If you had to choose one thing that you want a prospective employer or customer to remember about you, what would it be? If you were at a job interview, what would be the main impression you would want to make with the interviewer? Perhaps an answer to these questions comes easily to your mind. There is great power in developing the ability to make an impression that truly and effectively expresses the way that you contribute to others.
Organizations allocate massive resources to brand themselves. They have learned that the degree to which you distinguish yourself in the marketplace improves organizational health. They know that the space they occupy in your heart and mind is more valuable than shelf space for their products. The magnetic pull of effective branding also works for us as individuals. We are more influential when we occupy more shelf space in the hearts and minds of the people we meet.
As human beings, we make a series of quick and mostly subconscious evaluations when we encounter someone. The more base instincts, such as “friend or foe” kick in first, within seconds. In modern society, circumstances rarely place us in literal “fight or flight” scenarios, but at a subconscious level we indeed decide whether we trust or distrust a new acquaintance.
As we automatically proceed through each step of our evaluation, we make little judgments. The way someone looks determines whether they are attractive, platonically or otherwise, to us. We judge by the way a person speaks whether or not they are intelligent, sincere, to be taken seriously. We judge by their demeanor and non-verbal communication clues whether or not they care at all about us. At the end of this sequence are the specific details of the conversation and whether or not they are of interest or use to us personally.
When one or more of our judgments are positive, we engage with the person. The more clear and certain our evaluation, the greater our degree of comfort and the more energy we invest in a conversation. This is one reason we enjoy spending time with people we know.
When we don’t know the person, we look for consistencies and inconsistencies in their behavior. The degree to which we observe consistency helps determine how favorable an impression the person makes with us. We like people who make sense to us.
When your message, demeanor, physical appearance, and verbal and non-verbal communication all line up to say something positive and clear, people respond. They check out your website. They connect with you via social media. They accept your invitations to meet or attend events. They buy your services or products. They offer you the job over the other qualified candidates.
How do you effectively deliver that clear message? How do you develop your personal brand?
First, a caveat – you’re best served not to do this alone. Why? Because we can’t see our own blind spots. What we imagine to be obvious often isn’t. Ingrained patterns of thought box us in and we don’t see the true effects we create in others. This phenomenon is at its comical extreme in situations like American Idol auditions, where horribly mediocre singers truly believe that they are better than everyone else. The nightmare also creeps into our lives in the form of the comb-over, the “muffin-top” from the too-tight pants, or the outdated hairstyle (Donald Trump really believes his hair looks good!) More insidiously, our myopia worms its way into the way we talk about ourselves, our business, our relationships, and our attitude about them. None of us is completely immune to these effects.
You need to find someone who can help you as an effective sounding board. Not somebody who will simply tell you what they think you want to hear, but someone with knowledge and the courage to give it to you straight. Once you find that person, the first step begins. I call it distillation. This is a process by which you work through past patterns and successes, the value that you can provide going forward, the things that most attract and interest you and extract the connective thread. Then you simplify that thread into a concise statement.
Once you have your brand statement, the next step is to deliver it effectively. Here is some good news – it’s easier than you might think. You don’t have to memorize fancy explanations. Communication is not about turning a wonderful phrase. It’s about what you inspire others to think and feel. You best do this not with statements, but questions.
When I work with clients, we develop a question template for the important conversations in which they find themselves – interviews, presentations, networking introductions, and the like. The questions are always a subset of the major question: Why would it be beneficial for us to work together and what are the specifics as to how that would work? More specifically, your template will be a series of questions that explore this: “How will I provide you _______?” You fill in the blank with your brand statement.
Now, you can’t simply ask questions. Eventually you have to make your points. This is again best done not with statements but with stories. If you don’t think of yourself as a great story teller, fret not. I simply mean you need to relate your point with a beginning, middle and end in a manner that makes your point and allows them to insert themselves into the picture.
For example, to make the point that you work tirelessly to provide them with expert analysis, you don’t say: “I’ll work day and night to analyze this for you.” You tell a story that shows you in action. Something like: “You’re situation reminds me of a client I worked with last month. They had a similar deadline. Our team put in twenty hours of overtime and, in the end, we didn’t deliver on the deadline. We were two days early.”
To supercharge your influence with people, develop your personal brand. Find someone to help you. Identify your personal brand. Put it into a statement. Create a template of questions that explore how your brand might be applied for the person with whom you speak. Prepare a few stories to make the points you know you’ll need to make. If you have questions, I would be pleased to help you. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.