Like companies, you are projecting a brand right now. Each of us is CEO of Me, Inc. The question is whether you are going to cultivate your brand to be as truthful and powerful as it can be.
Your personal brand consists of the following:
• Your name. “Casnocha” is a distinctive last name. “Ramit” is a distinctive first name (whereas “Ben” is not). If your name is “John Smith,” think about a nickname that will stand out.
• Your physical appearance. We usually remember one physical attribute about somebody. For me, it’s usually my height. For you, it may be your booming voice, your hairstyle, the piercing color of your eyes, or your choice of clothes.
• Your work. This is the answer to, “What do you do?”
• Your affiliations. This includes schools you went to, organizations you’re involved in, charities you support.
• Your network. Friends and acquaintances.
• Your online identity. What will someone find when they Google your name? You should own the first result—it should be a personal website or blog that you run. You should also own an email address that is your name (for example, [email protected])
Why is it important to think about your personal brand? First, don’t you want to be known for who you are—in all its wonderful diversity—rather than what you do from nine to five? Too often we subsume our own personal identity to that of our employer. Second, wouldn’t you rather someone walk away from meeting you with an impression that you have defined and that is helpful to you? When I meet someone, I don’t want them to remember the name of my high school, I want them to remember that I sell e-government products to cities and also write a blog.
Your personal brand must—must!—be distinctive. A few months ago I was at a business breakfast with about thirty-five high-powered entrepreneurs and angel investors. We started off the meeting by going around the room with brief introductions. To spice it up, the leader of the breakfast said we had to say our name and our passions. I couldn’t believe how many people said their passions were wine and their family! What a missed opportunity. There’s nothing wrong if wine and family are your two passions, but if everyone else is saying that, then say something different. Suddenly, a balding gentleman took the microphone and said, “Hi, I’m David Zack, I’m a compulsive entrepreneur, investor. I’m just your average guy with an accidental passion for the ambitious. I want to create things with impact.” Whoa. I want to talk to him! Introductions at meetings are a great time to project your personal brand. This is not about making stuff up or trying to manipulate or show off; it’s simply about articulating who you are in a crisp, compelling, and memorable way.
I once spent two hours strategizing with my friend Tim over my one-minute introduction at a big meeting. We analyzed what I wanted to communicate, the dynamics of the room, the needs of the other people, and so forth. Tim and I knew this one minute would be the first time many of the people “interacted with my brand”—and that first impressions last forever.
OK, so you want to invest in your personal brand. How do you increase its “equity in the market?” You are projecting your brand every day. It never ends. The people you meet (or don’t), the articles you write (or don’t), the blog you maintain (or don’t), the conferences you attend (or don’t), the book you write (or don’t), the books you read and review (or don’t), the stand you take on a controversial issue (or don’t). Put yourself out there. Spread your ideas. Act. Ask an odd question. Get involved in your community and in discussion groups. Be a physical presence. Own your online identity. Love who you are and project it into the world by touching those around you.
Spend a small amount of time to reflect on what you stand for, how it’s perceived in the market, and how it should be perceived, and then get out there and deploy it! Make it visible!