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Personal Branding Pitfalls


Kali Raoul is the founder of The Image Studios, a Chicago-based consultancy that teaches corporations and individuals how to use personal branding and image communication to maximize their potential. Kali is nationally recognized as the Brand Engineer:  She holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and is coauthor of the book 171 Tips to Get You Noticed for All the Right Reasons.  At noon CST on March 14, she will present “Personal Brand Discovery: Your Path to Personal and Professional Alignment,” during SWE’s first Online Career Development Conference. Take charge of your career and register for the two-day experience now.

For more than a decade, I have helped individuals and teams identify their brands, and use their personal presence to broadly and effectively communicate with their key stakeholders.  It is inspiring to witness how lives and communities are transformed by effective branding and brand communication.   Personal branding is not always easy, however it can be quite fun.  Here are three common personal branding mistakes and how to avoid them.

  1. Branding by default. You will have a brand, regardless of whether or not you intentionally define it. In the simplest terms, a personal brand is the net impression, or feeling, conjured up by a thought or interaction with you – no matter how brief. Taking time to define your brand helps ensure that your net impression is what you want it to be. Your personal brand attributes become internal guideposts that tell you where, and how, to show up. Over time your net impression begins to align with your intended brand. Brand by design, not default.

  2. Outside-in approach. Public opinion and external perception are inherent factors in the personal-branding equation.  For this reason, there is a natural inclination to allow market needs and expectations to influence your personal brand definition.  This is bass-ackwards.   Sustainable personal brands are values-based.  These values live on the inside and are communicated externally, to your market and your audiences.  Build your brand, and your market will find you.  Sometimes definition of an internal, values-based personal brand makes it clear that your future market or audience may be quite different from the current one that has an affinity to your default brand.  Imagine what it feels like to be around people who want, need and appreciate the values that you have to offer.  Your market is waiting for you to show up!

  3. Failure to flex. If you travel to Mexico and know Spanish, you speak Spanish.  If you are in Venice and know Italian, you speak Italian – and so it is with brand communication.  Knowing your brand is just the beginning: transformation of your life and work comes when you effectively share your brand with the world.  Too often, people fail to match their style and expression with their audience – and both their brand and message get lost in translation.  Remember that your brand lives inside: making adjustments to how you behave, what you wear, and how you speak is smart.  It makes you a more effective communicator.  Flexing your style to match your audience is not selling out – it is being influential.  Use your personal brand to change the world one interaction at a time.

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