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Your Personal Brand Needs A Hand

By Brett Henne

Chances are, one of the many pivots you’ve had to make this year is updating your personal brand.

The pandemic has forced many Americans to explore new jobs or entirely new career paths. A recent Harris Poll survey for USA TODAY found that 63% of the U.S. workers that lost their jobs due to COVID-19’s economic impact have changed the industry they’re working in. Those numbers will undoubtedly increase while the health crisis grinds on.

As a result, millions of people are evaluating their career achievements as they attempt to create the personal narratives they want to share in their job searches or new business endeavors. Which is not an easy task. Everyone here knows the skills, talent, and time it takes to get that story just right. We understand how one errant word or image can derail original intentions.

And let’s be honest, the stakes feel even higher when it comes to your personal brand. It is after all your livelihood and professional reputation on the line. I was reminded of all this recently when creating a website for my communications consulting business.

At first, I thought I could go it alone. Who else could translate my experience into the right visuals and text that would artfully sum up the 360-view of my personal brand? Who else could define what I represent and what I can deliver to the world?

I needed it to look special, high-concept. So I challenged myself to visually represent “communications” in a way that would reflect my lofty ideas about my professional identity. I soon learned however that the hardest brand to market was my own as I spent hours unsuccessfully searching online for the “perfect” layouts and photos.

An idea thankfully came to me on one of those toss-and-turn nights that are so prevalent these days. I love being by the water, be it a river, a lake, or an ocean.

My concept equated communications with drops of water that fall into a vast sea, rippling out to the horizon. Like campaign messages that are released and spread out, amplifying and flowing to intended audiences.

I had my vision! Next step, I sourced beautiful stock images of clear blue water undulating under sunset skies. I was nailing this!

But I knew second opinions, although daunting, were essential. Thankfully my talented friends and colleagues are never afraid to share theirs. Reactions included:

“So, you’re saying you’re a drip?”

“All I’m seeing is that you’re all wet.”

“I don’t get it.”

Really not the responses I was expecting.  Whatever I intended to convey was not being received. The vision failed. I had to ask for help.

Working on my personal brand reminded me that smart marketers shouldn’t work in silos. Success depends on a team approach that taps into everyone’s perspectives and expertise to create a holistic and engaging presentation. The lessons I had to re-learn:

  • Get outside advice from an expert. For me, it was a talented graphic designer who gently nudged me in the right direction based on what she knew about me and what I had already selected.
  • Always have someone review your work, no matter how great you think it is. It’s better to hear critiques from a friend instead of hearing nothing after you launch because people are baffled by your creation.
  • Treat yourself like a client and establish and meet deadlines. It’s too easy to give yourself leeway, especially during a pandemic.

A brand is only effective if it communicates something’s intended value to others. With so much change and uncertainty today, the hardest brand to market right now may indeed be your own. But follow my advice and you’ll help ease the pain when developing your meaningful personal narrative.

Brett Henne is a New York-based communications strategist who helps brands win by crafting and sharing narratives about their visions, strengths and successes for internal and external audiences. Say hello at [email protected].