February 23, 2010

Elmer Fudd and Other Musings for Personal Brand Camp 2

Personal Brand Camp 2 takes place today for students of the Humber PR program. As a volunteer mentor, I've been thinking about personal branding. Here are assorted musings on
  • how your brand ages
  • what you're known for
  • brand pixels
  • Elmer Fudd
Does Your Brand Change With Age?
We change as we age. What about our personal brands?

If You're A Student
You want lifelong consistency as you go from challenging the status quo to being the status quo. From tearing down the walls to fortifying them.

A personal brand built on timeless principles endures. The principles guide you when you make decisions.

Suppose you believe in accountability and work in the mobile phone world. Maybe you'd feel compelled to disclose the full price including activation fees, system access fees, usage fees, roaming charges and cancellation penalties. If you believe in fairness, maybe you'd drop cancellation penalties, a way of forcing customers to stay instead of earning their loyalty with quality, service and value.

If You're Already Old
Maybe you haven't thought deeply about your personal brand. Have you seen the Up Series, which looks at the same people at ages 7, 14, 21, …, 49? You'll notice common elements that defy aging.

What beliefs been consistent in your life since childhood? What events shaped you? They are part of your brand. If you're stumped, try asking people who've known you over the years.

What Are You Known For?
What do people say about you? I'm often called an actuary with a personality. This implies technical knowledge and accessibility --- a good combination. Contradictions intrigue.

What do people count on you for?
  • Showing up, blizzard or balmy?
  • Coming up with brilliant ideas?
  • Getting things done?
  • Solving problems?
What do you do? Not talk about but actually do? Actions beat words.

What do you want to be known for?

Brand Pixels
Everything you do adds pixels to the brand you're painting. Over time, your image develops, gets larger, has higher resolution and becomes permanent. Your mistakes get hidden in the larger tapestry.

What people expect from you depends what you did in the past. You can't build your reputation on good intentions. Even if you're entering a new venue, your past successes help others gauge your likelihood of success. That affects the financing available, the collaborators you attract and even customer demand. Think of the high expectations for the Apple tablet prior to launch. Apple was expected to succeed.

Have visible proof of past success.

For students, this means
  1. your grades
  2. your activities
  3. your portfolio
These factors especially matter when you're selling a service --- as intangible as the promise of a brand.

The same three elements of past success apply in the working world, except your grades now take the form of testimonials. You want your portfolio visible online so anyone can find you and give you a "test drive" anonymously.

Networks are important too. Online, networks have the additional advantage of showing your connections. Since we're judged by the company we keep, there's an element of endorsement. You may want to separate your business and personal lives.

Since your digital footprint is permanent, do take care in what you say and do. Your growing tapestry makes flaws less visible but that doesn't mean everyone will overlook them --- especially if they feel other options are readily available. Do you feel the same about Perrier after the Benzene scare? Or Firestone tires after blowouts caused 200+ deaths? Or Sony after the exploding laptop batteries? Or Toyota after recalling millions of cars?

Elmer Fudd
Question 8: How do you elevate your brand to Elmer Fudd status: endearing, yet feared?
Personal Brand Camp 2 answers 20 questions. That's the one I'm helping students discuss. Can you help too? Please take a few minutes share your thoughts here.


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