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Pointers on Personal Brand

Posted by Chad O'Connor  June 14, 2012 11:00 AM

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Last week I boarded an overnight flight to Dublin. It’s a trip I’ve made dozens of times and was excited for a few hours with little to do but chat with my seatmate (yes I’m that person!) and catch up on all the back issues of Vanity Fair on my iPad. Little did I know my seatmate’s first question was going to be: “Do you think I’ll be able to find people who speak English in Ireland?” I looked at her for a moment before my manners kicked in and I answered with a smile that everyone speaks English and it actually might be tougher to track down a fluent Irish speaker.

Part of me wanted to put this encounter down to the stereotypical American ignorance of other cultures, but I realized it was actually a brand issue. Ireland markets itself (very successfully) as the gateway to Europe: home to a highly educated English speaking workforce but clearly at least one person hadn’t gotten the message. This got me to thinking about presenting your own brand. It’s tempting to think we set the parameters of who we are, and once the lines are drawn there is nothing to do but sit back and let others get to know us, but the reality is both organizations and individuals have to continuously sell themselves even to people they already know.

The key to that is consistency. With that in mind, I wanted to look at the building blocks of a personal brand.

Presentation Style: Presentation style is about so much more than speaking to a PowerPoint. Anytime you’re communicating be consistent in how you deliver a message. If presentations were all about sharing information we could just email each other. Presenting is about making a connection and consistency strengthens connections. We all know people who seem like natural presenters. No matter the audience; large or small, formal or informal, scripted or off the cuff they just connect to everyone in their orbit. It’s tempting to try to replicate that but it’s important to remember it’s about finding your own style.

Lots of clients tell me they are one way at home and another at work and I always advise they try to integrate the two. I’m extremely extroverted and animated in everything I do so no matter if it’s a new client or my sister the audience always knows what they are getting.

The Story of You: Anyone who regularly attends my training sessions (as some of my poor colleagues do) knows I had my heart broken in college, like anything made with sugar, and am the daughter of a lawyer. The small anecdotes I share with audiences always tell a larger story about brand Kellyanne and what I can do for my audience. With the exception of your friends and family, most people you interact with want to know what you can do for them. The story of you needs to intersect with their personal experiences. For example, showing vulnerability is good but a sob story makes people uncomfortable. An adventurous streak shows your fun side however “that night” from college is best left to the memory book.

Put on Your Pearls, Girl: A friend recently told me he hadn’t owned jeans since he was 16. As someone concerned sweatpants and casual Friday are destroying the civilized world, I was very impressed. As much as it pains me, personal style does not actually have to be formal, just personal. Think Mark Zuckerberg and the hoodie which got more attention during Facebook’s IPO than the stock price. Creating a personal style gives your target audiences visual cues to your personality, capabilities, and moods. I think it’s safe to say everyone in my office knows that if I’m wearing pants it’s probably not the best day to bother me because I’m either tired, late, or moving furniture.

Friends in All Places: We are the company we keep and not the total sum of our friends, connections, and followers on social media. Remember when someone following you or asking to be your friend was considered creepy? There is a reason I like to talk to people on planes, attend events, and go to lunch; it’s how you make real connections. Your friends should be your brand ambassadors. If you’ve managed to develop a way of presenting yourself, an interesting story, and a personal style you need people talking about it.

Speaking of talking and getting back to last week’s trip, my seatmate’s language concerns certainly made for a funny story in the pub, which I told in my usual animated style while wearing a dress in front of all my English speaking friends.

Kellyanne Dignan designs and leads the media, public speaking and presentation training programs for Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications clients. Prior to joining Rasky Baerlein, Dignan worked in broadcast and digital communications producing content for major media outlets. She can be reached at kdignan@rasky.com

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