The terms personal branding and thought-leadership get bandied about on a regular basis, but what do they really mean and how can Executives harness them as a tool for raising their profile and attracting the right career opportunities?
Personal branding is all about controlling the way people perceive you – Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) summed it up nicely when he said that “personal brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”. It’s really no different to company branding – companies have a price point, a product (or service), a certain positioning and promotional activity (the 4 Ps). Apply this to yourself and think about your product (or service) i.e. when you work for an organisation as an Executive, what do you do for them and what do you deliver; think about your positioning; think about what you want to get paid; and think about how you are going to communicate all this to the senior job market i.e. the promotion.
More than this, try to turn your expertise into something tangible, is there a methodology or system that you have developed and follow?
Now that we have addressed personal branding, let’s have a look at thought leadership, which more or less falls under the banner of positioning and promotion. Thought leadership is one of your key pillars for developing your market positioning and controlling the way people perceive you. The key is to present yourself as an expert in your field. Most people hide under a rock, so if you are the one that gets out there, writing articles and blogs, being interviewed for industry pieces, delivering webinars and presentations or contributing to industry groups, then people will gravitate towards you and see you as the expert or the go-to person in your sector. More than this, try to turn your expertise into something tangible, is there a methodology or system that you have developed and follow? Is there a repeatable plan that you can package and parcel?
To illustrate this point, I was coaching a member of my business group yesterday on this exact point and all of a sudden, they had a light bulb moment! They had recently been looking to engage a supplier to do some video editing work – one supplier seemed good but just talked about how they could deliver the work at hand whereas the other supplier rolled out a 5-point plan (with a pretty infographic) that they gave a name to, and that felt tangible and physical. In short, the person my contact was talking to appeared to be a man-with-a-plan! My contact suddenly knew how he could apply this technique to his own business and ‘blueprint’ his own service-offering to make it feel tangible and physical.
The key is to then go out and spread the word about this blueprint. Talk about how your blueprint will help someone else to be more efficient or successful. Apply a little-and-often approach to writing blogs and articles, running webinars and participating in groups and forums. LinkedIn is a great place to start – join groups and build a network of key people around you and at every opportunity, and interact with them as the ‘expert’ in your field. Pretty soon, you become the ‘go-to’ person in your area of expertise and the next time an organisation has that need, guess who they come calling to?!
I would recommend webinars as a key part of your thought leadership strategy – put in the most simplistic way, all you need to do is pick a topic that you have expertise in (that ties in with your career goals), create a presentation, invite an audience, deliver your presentation and incorporate a call to action to develop and nurture relationships with those people that were interested in your expertise.
It’s crucial that your profile presents your professional worth and personal brand in the right way.
Of course, presenting yourself as a thought-leader and expert means people will start checking you out on LinkedIn so having a poorly written ‘home-made’ LinkedIn profile isn’t going to cut the mustard. It’s crucial that your profile presents your professional worth and personal brand in the right way. Writing a compelling LinkedIn profile requires an awful lot more than just writing some nice words and there are some definite does and don’ts to follow. My top 5 tips are as follows:
- In your Professional Headline, describe what you are (professionally) and how you can add value to an organisation.
- Make sure the first 2 lines of your summary capture the essence of your value proposition and professional worth (this section is now collapsed so unless the first 2 lines communicate the right message, the reader may not read on.
- Write your LinkedIn Summary in the first person and use a style that talks direct to the reader.
- Inject some philosophy and ethos into your profile, talking about what you are passionate about and how this will benefit any organisation that you work for.
- Use the Projects section to include examples of your work e.g. key achievements and stand-out projects.