Dealing with Austerity Personal Branding the Next Frontier? Leveraging the Brand Part 4

 
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A. INTRODUCTION

 This is the fourth of four related blogs entitled “Dealing with Austerity – Personal Branding: the Next Frontier?”:

 B. THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PERSONAL BRAND

I shall continue my personal story and case study on the development of the  Dr Alf Oldman brand. From my web site, I was aware that I was consistently getting No. 1 rating from Google and became fascinated by the hits that I generated. Publishing a book or two has an amazing impact on Google ratings. After my high-profile assignment at UNESCO, I published my fully authorized case study of my intervention. Today my professional web site includes three high-profile cases:  UNESCO, PartyGaming and ONS. I soon learned that authorized, named and detailed case studies were important original material for search engines – I discovered that original and high quality material was the magic elixir for search engines.  After UNESCO in 2003, I did a bit of a makeover of my web site, reinforcing the marketing proposition – the result was to stay unchanged for the next ten years and constantly scoring No. 1 on Google. By now, I was conscious that Alf Oldman was a successful brand.

My next challenge was LinkedIn. I was a very early user of LinkedIn and very rapidly had a thousand plus followers. I regularly joined groups up to the maximum of fifty, and then purged them when I tired of the same old waffle. Of course, LinkedIn has a place in personal brand management but it is too easy for it to take too much time, without effective payback. Early on in my experience with LinkedIn, I answered a question asking for clarification of a PhD compared to a DBA. Well I scored the top answer and that answer has been republished many times on the web, so that now I am something of an authority on choice of  PhD Vs. DBA. It’s really important to develop specialist expertise and be known publicly for it as well. I had scored my No. 1 on LinkedIn.

Quality really matters. I would always suggest being cautious in what you say on a social networking site like LinkedIn or Facebook – this data potentially remains publicly available to search engines indefinitely. There is no point in trying to build a brand if you have previously published poor quality, contentious material on the web – it detracts from the brand value.

C. THE MATURITY OF A PERSONAL BRAND

I was probably most active on LinkedIn in 2008/9. By 2010, I was frustrated with LinkedIn, with its endless circular postings from people with similar labels, for example: interim, consultant, independent executive, executive interim manager, interim executive etc. Late in 2010, I consciously slashed my number of LinkedIn groups and chose only to respond on specialist subjects. This practice was to continue into 2011. A good example of an exception was my thread on the Euro Crisis which generated over three hundred postings. In summary, I had recognized that LinkedIn was too incestuous and was becoming a constraint on my brand development.

Early in 2011, I took a bold decision to launch a personal blog, and a Twitter account. It is important to stress that I had virtually no knowledge of blogs or Twitter at the start of this journey. Following some research, I re-branded myself Dr Alf Oldman and my Twitter profile reads:

Retired, former Independent Executive, Consultant, Coach, Researcher & Author. Passionate about People, Networking, Politics & Travel

Similarly, the strap-line for the Dr Alf Oldman blog reads:

 Retired, former independent executive, consultant, coach, researcher & author. Passionate about people, networking, politics & travel. Now that I am retired plan to travel extensively for a few years and blog about it, plus my reflections & insights on what’s happening in the World!

After careful research, I had refreshed my personal brand and had gone broad, embracing “areas of passion” that contained enormous, fresh content on the web every day. For example, politics, news and travel were top themes for blogging and micro-blogging. I had learned that to attract followers, it was necessary to be passionate about content. So my blogging was designed to be original content from myself plus my views on secondary content. My profile on my blog is in complete harmony with my Twitter profile, my blog strap-line, and, of course my LinkedIn profile.

After ten months, I have a very active blog and micro-blog (Twitter). Marshalling and publishing the content, whether it be original or my views on secondary material has been enormously interesting. My exploratory journey continues but I am currently ranked No. 1 on Twitter in my location of Bath, UK!

Regular readers of  this blog will know that I have drawn the line and consciously moved on from my professional activities of the last twenty years. It is a bit strange that after twenty years, I am unable to switch Google off and it continues to generate hits and reinforce my brand. Carefully crafted blogs and micro-blog entries on Twitter are giving Google more and more original and quality content, so the magic elixir remains as strong as ever.

D. REDEPLOYMENT OF A PERSONAL BRAND

As I ponder my future and start life on the other side of the line (perhaps this will be a heading for a future blog), I am challenged as to how to deploy the brand that I have created to add value to future activities. 

E. CONCLUSION

Before closing, let’s quickly remind the reader that according to business guru Tom Peters, there are four basic qualities needed to build a personal brand:

  • Be a great teammate and supportive colleague
  • Be an exceptional expert at something that has real value ability
  • Be a broad gauged visionary, a leader, a teacher, a far-sighted “imaginer”, and
  • Be a business person, obsessed with pragmatic outcomes

It is hoped that my personal case study will provide others with some inspiration and opportunity to reflect on their circumstances, especially my low-cost success on the web, achieving:

  • Reaching and retaining number one status on Google
  • Becoming number one specialist on LinkedIn
  • Ranking number one on Twitter in a specialist area

Developing a personal brand is not a panacea and it is certainly not for everybody. Also there is no point in investing the huge personal committment in personal branding unless you are successful.

However, in times of austerity, the principles of personal branding are of value to a wider audience and I provide some references at the foot of this blog for self-help and further personal reflection.

Remember that if you do not build your own brand, you will be competing with all the other commodity players in the crowded market place. This applies whether you are in your twenties, thirties, forties or fifties. Whilst personal branding is probably most appropriate to professionals, there is no reason why the principles are not relevent to skilled workers or owners of small businesses too.

Dealing with Austerity – Personal Branding: the Next Frontier? – Concepts – Part 2

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A. INTRODUCTION

This is the second of three linked blogs on personal branding. For the busy reader who did not reader Part 1, here is a recap of the challenge:

…………..Against this background, individuals face agonizing challenges, uncertainties and increasing risk. This includes youth unemployment and older workers displaced by technology or offshoring. Public sector workers are being targeted and family owned businesses are being told that they do not know how to run their businesses in the national interest. Social mobility and a post-war belief in education is being challenged like never before. Minorities with privileged education and their privileged networks will perhaps be spared some of the worst of the pain.

The Public Sector and large corporates are increasingly treating individuals as commodities. Individuals face an agonizing choice between being “a commodity” or an “individual” based on personal branding. In the field of interim management, many traditional interims managers are either giving up or becoming contractors.

Personally, I have always been a passionate fan of Dale Carnegie, and Positive Thinking. There is now a huge “self-help” industry and advice abounds on personal marketing. Personal branding is a specialized type of personal marketing. The concept of personal branding was probably first introduced by management guru Tom Peters.

This week’s focuses on clarifying the concept of personal branding including:

  • Definition of personal branding
  • Why personal branding matters?
  • Do you have what it takes to build a personal brand?
  • How ambitious are you for your personal brand?
  • So is personal branding right for you?
  • Towards the next frontier?

B. DEFINITION OF PERSONAL BRANDING

A personal brand is defined as:

the public projection of certain aspects of a person’s personality, skills or values that stimulate precise, meaningful perceptions in its audience about the values and qualities that person stands for (Montoya 2002)

C. WHY PERSONAL BRANDING MATTERS?

In my opinion, the alternative to a personal brand is to be seen by stakeholders (customers, suppliers, competitors, politicians, bureaucrats etc.) as just another commodity product. There is an increasing trend towards commoditization and globalization which has been driven by neoliberal economic policies.

D. DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO BUILD A PERSONAL BRAND?

There are four basic qualities that you need to build a brand (Peters 2007):

  1. Be a great teammate and supportive colleague
  2. Be an exceptional expert at something that has real value ability
  3. Be a broad gauged visionary, a leader, a teacher, a far-sighted “imaginer”, and
  4. Be a business person, obsessed with pragmatic outcomes 

A more detailed checklist has been expressed as the eight “laws” of personal branding (Montana 2002):

  1. Specialization – including by ability, behaviour, lifestyle, mission, product, profession, service
  2. Leadership – managing uncertainty, clarifying path, commanding authority, demonstrating excellence, over delivering, and building on successes
  3. Personality – being a realist, demonstrating human weakness, fallibility, positive orientation and an authentic quality (reliability, trustworthiness, genuineness, undisputed credentials etc.)
  4. Distinctiveness – expressing oneself differently from contemporaries
  5. Visibility – strongly promoted, marketed and leveraged, constantly seen and repeatedly
  6. Unity – the branding must be realistic
  7. Persistence – building the brand may take years and it will be important not weaken the brand by passing fads and trends
  8. Goodwill – a tolerance built up over years of effective service

E. HOW AMBITIOUS ARE YOU FOR YOUR PERSONAL BRAND?

There are three levels of aspiration or influence (Montoya 2002):

  1. Advocate – associating with trends which might be short-lived
  2. Trendsetter – influencing thinking with specific trends but retaining a presence in a larger sphere, so that the brand remains when the trend finishes
  3. Icon – probably famous and able to influence organically trends across multiple and evolving fields

F. SO IS PERSONAL BRANDING RIGHT FOR YOU?

Personal branding is not a panacea, neither is it right for everybody. It potentially offers any individual the opportunity to improve his/her marketability by adopting a structured approach to personal branding. To be successful requires major commitment over many years. With youth unemployment at record levels, e.g. 46% in Spain, and Governments increasingly committed to policies of austerity, individuals who do not have privileged educations and privileged networks will need to use their own imagination, creativity and drive to build their careers. Austerity will mean increasing commoditization, with the big rewards limited to the privileged few. Probably the most exciting area of personal branding is at the iconic level where the individual is highly influential and effective in one field, and as a result of effective personal branding is able to project influence across multiple and evolving fields. If you do not want to be exploited as a commodity, you probably need to think about building a successful personal brand. Peters sums it up:

The good news – and it is largely good news – is that everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve, and build up their skills. Everyone has a chance to be a brand worthy of remark.  

H. NEXT

Next week’s blog focuses on how I developed the Dr Alf Oldman brand – it is longitudinal case study over twenty years. It is hoped that other may be able to use it as a benchmark to leverage their own personal brands.