are great at math will not get you the job!  Because at some point in time, someone who is better at math than you will come around, making you replaceable.

At the same time, your promise of value must be able to resolve a need for your audience (i.e the missing piece of an innovation team, or the man that Starbucks girl has been waiting all her life for), which ties back into the strategic analysis you conducted of yourself where you looked at who your audience is, and who else is looking at that same audience. Selling yourself as an analytical thinker with strong negotiation skills and a background in finance in an interview for a graphic design position will not give you an edge for the position. Therefore, if your value does not fulfill the needs of the job being posted, or is inferior to your competitors, it might be best not to waste your time applying.

Execution

You have now constructed your personal brand, you know what you have to offer, and how you can make the world a better place.  Now how do you showcase yourself? You will find a lot of information on how to execute your brand – whether it be how to tackle an interview, or how to be the ladies man you always wanted to be, yet I find that the recommendations are fairly standardized and focus on conforming to sociological ideals. I believe however that while adhering to social norms is definitely important, it must be done in a way that is synchronous with who what you represent, and the value proposition that you represent – only conform in ways that are a genuine reflection of who you are. If you are a beer drinker, who likes sports, you probably won’t find the woman of your dreams at a martini bar, and if you do so happen to find yourself at a martini bar, it is totally okay to buy a beer anyways because you may attract other beer drinking women who are also unhappy about being at said martini bar. Daft Punk for example, decided on an approach to execute what their brand represented that did not conform to the prevailing trends in marketing, but it worked because it was genuine and unique to their personal style. Confidence is key in executing your image, and you will only feel confident with your execution strategy if it is an accurate reflection of who you are as a person, and what you represent.

Taking the time to unlock your personal brand is a very rewarding and useful exercise, as it helps to not only clarify in your mind what makes you special and how you would like to project yourself, but it also helps sort out what your goals are, and what you want to get out of your career and/or relationships. Personally, I have found that having a solid grasp of what I represent has given me the confidence to showcase the value I provide to others more effectively, and a clearer idea of how I hope to achieve my goals.

Do you have any tips, recommendations, or examples of how one can develop their personal brand? I would love to hear your comments!

6 Comments

  • Mike Onofrio
    October 1, 2013 - 11:17 PM | Permalink

    1. I definitely agree that it is very important to self-reflect and know yourself well before you try to display to other people who and what you are.
    2. Once you have a good grasp of who you are and what you want from your audience it becomes much more clear how you should go about getting it. I.e. The girl in Starbucks may be a good potential friend or potential partner. Deciding which of these you want will affect your approach to the situation and the ultimate outcome.
    3. Failure and more importantly learning from failure is key to success!

    • Giampiero
      October 2, 2013 - 12:11 PM | Permalink

      Thanks Mike for taking the time to respond. I definitely agree that developing your personal brand will help you understand what you want out of your audience and will help define your approach to getting it, and sometimes it requires failing in your approach a few times before you get it right!

  • October 2, 2013 - 7:05 AM | Permalink

    This is excellent, as we continue to work with the less privileged encouraging them to take these steps is challenging but even more required than ever!

    Thanks Giampiero, it confirms we are are on the right path!

    Regards,
    Ben

    • Giampiero
      October 2, 2013 - 12:12 PM | Permalink

      Thanks Ben for having a look at my blog and commenting! Much appreciated

  • October 2, 2013 - 12:03 PM | Permalink

    I agree great piece. However doing this yourself is not a good idea. Most people out of fear or a lack of creativity, end up to mimicking another brand. When customers have seemingly endless choices, having our own “Creative Differentiation Design and Marketing Strategy” in place becomes a crucial competitive edge. If take your marketing and advertising cues based on what other brands in your industry doing- You will lose your unique identity in the process. Hiring a professional to create your “Creative Brand Differentiation” will be money well spent! Your brand online and off is your sales person, your store, your marketing department. Your brand is your story, and all content you publish reflects upon and defines it. 

    click below to learn more and consider your “Creative Brand Differentiation” today!

    http://www.cybranded.com

    • Giampiero
      October 2, 2013 - 12:15 PM | Permalink

      Thanks Helene for commenting on my blog! It is definitely worth it to work with others who know you to help you figure out what your strengths are and a professional may be the best way to help bring those strengths to light!

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