· Features

The brand called you

Why dont we promote our personal brand in the same way as we do our companys products or services? Stefan Stern talks to the experts about how to sell ourselves

Brands? We all know about them, dont we? McDonalds, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Nike killer brands, visible on every high street.

But what about yourself the brand called you, as Tom Peters puts it? How well do you present yourself to colleagues and customers? This is where so many of us fall down, perhaps reluctant, because of British diffidence, to promote or sell ourselves as enthusiastically as we might market our products and services.

People are a bit like an iceberg, says Lesley Everett, a personal branding expert. You are judged on the tiniest bit of you that is visible and the hidden depths get overlooked. We need to spend some time understanding what we are about, the bit underneath the surface, before we can project that effectively to the outside world.

This suggests that we have quite a lot of work to do on ourselves before we start worrying about getting our brand image right. And the first step here is getting honest feedback from trusted friends and colleagues about how we come across. We cannot know ourselves without that feedback.

Andrew Mallett of the Present Action consultancy has recently done some interesting work on personal branding and presentation skills. I do a 30-second CV exercise where I get people to try to tell me everything about themselves in a very short time, he says. This is not unlike that dream where you get trapped in the lift with the CEO and have until the 11th floor to sell him your big idea.

Its interesting how difficult people find it to sell themselves persuasively in that time; they are much happier talking about colleagues, Mallett says. They can get the basic facts out, but they struggle when it comes to selling themselves.

The kinds of things that give the wrong impression include poor body language, feeble handshakes and a lack of enthusiasm all these flaws stop your other qualities shining through.

An obvious priority is to associate yourself with success. Sign up to lead the projects that are going to deliver results. Lady Thatcher used to say approvingly of Lord Young, Other ministers bring me problems, David brings me solutions. That is the sort of advertising slogan or endorsement that the brand called you needs.

Make sure your basic professionalism stands up to scrutiny. Punctuality, courtesy, fairness and straight-dealing will mark you out as a trustworthy colleague. Dont gossip or intrigue it undermines and devalues your personal brand.

Appearances matter. If youre going to dress down you need to make sure you still look smart, says Everett. Dressing down has been a disaster in many places, its often an invitation to be sloppy. Your brand needs to be neat, tidy and ready for serious work. In the workplace, reputation can be everything. A damaged or unattractive brand could mean missing out on the best job offers or opportunities for advancement.

Above all you need to radiate the confidence of a market-leading brand. Think of the qualities of aspirational brands like Jaguar or Mercedes-Benz and try not to be too much of a Mini Metro.

Going for the big sell

  • Accentuate your positives it is a competitive world and you should not undersell yourself

  • Dont constantly raise problems, find solutions. Associate your brand with positive results

  • If youre going to dress down, make sure you look smart. Dressing down does not mean being sloppy

  • Get feedback on how you come across

  • Be nice to do business with who has time for idiots and unpleasantness?