Gary C. Sain
Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell
In my last article, I spoke about the importance of assessing the brand you represent (your employer) on an annual basis. As critical as “tuning up” your brand strategies and tactics for your parent brand, it is equally important to tune up your personal brand. In fact, it may be the most important assessment you do for yourself.
For those of you who report to someone, your annual review can provide insight on what you need to do this year to improve your overall performance. If you work for yourself, you should have a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses, and areas for improvement. Regardless, I would encourage you to take a deeper introspection of yourself as it relates to your individual positioning within your enterprise and the overall business community. A personal brand assessment, so to speak. A few questions to help you get started…
• How would people who know you describe you as a person?
• What is your biggest strength? Biggest weakness?
• Are you trustworthy? Do you stand behind your word?
• Do you love what you do? If not, what would you love doing?
• Are you respected by your peers, customers and associates?
• Do you have a plan for improving your skills? A plan for your life?
• Do people seek you out for help, guidance, and counsel?
• Do you believe your own press or what is really being said?
• What is your reputation with those whose opinion you value the most?
• Are you considered a leader? If so, do you hold yourself to high standards?
IBRANDsm is an attitudinal mind-set in how we position ourselves to various targeted audiences. I am a firm believer that individuals can be brands. Not in the traditional consumer sense like Proctor and Gamble; but in a deeper one-to-one relationship with those whom you serve. How each of us positions ourselves within our individual enterprises, as well as the business community as a whole, dictates our future success.
Branding principles embraced by companies can be modified for individuals who want to stand out from the crowd and create a discernible difference. If great brands are about relationships and emotional connections, then individuals have the greatest opportunity to brand themselves–an IBRANDsm!
IBRANDsmis based on three important core pillars: credentials, standards and style. An IBRANDsm tune-up is taking the time to evaluate your individual progress toward your overall goals and making the proper adjustments within these three core building blocks.
How well you execute your personal brand based on these core pillars will determine how your targeted audience perceives you. Your targeted audiences are individuals you want to influence. These are your customers, your boss and your peers. Maybe others. These three core pillars of IBRANDsm help reinforce your personal brand’s distinction, esteem, relevance and awareness to these targeted audiences.
Let’s now review each core pillar of IBRANDsm. By doing so, you can evaluate your IBRANDsm status and provide the necessary adjustments.
Credentials consist of education, experience and insight. Credentials make you believable. It is the main reason why you were hired for your current position.
At one time, you demonstrated to the appropriate individual(s) you have the skill set to perform your current job responsibilities better than anyone else. Your ability to continue to perform at a high standard determines if you can manage additional responsibilities in the future. Constantly updating your credentials can enhance your position in the minds of your customers, supervisors and peers. It promotes believability and credibility. It demonstrates you are committed to self-improvement. More importantly, it reinforces your desire to be the best at what you do and what you can do.
By the way, do you have a mentor? Oddly, most of us don’t. Or, we may have had one at one time. If you are committed to improving your personal brand performance, you need a mentor. By the way, there is no age limit to having one. Everyone can use a mentor. A mentor can help you see your future path more clearly. He or she can provide valuable insight about you. A mentor can, if you are willing to listen, tell you what you may not want to hear regarding your personal brand positioning. To me, that’s the most important insight a mentor can offer. Receiving constructive input is critical. Mentors, like coaches, can help you be the best you can be.
Who can be a mentor? Maybe it’s your spouse, or a good friend, a colleague, a former boss, a parent, etc. The list is endless. The key is to pick someone whose opinion you completely trust–an individual committed to your overall success and happiness. Someone who sees your personal brand as something special and is willing to help you unlock its full potential. Someone who is not afraid to tell you what you might not want to hear in order to be better tomorrow than you are today.
If you don’t have a mentor, I recommend finding one. Mentors can provide you unbiased coaching which is critical for personal branding. In fact, your mentor is really your personal brand manager. Every brand has one. Why shouldn’t the most important brand in the world–you–also have one?
Continuing education is one of the most important endeavors you can pursue for yourself. Be a knowledge worker. Whether it is the attainment of a master’s degree, increased proficiency in technology, a foreign language, additional learning on a subject matter or industry certification, continuing education reinforces your credentials. It helps you stand out from the crowd. Expanding educational interests can also open up additional opportunities. It’s a wonderful way to extend your personal brand with credibility. A few questions to ask yourself…
• What are you currently doing or planning to do to increase your educational portfolio?
• Are you attending continuing education sessions to improve any need area?
• Are customers asking for insight you wished you had?
• Have you studied your role models? What educational attributes do they have that you may not have?
• Have you studied your competitors–not the company brand but the individual(s) with whom you compete?
• Are they more successful? If so, why? What part of your educational portfolio is missing?
How does this apply to travel sales and marketing?
Many current marketers of travel brands have not been formally trained in consumer marketing. Many rose from the sales ranks. While sales is a great teacher, it may not provide the fundamental marketing skills required in today’s competitive environment. I argue that no matter what background each of us possess, we can learn something new tomorrow. Additionally, we can strengthen our educational portfolio in the areas we have deficiencies. Sales management, direct marketing, interactive marketing, podcasting, research, public relations, national account management and customer loyalty are but a few topics of importance to most travel marketers. The mission is to honestly admit to yourself you do not need to know everything. That’s okay. The benefit is doing something about it. Building your educational repertoire will foster your IBRANDsm presence within senior management, your peers and your customers.
It’s all about experiences. As travel marketers, we promote travel experiences each and every day to our customers. It’s the same with our own personal experiences. We are only believable if we have been there, done it. Think of a travel agent. What they truly offer is insight through personal experiences. How do you recommend a cruise if you have never cruised? How do you sell Hawaii if you have never been? How do you recommend a 5-star resort if you have never stayed?
Customers today are empowered via the Internet. They have all the information they need online. They know, or think they know, as much as travel marketers do. The secret is insight through personal experiences. The credibility of your personal brand is the insight you offer that cannot be duplicated by anyone else. “Been there, done it” is a marketing mantra for any personal brand who markets travel.
Insight is the most sought-after credential. Insight is a combination of education, experience and professional curiosity. The ability for your personal brand to be perceived as the “one in the know” is extremely powerful. Think about the most effective hotel concierges. They are personal brands. Guests stay with their hotels in large part due to the personal attention and insight they provide their guests. Whether it is the newest restaurant in town, the hottest nightclub or the closest coffee house, concierges live and die by their personal recommendations. They must have the insight to back them up.
I had the pleasure to work for three different industry segments–hotels, cruises and the meetings/tradeshow industries. I am engaged in my fourth industry segment with YPB&R. The experiences in each have been remarkable and have provided me with additional insight I might not have achieved if I would have stayed in one particular discipline. The professional curiosity I had for other industry segments in travel motivated me to expand my comfort zone. The same can be said for various positions within an industry. Many of us have worked in different departments or different companies. The richness of your personal brand is the distinction you offer your targeted audience through personal insight.
One of the most important activities we take for granted, or don’t aggressively challenge ourselves, is personal goal setting. On a piece of paper, write down your goals for your life. Don’t just include business goals; include community and family as well. They all interact. Life is not one- dimensional. I know this sounds somewhat philosophical. However, it is a good time to re-connect with yourself to reconfirm if you are still centered on the right things. With hectic work and life-styles, we sometimes forget why are we doing what we are doing. It is certainly more than working to pay the bills. You should always be questioning and reconfirming your goals. Where do you want to be in five years, ten years? What career path? What is the perfect job for you? If you didn’t do what you currently do, what would you do? What do you want to do for your community, your church, etc.? What are your financial desires? Family aspirations? What do you want to be remembered for? The questions are yours. The answers are priceless. This is a critical step within IBRANDsm. For if you don’t know where you are going–how will you know when you get there?
Once you have this outline, write down your educational strengths and weaknesses. Do the same with your experiences and insight. What is missing to get you where you need to go? Where are the gaps? Highlight the additional education, experience and insight you need to help you achieve your goals. Then build an action plan to fulfill your personal brand’s extraordinary potential. Most importantly, it is all about relevance. Develop your plan with your targeted audience in mind. Throughout 2006, review your action plan to ensure you are on track. Make adjustments where appropriate.
Standards are how you do what you do. They are your personal benchmarks or individual commitments you make to yourself. They are your code of individual performance. The higher your mark, the more distinctive your personal brand will become.
Standards of your personal brand should be well thought out and written down. If it is not in writing, it does not exist. Think about your position within your company, your involvement within your community, your family, etc. How do you want to perform your duties and responsibilities? What do you feel is acceptable or not acceptable? More importantly, how do you want to create a personal distinction within your work, community and family through your actions? What are your ethical standards? Selling standards? Leadership standards? Customer service standards?
Think about the customers you serve. They have choices. Set high customer service standards. Develop ways to make your customers more profitable. Do what you said you were going to do, when you said you were going to do it, and how you said you were going to do it. You can increase sales by 30 percent by providing excellent customer service to your existing accounts. Personal customer standards help to ensure you are delivering excellence to your targeted audience. By the way, excellence is not optional for IBRANDsm.
Your standards significantly influence how others perceive you. If you want to be perceived as an individual who is committed to doing a great job, what are your quality standards? The same holds true for community involvement. If you want people to perceive you as a “can do” person, what are your networking standards? And it holds true with your family. If you want people to perceive you as a strong family person, what are your relationship standards with your spouse, children, etc.?
Some questions to consider…
• What are my personal standards for customer interaction (i.e. returning phone calls)?
• What are my leadership standards (i.e. spending quality time with staff)?
• What are my personal standards for meetings (i.e. showing up on time)?
• Do I have a zero tolerance for errors in my work (i.e. letters, correspondence, etc)?
• What are my sales standards (i.e. make one new sales contact per day)?
• What are my customer service standards (i.e. resolving problems on the spot)?
• Do I inspect what I expect (i.e. don’t assume)?
• Am I committed to excellence in everything I do? How do I measure?
• What are my family standards (i.e. quality time per week)?
• Am I trustworthy in everything in everything I do? Do I check with myself?
• Is my word my bond? Do I have it written down? Do I hold myself accountable?
Maintain a written document listing your standards of performance. For example, your follow-up standards might include returning every phone call within one/two hours. Or an e-mail within three hours. As with your personal brand, it is all about you. Standards need to be your personal standards and should be complementary to your company’s standards for performance. However, if you want to stand out as an IBRANDsm, your personal standards are set at a higher level. Always under promise and always over perform. Standards bring credibility and respectability to your personal brand through actions. Actions are what shape human beings. Standards support the brand you want to be. Standards are the criteria that ensure your personal brand is delivering your brand promise. Think of a brand standards manual for a company. Why should your personal brand be any less important? Put it in writing and it will become more tangible and real.
Style is doing it your way. Style is your personal trademark. A trademark unduplicated by any other human being. Style may be the most memorable core pillar of IBRANDsm. It can also be the quickest way to end a promising client relationship, business deal or promotion. Style is how you relate to others. Personal branding is about emotional connections. Style connects you to your desired audience is a highly distinctive manner.
What are the elements of style? I feel the most important in business are presentation, etiquette and attitude. Presentation is how you dress, your grooming habits and your overall delivery (verbal and non-verbal). Etiquette is how you treat people; how you value what’s important to them and how you place others before yourself. Attitude is your mindset, your passion, your enthusiasm for what you do.
Here are some benchmarks to consider…
Presentation is the way you present yourself through visual and verbal communication to your targeted audience. Presentation skills make you credible. First impressions are lasting impressions. Make certain you always put your best foot forward. In addition, if you are truly an IBRANDsm, you must manage your personal brand presentation at all times. You may be off the clock, however, your IBRANDsm is always on display. Best to keep your guard up.
• Do people ever compliment you on your appearance?
• When was the last date you updated your wardrobe?
• How about your hairstyle? Are your shoes shined?
• Are you committed to making your appearance the best it can be?
• When was the last time you had someone critique your presentation/verbal skills?
• Do you try and meet new people at a social function? Do you remember their names?
• Do you have a zero tolerance for error free work?
• Are you a good public speaker? Do you work at being better?
• Are you memorable? How?
• Are you a good listener? How?
Etiquette is the rules and customs for polite, social or professional behavior. Etiquette skills provide a proper framework for you to interact with people. Since we live and interact in a diverse society, it is paramount your personal brand positioning is sensitive to the cultural, political, and religious fabric of your targeted audience. Not to mention their total commitment to individualism. I would encourage you not to judge a book by its cover. Many embarrassing moments have occurred with quick assessments of people that may not have been correct.
• Do you manage your cell phone with regard to those around you?
• Do you totally focus on the person you are speaking to?
• Are you sensitive to other people’s beliefs and denominations?
• Are you sensitive to other people’s time?
• Do you properly introduce people?
• Do you remember to properly thank people?
• Do you interrupt people?
• Do you label people unfairly?
• Are you knowledgeable about other customs?
• Are you geo-savvy, meaning, do you understand world geography?
Attitude drives actions. Actions drive results. Results drive lifestyle. What lifestyle you want for yourself and your family will determine your attitude. Attitude determines if you will maximize your full personal brand potential, thereby achieving your personal goals. A negative attitude cancels out all positive skills. Indifference is deadly. Attitude determines how you approach each and every day–whether your glass is half full or half empty.
• Are you passionate about what you do? How?
• Are you excited about your future?
• is your enthusiasm contagious? Do people like being around you?
• Are you energetic? Do you smile often?
• Do you relish coming to your job each and every day? If not, why?
• Are you respectful to everyone you interact with?
• Are you a “can do” person? Do you demonstrate it?
• Do you use humor to connect with people?
• Is your attitude a “me” attitude or a “we” attitude?
• Do you make it right each and every time? How?
• Do you believe in yourself? What about others? Are you a mentor?
Your credentials, standards and style help convey your personal brand story. How you are being positioned by your boss, your customers or your peers is based on how your personal brand story is being told. This is the reason word-of-mouth advertising is so critical in branding. Recommendations by friends, family and associates are the most credible forms of information sources used in making purchasing decisions, especially travel. This is no different than your personal brand. Your personal brand story will be told regardless if you want it told or not. I would suggest you manage it diligently so the right story is being told.
There is much more to IBRANDsm than this article. However, my hope is it may motivate you to think differently about yourself. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. It means that every day is a new beginning. We are also in a new year. As I stated before, I feel this is an excellent time for us to assess ourselves. As sales and marketing professionals, we spend a great deal of time ensuring the brand we work for is well positioned in the marketplace. We should spend more time on the most important brand in the world–ourselves.
I wish you continued success in 2006. One last quote, which I have always liked, is “If you are not the lead dog, the view always looks the same.” As basic as it sounds, it has incredible merit. In order to stand out from the crowd, you need to execute your personal brand plan to create a distinction for yourself. It’s up to you. The view is much better if it is your own. Be an IBRANDsm.
For more information, please contact Gary Sain at 407-875-1111, x 1705 or email@example.com.
YPB&R is a leading travel marketing specialist
that delivers marketing payback through the creation of compelling,
integrated communications, including everything interactive. For more
information, please contact Gary C. Sain at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pepperdine, Brown & Russell. 2005. All rights reserved.
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