The Exact Science of Personal Branding

When you think of personal branding, you need to think small. Too many persona; brands are too broad, to vague – and that ends up being confusing to your audience.

It’s one thing to be a renaissance person – to have a lot of interests and skill sets. However, it’s no way to solidify a personal brand.

A brand has definition. A brand has meaning. It should evoke an instant feeling that explains your brand model: security, for instance, for a banker, real estate agent, or financial advisor; light-heartedness for a party planner or wedding consultant; or capability for a lawyer, builder, or architect.

Take a look at the Web sites of major corporations. They are designed to call to mind for the viewer the “feeling” of the company. Bank of America has a user-friendly Web site that gives the viewer the feeling of security while at the same time providing a sense of ease of use. For a retail bank, it’s important to many customers that online banking be simple and readily available.

However, if you look at the Web site for JPMorgan, the site is much more attuned to use by other finance professionals or large-scale investors. The language still enforces the investment bank’s security, but it also talks about history and investments, and provides a broader range of non-retail capabilities directly on the front page.

The colors of the JPMorgan site are also more geared toward investment banking clients than retail banking clients. The Bank of America homepage is patriotic and bright, with photos of recognizable neighborhood characters. The JPMorgan site is dark and serious, with photos of downtown, corporate-looking buildings, Podcasts of recent financial briefings, and information about business lending and municipal bonds.

In public relations, where image is such a closely guarded jewel, companies work extremely hard at perfecting their company brand. Fleishman-Hillard International Communications, for instance, has a bright and light Web site that focuses on the company’s people. When you access the FH Web site, you’ll see a flash presentation of the company’s employees, with quotes from them that reflect the company’s philosophies.

The home page of the Web site for Ogilvy Public Relations, on the other hand, points toward the company’s global capabilities. The page depicts a map of the globe, with small blocks directing the user to the company’s news, careers, and other necessaries. In addition, the site provides a large block of questions that could immediately answer the user’s needs or serve as a landing page for an Internet search.

Both companies are considered among the very best. Both companies employ stellar public relations professionals. However, landing on the homepage of each company provides a very different experience. Fleishman-Hillard provides a warmer experience, while Ogilvy provides a loftier experience. When you get past the skin of the Web sites and start investigating the meat and bones underneath the homepage, both companies offer similar capabilities with differing philosophies.

It’s the first impression, the language, the colors, the depiction of the company and its place in the world that define a corporate brand, and it’s the same things that define a personal brand. You need to build your brand image as carefully as do major corporations – not only because you want your audience to view you accurately, but also because, on the small business side, there is generally a lot more competition than there is for business by the big firms.

Consider your business. Are you trying to evoke a feeling of stability? Go with a dark color – navy blue is always considered non-threatening – in fact, lawyers recommend that their witnesses wear that color when they take the stand in trials. Gray is always a good color, especially high-lighted with red or blue; these combinations create serenity sparked by creativity.

Also think about the words that you use. They all need to mean something. Words like “strong” really don’t mean anything – use instead words such as “powerful,” “solid,” or “durable.”

Study Web sites from your field – and from other fields – that you admire. Make copies of these sites, and pick the traits you like the best from them. After a while, you should have a thick file from which to hone a brand that defines you.

Leave a Comment