And Just Who Exactly Makes Your Personal Brand?

(A hint: it isn’t just you.)

Your name is your name. Your name in funky lettering is your logo.  But neither is your personal brand.  Instead, your personal brand is what those who know you and work with you say it is.  Managing your personal brand is an exercise in influencing how you exist in the mind of others.

Others form ideas about you.  These ideas are based on attributes you exude.  What do you look like in dress and physical appearance?  What types of information do you convey verbally and with gesturing?  What are people saying about you?  Are you trustworthy? Are you charismatic?  It is these questions – not an evaluation of the benefits you offer – that will lead people to construct your personal brand and ultimately want to do business with you.

You can always see the people with charismatic personal brands stand out in popular culture.  Steve Jobs, the energetic pitchman and CEO of Apple Inc., has immediately recognizable personal brand qualities: black shirt, circular glasses, intellectually stimulating conversation, powerful speeches, and self-assuredness.  In addition, hard to quantify things like success, style, innovation and creativity are what many observers associate with the name Steve Jobs.

Although Fortune noted Steve Jobs “is considered one of Silicon Valley’s leading egomaniacs,” many tech fanboys and consumers have translated his larger-than-life persona into trust and dedication to the products his company creates.  It is no wonder than that the company’s stock took a hit after his health problems were made public, or that there is tremendous buzz around his possible appearance at the Apple event tomorrow.  Here is a recent comment from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster:

“We expect CEO, Steve Jobs, to announce a new iPod lineup featuring cameras in re-designed iPod nanos, iPod touches, and the iPod classic. We believe investors will view the new products as a non-event, as iPod growth slows and the segment becomes less of an investable theme. However, we also believe Steve Jobs will present at the event, a first since his health-related leave of absence, which would likely be a slight positive for shares of AAPL and the first public confirmation of Jobs’ health since his return to the company.”

Can your personal brand influence the stock market?  Well, maybe some day.

There are no boring people, only dull personal brands.  If you want to understand how to better influence people’s perception of you, these are the three questions to ask yourself: 1) Who are you?, 2) What do you do?, 3) Why does it matter?  The exercise of answering these questions will lead you to the qualities that differentiate you.

Next, be distinctive.  Consider going against the crowd.  Be open to standing out; most “visionaries” started life as contrarians.  This is an exercise in creativity over logic.

Then, be trustworthy.  I’m not talking about credibility, but rather giving people something that they can come to expect from you with some level of consistency.  Be human.  Allow people to know you make mistakes and you’ll help your personal brand agents form bonds with your personality attributes, thus further enhancing your personal brand value.

Finally, solicit feedback.  Ask people what they think about your persona and messaging.  As your personal brand rises, pay careful attention to the conversation.  In this dialogue you’ll discover just who makes your personal brand.

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