The elevator speech is one method for preparing a focused summary of who you are and what you have to offer, but your personal brand takes it a step further.
What is a personal brand?
Wikipedia defines a brand as follows:
…a collection of experiences and associations connected with a service, a person or any other entity.
While we often think of brand as something conjured up by marketing and advertising gurus in some ficus-filled office somewhere, in reality brand is all about our experience of those messages. Nike, Apple, Southwest Airlines… they can churn out glossy ads and news releases, but their brand is our perception of the information we receive. That’s how a brand can be tarnished — goodness knows the ad folks don’t push that agenda.
Personal brand works much the same way. Your resume, online presence, experience, personal image… all of these are messages that you toss out into the ether. But your personal brand only exists when those messages are received, understood and internalized by your audience.
If you want to turn up the intensity on your networking efforts, you can’t leave your personal brand to chance. Ask yourself: when I walk away from this interaction, what do I want this person to know about me? Then, create a strategy to make sure that information gets through.
Step one in your personal brand strategy
Your first step in developing a personal brand is to write a Personal Branding Statement. For job seekers, this is the other half of a job search mission statement — the half that a potential employer wants to hear. Because while your job search mission statement is all about what you want from a new job, the personal branding statement is your USP (Unique Selling Proposition). You tell them what you can do for them that no one else can, and you do it in a memorable way.
For instance, a sample Personal Branding Statement:
I help individuals and companies make the most of talent. I work as a part of the team. I am a straight shooter who isn’t afraid to have the tough conversations. I also believe that people are more capable and valuable than they often give/get credit for. My method marries the sublime with the systematic — allowing for creativity and change with a strong focus on foundation and implementation.
(Okay, that one happens to be mine.)
Your Personal Branding Statement will change over time (mine may change tomorrow) but taking the time to write down what you have to offer is a great first step in delivering that message when it matters most, which is every time the opportunity arises.
Want to give yourself a plug? Thoughtful Personal Branding Statements are welcome in the comments.