When clients share their personal brand my response is mostly met with stunned silence, glazed eyes, a shaky voice on the phone, or in person I see the shoulder blades slouching toward the floor, writes Sue Parker.
One of the first questions I ask all my clients is ‘what really makes YOU and your business so different?’ This is a pretty standard question asked by all marketing and personal branding consultants, but what is not expected is my first response to their answers:
“Oh well that’s great, but everyone says that. You are saying what everyone else says.”
My response is mostly met with stunned silence, glazed eyes, a shaky voice on the phone, or in person I see the shoulder blades slouching toward the floor.
I don’t seek to insult anyone, but I need to encourage raising the bar above the robotic jargon and vanilla ho-hum that can apply to hundreds of others. In a sea of vanilla I want to see a wave of yellow and the light turned on with “ah ha” moments.
I want to dig for the exquisite unique diamonds that everyone possesses because it’s hard to see the label when you are inside the jar.
We need to explore the deeper personal and brand why that drives what and how people do what they do. We need to be able to skilfully eave and intersect their brand and business value more powerfully.
For most industries and professions as a soloist or small business a bland and vanilla personal why and brand won’t cut it. It certainly will not help you to stand out and attract new clients who are surrounded by an abundance of competitive content and similar business services. And as ever your vibe attracts your tribe, so sharing your real why will encourage those that will be better business clients, suppliers, staff.
I have written several articles on personal branding (incl, How is Your Brand Perceived) but let’s now crank this up another notch. Let’s focus on more meaningful “whys”.
I believe that the personal feeds into the business because ‘no one does exactly what you do in the exact same way you do it’.
Personal branding is both complex and simple
The “why” component of your personal brand starts from a place of courage and vulnerability. The world’s authority on vulnerability Brené Brown says it perfectly, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change”
A while ago, I witnessed one of the greatest displays of courage by a highly acclaimed academic business connection, Richard. In a raw LinkedIn post he explained the reason behind his “why”. It was a very personal and vulnerable story that aligned with his vision and mission. He was willing to share his own story as a male victim of abuse amid a lifelong career passion for leadership and management change.
I know Richard personally a little, and I was in awe when he took that huge leap of faith and shared his story with the world. But what really resounded was how clearly his story reflected the passion and focus he brings to his work.
I’m certain his “why” touched and encouraged many. Bravo to him.
Now I’m not suggesting everyone should share all the painful and difficult parts of their life on the web and LinkedIn. And there are clever ways to weave authenticity into your communications, which breeds curiosity. Sharing a bit more of your real “why ” can also add value to your presentations, workshops, consulting and editorial content.
The crucial question to ask yourself is: how will sharing something deeper of my “what” and “why” help others?
A few years back I delivered a presentation to a fitness organisation and decided to weave a little vulnerable backstory of Why that was relevant to the topic I delivered. I sensed it would shine a light of added connectivity to the audience and I’m glad that being authentic helped the group to embrace my content further. It did take courage though (that’s the subject of another article).
It would also be useful to clear up the confusion on what the word authentic actually means. Authentic is so over and mis-used (understandably so). But for personal branding (vs manufacturing and product) purposes the simplest difference is ‘Real means it exists & Authentic means it’s original or not a copy’ . To unpack the application a bit further, think of Authentic as being Unique (self, services, USPs, products) your own story, your own original methods, content & Real as being Honest, Truthful, No Hyberbole or Ego or Façade etc. Even, what you see is what you get!
So what will come out of a deeper look inside your true, “why”? As is so well documented by Brené Brown’s research, vulnerability is the driver of creativity and change.
As to one of my own ‘deeper Why’s a light can be gleaned in my response last year to the expose of one of Australia’s highest profile media celebrities history of horrendous ongoing abuse and harassment. I was totally incredulous to the level of complicity and connivance of so many who stayed silent. . For whatever the reason of silence and turning a blind eye (fear, inadequate skills, stupidity) the reality is that many people could have and should have done something but didn’t and so the abusive behaviours continued. Blind eyes were turned and profit and self protection were put before others who were suffering and/or at risk. And that is beyond abhorrent to me.
How I developed my ‘no BS’ radar
Through my business and personal life I too have felt the deep sting when others couldn’t or wouldn’t step in and assist and stand up and for myself and others at the very darkest of times, And being exposed to every element of society (from working with sitting parliament ministers to fostering kids whose parents were in jail for attempted murder) together with my own struggles meant I developed pretty deft skills in sniffing out BS and risk at 5,000 paces. And those skills which originated from challenge now form a key element of how I can deliver on my “why”.
My no BS radar and refusal to turn a blind eye to problems is part of my greater “why” and a key brand differentiator. My purpose is to give encouragement to others so they don’t feel alone in business and to empower them to achieve. I want to be the voice for many and protect them against unscrupulous people and businesses. I will not walk past something or someone in pain. Once you see, hear or know, you have influence to potentially help. That is what makes me so DAREing and so fearless.
Everyone’s circle of experiences are unique and your “why” may be drawn from positive circumstances rather than tumultuous ones. But you will all have a deeper “why”.
I encourage you to dig for that and OWN it and be proud. It is the diamond that will show up and help you step up in all areas of your business, relationships, content and communications.
It could be as simple as ‘wanting the world to experience the joy of artwork in your gallery because you grew up with a deaf family member whose confidence blossomed by painting landscapes’.
Or a close friend was saved from bankruptcy by investing wisely which led you to opening a financial consulting business to ensure others don’t go down that path. But for whatever it is, connect with the real ‘Why behind the Why’ to give impetus to your brand differentiators.
So how can or will you crank your personal brand and Why? What really drives your why behind the why? What experiences and vales really shape you and your business DNA?
And remember, “courage is the birthplace of creativity and innovation”, thanks Brené Brown.