I was 22 years old.
My very first job was a marketing assistant at Whyte & Mackay Distillers in Glasgow in 1990 – and yes, I’m acutely aware that some of you weren’t even born then!
It was brilliant training. I love the drinks industry and still have a real passion for single malts (and will happily accept donations…).
But one particular phrase has always stayed with me.
Our Marketing Director would say: ‘It’s all about the brand, Miles’.
Charles was referring to two different brands, of course – our product brands and our corporate brand.
That corporate brand seemed so powerful in all industry sectors in those days, prior to social media. The idea that a corporate brand should be a household name was a given.
However, what I have seen over the last decade is the rise of the individual brand, also known as your persona. It’s powerful now, and largely underestimated by many.
In many sectors, the individual is more important (and therefore more sought after) than the company brand. The value contribution on each side is often misinterpreted.
Don’t get me wrong! Product and company brands are still very relevant, but it’s the new personal brand that is so intriguing.
The habits and actions you choose (and don’t choose) can either be brilliant career enhancers or costly oversights.
Are you sitting comfortably?
Let me tell you a story that illustrates the moral here.
Once upon a time, there was a man who worked in professional services.
He worked for a huge, well-known global brand.
Later in his career, he decided to move to a slightly smaller company in same industry.
Naturally there were covenants in place to prevent competition or loss of business.
So this chap moved, and then, after some time, so did his team. Then over a longer span of time, his clients followed suit. In fact, the company eventually lost its whole revenue stream.
In this case, no matter how significant and powerful the corporate brand, it just wasn’t enough to hold the clients (or the team). The charisma, integrity, and draw of one individual’s personal brand was enough to cripple that company’s business.
Depending on where you sit now, this could be a massive risk, an opportunity, or a wake-up call to de-risk the situation, and create a better brand balance.
With the rise of social media, digital marketing, and the expectations of the working world today, the emergence of personal branding is as important (if not more important) than company and product branding in many sectors.
I often describe LinkedIn as a very diverse marketplace: an ecosystem of individuals. Some of these individuals work for themselves, but huge numbers are grouped together in things called ‘companies.
The point is this: companies are, fundamentally, groups of individuals. And what do individuals have?
Calling all ostriches!
Do you have your head in the sand? Many people are metaphorically behaving like ostriches – hiding from reality, or hiding behind the company brand.
You need to ask yourself: do you work in a sector where the individual brand is just as important, if not more important, than the company brand?
Maybe you don’t know.
Maybe you don’t care.
Maybe you are underestimating your personal brand and your own attraction.
Whichever it is, you need to figure it out, fast.
There are multiple sectors where the importance of personal brand matches, if not exceeds, that of the company brand.
Funnily enough, though, many people think that clients are doing business with them because they work for a particular company. Is this you?
This kind of logic just doesn’t hold water. Let me explain.
You might feel that the company brand supersedes your own, but in many cases it’s the individual that the clients are after. This is why clients get so frustrated when a good account manager moves on. They like the personal connection, not the fact that they work for a specific company.
The truth is that the employee moves, and the client moves with them.
This is why the sand doesn’t serve you anymore. Social media platforms like LinkedIn are searchlights, and they will come looking for you.
I know it’s unfair to many, but that is the reality.
LinkedIn is the global go-to platform to find someone and also to be found. It’s an unavoidable, unescapable hard fact. You might not like it, but you need to accept it.
People expect you to be on LinkedIn and can become frustrated if you’re not there, or there is not much of ‘you’ there. How can anyone value and access your expertise if you don’t promote it so they can see what you’re doing?
You dilute your brand, forfeiting a fantastic first impression from the get-go, and you do yourself a disservice.
Which one are you?
I have met so many talented individuals in my career who truly do not value their skills and abilities. The problem with this is that if you aren’t advocating for your worth, your company certainly won’t bother doing so for you.
There are many who have felt they can go no further and are happy at the level they are at.
There are many who don’t want to go any further and essentially stay put.
There are even many middle managers that get irritated with the tier above– so much so that they stop progressing and start nesting.
These managers act as inadvertent tourniquets, cutting off fresh blood to the company, choking it of inspiration and creativity. They should move on and make room.
And then there are those (increasing in number, thank goodness) that get it. They want people to see their expertise though their clients’ eyes.
They position their brand incredibly well, know their value, they get on top of social media and manage a brilliant reputation.
They step up, adapt to the digital space, learn, and implement. They inspire others with their passion for service.
The One Problem
There’s one last category – the folk who get all this, totally agree with the whole digital culture transformation, and the importance of their brand and profile with in it, but still completely fail to act.
They’re like shells – walking around with an awful, empty shadow of themselves online.
Are you uncomfortable reading this? I promise that’s a good thing. Hopefully, you’re starting to feel differently now about your brand.
Nothing stops you taking a good look at yourself and doing a bit of self-analysis. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience – or better yet, ask a client or a friend that is prepared to be truthful for feedback. What do they think of your alignment with your chosen audience?
Here is an online tool I developed to judge for yourself, if you need a hand getting started:
As always, it’s your choice, but it’s now a very important choice.
The world expects to see your brand. If you’re on LinkedIn, why settle for looking so bad?
Surely you don’t feel comfortable accepting a diluted shadow of yourself, your expertise, and the value you bring. Would you go out half-shaven, teeth unbrushed, shirt crumpled, mismatched shoes? Of course not! So why would you do so on LinkedIn?!
You likely subscribe to a few newsletters from LinkedIn trainers, to help you develop a great profile. They are trying to help you, and you should listen to them.
Building a great profile is not difficult, but it does take a bit of focused effort. I often tell people that the profile is the hardest part of LinkedIn. Functionality is relatively easy, once you are past the profile.
What intrigues me is that despite the logic discussed today (and admission) many fail to do anything about it.
Let’s treat this as research. Ask yourself: what is stopping you having a really good profile?
If you agree that yours could be better, what is holding you back for getting started?
What’s your block? What keeps you stuck?
Whatever it is, I encourage you to do one thing – just one tiny step forward – give yourself the gift of getting started.
One keystroke, one word, one tweak, five minutes of focus – that’s really all you have to do. You’ll surprise yourself; I promise.
And if you do need help – you know where to find me. Together, we can build you a blisteringly good personal brand on LinkedIn.
My next complimentary session is now open for registration
If we are not connected please connect with me here https://www.linkedin.com/in/milesduncan/
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