This month, a bit of a hobbyhorse: The importance of reputation, or personal brand in professional services. But what is it, and is it more than being good at your job?
Personal brand. It’s one of those terms, a bit like ‘blue sky thinking’ or ‘drill down’. It’d score well in a round of ‘bullshit bingo’ (excuse the French)!
However, it’s one of the few such terms I think is actually important.
Because we live in a service-driven economy. Your clients look to work with trusted professionals. They don’t usually want a sales-person (though that might be their first point of contact). They look to meet the individual they’ll trust to do the work – you.
This applies to counsel in chambers and to accountants, consultants, solicitors or anyone else providing services.
Personal brand, image, reputation, call it what you like, is a combination of things. Much like corporate brand. It’s the associations, perceptions and the experiences that combine to make up how people see you. It’s a lot more than being good at your job (though that’s important of course!).
So how do you build it?
One of the most useful things I learnt on my MBA course a few years ago was ‘be yourself’. Nobody wants to work with a fake persona (well, maybe some do, but not long-term). I can think immediately of at least few politicians who fit that bill. Would you want them as employees, or representing you? Hopefully not…
In the 21st century, it’s very much to do with your online marketing. Who are you seen as being associated with? What are your views?
Something I’m keen on is being (reasonably) open on social media about your opinions and personality. I’m pretty liberal, interested in diversity and hopefully forward thinking when it comes to technology and innovation. Hopefully that comes across…
There are professionals on social media who only seem interested in one thing. I’m pretty sure they have interests beyond contract law or construction disputes. But from what I know of their online presence, they have a one-track mind. I’d love to know what their values are, what their opinions are on relevant subjects etc. But there’s no way of telling.
It’s also about your personality. Do people regard you as reliable, smart, intellectual, helpful, kind, etc? All those adjectives that go to make up someone you can trust. Getting out and meeting people face-to-face is crucial.
I was quite surprised once, to find a lawyer thought I was charismatic. The free wine at the event we were attending may have helped… But it’s well worth asking others how they perceive you. You might also be surprised at the results.
In the 21st Century, you can’t rely on someone else to provide you with work. You might have the loveliest, most charming BD person in the world. But, as a former general counsel recently said to me, the days when professionals could sit waiting for the phone to ring are gone.
Five Top Tips:
- Build your brand online. Make sure your LinkedIn profile includes any volunteering, any articles, and other activity. Update social media regularly.
- Consider who you want your clients to be and what their values are. Does your personality both online and in real life align with their values? Maybe sit down and review who you work for and who you want to work for.
- Do more networking. If you’re billing by the hour, unless you’re exceptional (I only know of two or three who are), you’re probably not out there enough. See my article on that subject for more…
- Share knowledge. Write articles, blogs, vlogs, podcasts. Raise awareness of your skills, knowledge and specialisms. This is a really great way to carve out a niche.
- Say yes. Raising that profile is all important, so if you’re asked to do something (provided you’re willing to do it justice) never ever look a gift horse in the mouth. Agree to help people and one day they might help you!
All the above is what we keep telling businesses to do, but it’s equally relevant as an individual.
Finally – do drop me a line if I can help – an initial chat is always free, and I’m keen to help individuals raise their profile and develop their careers and brands. Get in touch.