Why are some people successful while other talented people fall short? Desire and talent are always the main ingredients for achievement. However, highly successful people stand out not so much because of what they know or even who they know, but because of how they brand themselves.
If I were to give a quick take on the personal branding habits of highly successful people, an abstract of some key techniques included in my book, You Are a Brand!, these five are paramount:
1. Market yourself with a unique selling proposition
The cardinal rule of branding is “Be different.” Marketers put together a unique selling proposition (USP) for each brand, and successful people do too, whether consciously or instinctively. Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, is a maverick by choice and personality, and his personal style and colorful PR antics not only provide good ink for the media; his devil-may-care attitude and edgy, innovative approach to his businesses not only make him stand out, they are integral to his success.
2. Pay attention to style
The words you say can be powerful and memorable or blow away like packing peanuts in the wind. The last thing you want to lose is your authentic voice. David Ogilvy, the legendary founder of the Ogilvy & Mather ad agency, picked his words carefully and was never one to downplay his Scottish roots, often wearing a kilt to important meetings for effect and saying things like, “The consumer isn’t a moron; she’s your wife.” Interviewers have gushed over IMF head Christine Lagarde’s eloquent, even seductive, communication style with large intakes of breath to make important points. Others have commented on her propensity to cite Voltaire or Rousseau to make a point. Quoting philosophers might not be your style, but always remember, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it.
3. Be visibility minded
Despite things we’ve been told like “talent wins out,” the reality is more like “visibility wins out.” Talent is important, but visibility separates those who are wildly successful from those who are just doing okay. No woman has done more in recent years to put women’s leadership front and foremost on the world’s consciousness than Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and her book Lean In. Sandberg’s book and her TED talk were good personal branding for her, too, since they gave her megawatt visibility. Not that well-known before the book came out, the book gave her an important platform for visibility. No longer just a successful, high-level business executive, Sandberg is a business icon.
4. Don’t go off brand
Smart branders are consistent at every touch point where consumers come into contact with a brand, and highly successful people are too. Look at German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel’s image has a certain nurturing quality reminiscent of a practical, hardworking mother, so it’s not surprising that early in her career her political enemies poked fun at her somewhat matronly image, calling her “Mutti” (“Mommy”). Merkel didn’t change her brand or her image. Now Mutti is a term of affection that Germans use for Merkel, though she has no children of her own. Another popular phrase reflecting the belief that she will make the right decisions is “Mommy will sort it out.”
All of these personal branding principles are easy to understand, but highly successful people act on them. After all, if you don’t take charge of your brand, who will?
Catherine Kaputa is a personal brand strategist, speaker and author. She is the author of the best-selling You Are a Brand. Her new book is Graduate to a Great Career: How Smart Students, New Graduates and Young Professionals Can Brand Themselves for Success out in April 2016. She is the founder of SelfBrand.
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