Is it too late to change your personal brand? NO!
Since we launched Next-Up earlier this year, we have been helping people to reinvent themselves for the next stage of their life. As someone said to me last week, “I suddenly realised that being chief executive of Smith & Co had absolutely no value when I was on my own. Who cares?”
I think she was being slightly harsh on herself – your past career does have value. But you can’t rely on it.
Someone else also made a comment that got me thinking. She was talking about her husband in this case. They had both held major top jobs. Since leaving, she has completely reinvented herself and started all sorts, but she said, “My husband is expecting people to beat a path to his door and ask him to become a non-executive on corporate boards. But of course, it’s not happening and he has too much pride to admit this.”
What is the lesson in this? It is that as you move on, you need a plan and then work out what your personal branding needs to be for this and then make sure everyone knows about the ‘new you’. And then ask for business!
Here are my tips for how you go about personal branding.
A business friend of mine, Jo Fletcher-Lee, used this phrase of ‘what problem are you solving?’ to help people thinking about starting a consultancy. And I love it! Have a look at this video where she explains more (it was a rather windy day but it’s still good advice she is giving!)
While Jo was using this question specifically for consultants, the question is good for whatever role you plan to do next – non-executive director, adviser, trustee, mentor, new business or whatever.
If you are going to be a non-executive, what do you bring to the party? How do you stand out – is there a need for this? I interviewed a dynamic American woman with a number of non-executive roles. She had noticed the lack of knowledge on boards about cyber security – so she went out and got a qualification in this.
This is a perfect example of ‘solving a problem’. While this woman has a vast amount of experience that makes her a great non-executive, she now has a neat story and focus which will work for her brand. The problem she is solving is ‘the lack of cyber security understanding on boards’. And she will fill that – and stand out.
I was working with a fantastic woman last week, Jill Clancy. She is an engineer and former director of what was Atkins and now helps construction companies (amongst others) to collaborate. But collaboration on its own doesn’t mean much, so we were exploring why companies need to collaborate.
We then got into what the benefits are – you save millions, reduce delivery time, avoid litigation and create long-term sustainable relationships.
So this became the basis of her elevator pitch, making what she does far easier to understand and it also hooks into the problems that companies are facing – and she can help solve.
You may notice in the media, the two best words that an interviewee can say are, ‘for example’. As soon as you hear that you know the theory is going to be translated into something you can understand.
Another woman I worked with, Jules Gray, set up Corporate Faculty – a virtual business school. When she explains her business, her story is that when a corporate goes to a business school for an executive education program, they take on all the academics – some of whom are great at research but may not be so good in the training room. What Jules does is to hand-pick the best people in their field. A neat story which explains the problem in a simple way – and people quickly understand what her business does.
You need to think of a few great stories that bring you/your business to life as to how you can help.
What words will people search on Google when looking for your expertise? In the examples above, you might choose cyber security, collaboration in construction, executive education. You might want to do some Google searches around these words and find the exact phrases that are most often used on Google. They are probably what will be used in searches. Use these words and phrases in your personal branding online – in LinkedIn, in your Twitter biography and other online profiles.
You now have all the ingredients to bring your personal brand to life on LinkedIn and elsewhere. Write your profile and include the keywords, explain the problem you are solving and use your stories to give examples of your experience.
Now you just have to use that personal brand! Set up coffees and in the meeting mention what you are doing, using your keywords and stories. Be memorable.
Write blogs with commentary on current issues and give views as to what should be done. Share these on social media.
Consider writing ebooks or white papers on your area of expertise. I got into social media ten years ago and fairly early, I wrote an ebook on social media for business people. We sent it out to all our contacts, I wrote blogs on the topic and shared them and within just a few months I was being seen as the ‘go to’ person for social media in business and even became a BBC expert woman on social media.
Even I was surprised at how quickly I had reinvented my personal brand!
Don’t wait for people to come to you with offers of roles. In your new life you will probably have to be more pro-active than ever before. But these days, we are blessed with the ability to recreate ourselves really quickly – you just have to make sure you do it!