Improve Your Personal Brand – Learn to Describe Your Value

There is a lot of buzz lately about “creating a personal brand”. The funny thing is, you already have one. Good, bad or indifferent. It’s there. You have developed a brand through your interactions with others and how you do what you do everyday. So why is this important? Because your brand may not resonate, seem valuable or be what it should be. And when others are trying to decide who to have on their team, who to hire, who to “follow” your brand may do the deciding for them.

So what is it? It has been defined as,

“…the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence”.  

Wow, that is a mouth full.

Your personal brand goes beyond reputation, although reputation is a very important part of it. A positive brand is how others perceive your unique value. Much of how people perceive you will depend on the way you articulate what you do. This doesn’t mean you should become a braggart. It means that you will need to create a brief and more powerful answer to the question, “What do you do?” This may seem like a lot of work and a bit contrived, but if you look at how people brand themselves on social media sites like Twitter, you will see that personal branding is now the new normal.  To develop a description of what you do that communicates a unique value proposition, you will need to go beyond your function and examine how you add value to your organization or customers.

Sometimes articulating what you do can be difficult because of the complexity of your job. Many people are working for companies that have complex organizational functions, products or services that are difficult to understand. Even people who work within the same company may not know what you do.  After they hear your title, division and function they politely nod their head and say, “Sounds interesting.” But they don’t want to seem “out of the loop” so they hand you a card and walk away or change the subject. When there is complexity, you not only have to communicate your value, you also need to keep it simple.

Or, you could have the opposite problem. Your job could seem so mundane and simple to understand that it appears to have a “brand” already. Don’t let this be you. Any person, in any job, can create a positive and powerful brand.

What is your unique value proposition?

Let’s take a look at an example. Imagine we are at a networking event and ask a new contact what they do and they reply, “I sell computers for XYZ”. What does this tell us about the person, their job or company? Nothing really. We know they are in sales. If it is a large organization, you probably know something about the company and the company brand and we assume the rest.

If you can’t articulate what your value is, then it may indicate you or your company should start rethinking your business or role. But more than likely it just means that you haven’t thought about it this way. It takes time and a bit of experience to evaluate how you are being perceived and how to communicate your value.

Continuing with our PC computer example, let’s say this person is an inside sales person that sells PCs as well as many other products to larger companies. They could tell customers, “I am an ISR and I call on large accounts in the financial sector selling a variety of products including PCs. I am responsible for 10 million dollars in sales.”  It’s accurate and to the point. So what is wrong with this description? Well first of all, what the heck is an ISR? We can guess that it means Inside Sales Representative but it doesn’t really describe what you do. It just lets us know you work indoors and probably on the phone. You call on large accounts? That is nice to know but it doesn’t really tell us that you have any responsibility outside of maintaining a quota. You mentioned 10 million dollars. That number is impressive but it might be well below expectations in your role. How do we know if that is important? What makes what you do important?

So how do you describe your value in a way that ANYBODY can understand?

To begin, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I do for my customers that makes their life easier or better (internal or external customers)
  • What if any problems do I solve for customers?
  • What if any quantifiable measure can I attach to what I do? Do I save people money? Time? Energy? If so how much on average?
  • How can I describe that in an honest, accurate way?

For example, our PC Inside Sales Representative could say this confidently:

“I help customers acquire technology that improves their bottom line. When customers use my services, they save an average of 20% in total cost of operations.”  It’s a much more accurate and powerful statement. If you are able to quantify your value, you become memorable.

The same principle applies to how you position your company. In this example, you could just say, “I work for a PC company.” Simple, yes and BORING. If you are passionate about what you do it sure doesn’t seem that way!

To project passion and support a better brand for your company, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do customers use us? What do they like about us?
  • What quantifiable benefit do they usually gain by buying our products/services?
  • How are we different than our competitors?

Then, use your answers to craft a short, description like those below:

“We help companies lower IT acquisition and implementation costs—typically by 20 percent or more—by negotiating directly with major IT vendors for better pricing and by offering turn-key installation and service programs.”

“We are different from others because we make complex technology easy to buy and to use.”

Now the real test. Try your message out with a teenager and see if they “get it”. Most teenagers don’t mince words. You will get immediate feedback and perhaps a few facial contortions. Don’t be discouraged. It’s a process.