How to do you as a brand
To be respected and followed as a leader, and to be understood by those you work with, you will need to work on your brand. We know it feels a little commoditised but there are principles here that will make a big difference to the reputation you build and to what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
This guide is interactive and needs you to sketch out your brand in a semi-creative way. If you’re up for it, let’s go. First of all, draw a big triangle, with the big part at the bottom. And then turn it into 3 layers. Bottom layer is your values – what you stand for. Next layer up is your qualities – skills, strengths – your unique selling points. Then comes the legacy you will leave and often also includes your purpose.
So let’s start at the bottom with your values and what you stand for. You could have as many or as few as you like in here, people usually end up with around 10 or so. This layer gives you stability and foundations. Getting to values isn’t easy but handily, ‘Atomic Habits’ author, James Clear has created a great list of values to get you started which is here: Be selective and be honest when you pick them.
Next level up is the difference you make – your unique selling points if you like – the features of a product might be a good analogy. This is often where people start to differentiate between things they are known for but don’t enjoy doing and the things that they would love to get to do more of the time. So include things here that others know you and value you for but also things that you love to do and you would like to do more of. Examples: Optimism, Energy, Collaboration, Evidence, Insight.
“This is often where people start to differentiate between things they are known for but don’t enjoy doing and the things that they would love to get to do more of the time”
Paul Brewerton — YC Co Founder
Finally, the top layer: the difference all those great qualities you’ve just described are going to make in the world and also why people should be led by you. The impact you have, the legacy you will leave, what you are for. It’s similar to the idea of the benefits of a product or service and the promise that is made by the company offering it. Try and get this to 10 words or less and make it specific and differentiated.
Now you’ve created your brand it’s time to reflect on how best to communicate this to others. We recommend using the following 4 simple steps.
1. Be honest
Is your brand as you’ve captured it really a description of you NOW or is it more aspirational – is it more how you would LIKE to be seen and spoken of by others. This helps you then work out where your work is. Example, people may know you for some skills and strengths…like your ability to lead projects or your eye for detail or for your capacity for compassion and caring for others. But do they know about your creativity or your ability to think strategically? If all these feature in your brand, then be clear on which aspects people ALREADY know you for and which you would wish they knew MORE about. Keep hitting the message home about what they already know, but up the volume on what you’d like them to also know you for.
2. Know your audience
Who is it most important understands your brand? Is it your team, your boss, your boss’s boss, your peers? Well for each of these individuals or groups, you will need to work out why what you’ve got matters to them and how you can translate it to their requirements. You might have creativity and strategic thinking but those are just words. For your boss, that might translate to getting insight and new thinking into their budgeting and planning process for next year. For the team, it might be coming up with new product or service ideas and then structuring these into some kind of plan. So get adept at communicating what you have in terms of value to others.
“So get adept at communicating what you have in terms of value to others.”
Paul Brewerton — YC Co Founder
3. Talk about you as a brand
Let others know what you have, why it should matter to them and how they can use you more. Think about the classic ‘elevator pitch’ – if you only had 10 seconds or 20 seconds to pitch yourself to a VIP stakeholder, what would you say that would get you noticed? This takes courage and it takes practice but it’s important to get it right, so start today, talk to others about brand you – get used to the language and hone it so that it comes naturally rather than feeling forced.
4. Commit it in writing
Upgrade your CV and your online presence with the clear consistent messages you have developed in your brand pyramid and plan. So if you’re describing yourself on LinkedIn or in a CV, job board, website, wherever, try and keep the messaging as consistent as possible so that it gives that clarity to others on what you stand for, what you’re good for, and how that could benefit them.
Take your time with the whole activity – get others’ input, draft and redraft at will. Your brand will evolve and change as you become more familiar with your values and purpose, so keep coming back to it. This isn’t a static task, but can be seen as a way to support you to have more freedom to articulate your passion and purpose to others.