Are You Getting Stressed By Your Personal Brand?

It’s always a joy when someone tells me they’ve read my book Personal Branding For Brits – especially if they say they’ve defined their personal brand as a result. What’s less heartening is when someone tells me reading my book has stressed them out.

It happened recently when I checked my inbox and read the following: “Hi Jennifer. I’m spending a lovely bank holiday weekend with my nose in your book; well done, it’s a great read and I love it. However, I appear to be having problems stocking my pantry with ingredients I recognise as me, and sorting through the list is becoming stressful. Why can’t we helicopter over our own selves?”

I really felt for them because…

It aint as easy as it looks

Defining my clients’ personal brands is a big part of what I deliver. For me, it’s relatively easy to dig into what makes them tick and turn those thoughts into words because I have two advantages:

a) I’ve been doing it for over a decade, so have had lots of practise and
b) I’m not them.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to define your own brand…it just makes it harder. So I thought I’d share the advice I gave the person who emailed me (in case you too find defining your personal brand stressful) in the hope I can make the task just that little less hard.

How to eat the elephant

When I worked on my own personal brand – the first personal brand I ever did – I approached it like eating an elephant: one bite at a time.

Firstly, I bought myself a notebook. Then, each morning as I commuted to a freelance PR job I’d taken to keep some money coming in while my business got started, I would write a single question at the top of a clean page.

On Monday it might be ‘What do I feel strongly about?’
Tuesday might be ‘If I had a strapline, what would it be?’
Wednesday might be ‘When it comes to shopping for clothes, how would I describe the brands I buy?’
Thursday might be ‘When have I been happiest in my career?’
And I might end the week with ‘What adjectives would I use to describe my personality?’

Basically it was any question that would stimulate my thinking on the six key elements of my personal brand: Values, Drivers, Reputation, Behaviours, Skills/Strengths and Image.

I’d spend my 40 minute train journey thinking about that one and only question, jotting down anything that came into my head: good, bad, relevant, obscure – it didn’t matter.

Make sure your brain’s in gear

Some days, nothing came, so I put my notebook away and read The Metro. Some days I arrived at my destination with pages of notes, not even noticing the time passing.

Over the course of a few weeks, I’d explored every avenue and even began to see some common themes emerge. But I’d only been able to do it because I’d taken away the stress of ‘OMG, my brain’s coming up blank!!’ and made the whole thing more manageable, instead of thinking I had to crack it 100% in one sitting.

So if you’re struggling to define your brand and feel you can’t helicopter over yourself, take a step back, make the task smaller, let your brain wander at a time when it’s in the mood to do so, and don’t feel bad when it’s not playing ball.

I’m a firm believer in the power of our subconscious to deliver the goods when we’re least expecting it. (Unfortunately for me that’s usually at 4am when I’d rather be asleep!)

Reverse the telescope

When I run workshops there are often people who, when asked questions about what makes them tick, find it almost impossible to answer (just like the person emailing me).

But when I frame those same questions in the negative (what I call looking at something from the other end of the telescope) time and again their thinking becomes unblocked.

For instance, instead of thinking ‘What motivates me?’ think ‘What demotivates me?’ or ‘When am I not happy in my work?’ or ‘When have I hated going to a job and why?’ Then look at the flip-side of your answer to find your Drivers.

Or instead of thinking, “What are my Values?” think ‘What do I dislike in other people?’ or ‘What do others do that I consider wrong?’ or ‘What would make me feel like I was being immoral?’ Then flip it back again to find your Values.

The important thing: keep going

For your personal brand to really deliver, you need to know what it is in the first place. (Because you can’t sell your brand if you don’t know what you’re selling.) So even though it might prove a hard task and stress you out a bit, keep going. I promise you…it will be worth it.

How easy do you find it to think about yourself? Can you helicopter over and gain the necessary perspective? Or do you struggle to pin down what makes you tick? Why not let me know – along with whether those tips might work for you – with a comment below. TTFN!

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2 responses to “Are You Getting Stressed By Your Personal Brand?”

  1. Tony O says:

    Another great, thought provoking blog. Using one of your strap-lines that your brand is “what people say about you when you are not in the room”, then asking someone you trust to tell you the answer to that can give a valuable perspective and help save you from being delusional. You can also ask what values you project. From there, you can decide if that is congruent with what you want to be known for, or what you need to do to change things for the better.

    • Jennifer Holloway says:

      Good point Tony. Getting outside perspective can definitely help – so long as what they say is merely a kick start for your own thinking and not instead of it – because then the authenticity might end up taking a knock.

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