I was recently asked a question that really got me thinking about how we describe ourselves and ultimately create our own personal brand. I was getting ready to make a presentation at a Fortune 100 company’s annual innovation summit, and the person responsible for the conference program asked me the following question about my personal brand:
“What is the first word you think your friends/significant other/parents/siblings would use to describe your personal brand?”
I didn’t have to ponder this at all so my quick answer was: “Creative.” After all, I was always the kid in art class, writing classes, band and orchestra, and rock bands. I have art and design degrees, for Pete’s sake. “Creative” was the perfect single word to describe the personal brand I think I have.
But before I emailed her my answer, I remembered an experience that opened my eyes to a whole different personal brand descriptor that might be more accurate.
A few years ago my office was thinking about about adding nameplates to everyone’s office doors so that when we toured potential clients around our agency they’d get a chance to be introduced to everyone. Then someone wisely pointed out that no one would remember a bunch of names (Pam, Carolina, Allison, Marlisa, Tom, Tracy, Jose, etc.). Instead, they suggested we put one-word descriptors for each person on their office doors.
That could be fun and might even start some interesting conversations.
In our Friday agency breakfast meeting we told everyone about the plan and because we knew that people would agonize over their personal brand words and because we wanted to get the words up right away, we asked everyone to please submit their words on the following Monday or else, “A word would be picked for them.”
Much smarter people than I have warned us to be careful what we wish for.
I was out of town the next week and never got around to submitting my own personal brand. When I returned to the office the word art was already up on everyone’s doors. Our CFO’s word was “Thorough.” One art director’s word was “Colorful.” Our bookkeeper’s word was “Busy.” Our tough-as-nails production manager’s words were “The Hammer.”
There was a word on my office door, too. But oddly enough it wasn’t “Creative.”
The new book I’m writing is about how today’s companies need to incorporate a CC 2 CC mindset as they build their brands. In other words, forward-thinking organizations just like yours need to shift away from a company-centric branding strategy to messaging that’s consumer-centric. Because in today’s interactive environment—where anyone can speak to everyone—you no longer decide what your personal brand is: Your customers make and promote that decision.
Just as my officemates and I had completely different ideas of what personal brand would best represent me, your customers also look at you, your company, and your products and services very differently than you do. If you don’t know what they think then you don’t know how to market to them nor how to satisfy them.
Oh yeah, what was the word I found on my door? “Intense.” Intense? Who me? Go figure.