Monday, July 20, 2009

The Personal/Professional Brand Gap



What happens when there is a gap between your personal and professional brands?

Lately there's been a lot of buzz (and no doubt a fair amount of confusion)about the concept of personal brand.

The best definition I have found so far is from BNET Business Dictionary that defines "Personal Brand" as "the public expression and projection of an individuals identity, personality, values, skills and abilities".

And while there is a recognition that the personal and professional brands are separate entities, I think they should at least work in sync.

Here are a few examples of personal and professional brand gaps:

I have a friend who has her own life coach consultancy. She is a fabulous, dynamic, insightful woman. And a day or two with her will quite possibly change your life. It did for me.

A lot of her referrals come from word of mouth.

But in order to grow her business she needs to make sure that all points of contact with her brand are working as hard as they possibly can.

Unfortunately the key public elements of her brand (e.g logo, website, marketing materials) don't convey much of this warmth and insight. They come off as a bit corporate and generic- which is the exact opposite of her personal brand and the experience you get when you actually work with her.

This is a missed opportunity to have the personal and professional brands reinforce one another. It's one that she recognizes and is working on.

I have another friend with the opposite problem. She has a fantastic brand promise in the emerging field of green real estate. Her brand presentation (logo and value proposition) are pretty interesting and differentiated.

And while she is a lovely person and connects very well with everyone she meets, her personal brand doesn't reinforce what she is doing in the area of green.

Now I am not saying she should show up in all out "tree hugger" garb for meetings with local corporate real estate clients. This wouldn't click with her personal style which is more modern day Grace Kelly. It wouldn't feel authentic.

But she could send more subtle clues.

For example, she could bring her personal brand more in line with her professional one by thinking more carefully about some of the things in her personal life that define who she is. For example, what causes she is associated with in the town in which she lives (and in which she does business), what kind of car she drives, etc.

Instead of sending holiday cards with a pictures of her children to clients and friends, she may want to consider a card that is printed on recycled paper, is embedded with seeds and once planted grows flowers, or even features a donation on to a cause that is in sync with her brand.

Her business really centers on her and her expertise. As of now she has no partners. So how she presents herself can make a big impact. Even something as seemingly superficial as toting her client files in a bright green computer bag (that matches her logo) or always sporting a green scarf could send a subtle reinforcing signal of her business differentiators.

With so much competition in every sector and so much pressure for resources on all fronts, it seems we can't afford to have all our brand touch points (both personal and professional) not working as hard as they can. Pointing them all in the same direction and closing any gaps is essential to this.

If you are interested in personal branding I have found Dan Schawbel's blog to be a good resource. You can follow him on Twitter at @Danschawbel.

That's my point of view. What's your twist?
How have you seen personal and professional brands work together or apart?

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