Catherine Kaputa, founder of SelfBrand LLC, a NYC-based personal branding firm and author of The Female Brand: Using the Female Mindset to Succeed in Business and U R a Brand, How Smart People Brand Themselves for Business Success talks with us about how to create your personal brand.
What are the benefits of creating a personal brand in the workplace?
Having a brand gives you an edge whether you are looking for a job, want to move up the ladder, or are promoting your business. Personal branding is not just “packaging” or self-promotion, it is finding out what’s unique and special about you and what you do that meets a need in the marketplace.
How can someone recognize what his or her brand should be?
Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room. For example, if you’ve ever gotten an annual review, what do your boss, colleagues, and clients compliment you on? Who sits near you in meetings or stops by your office? Who doesn’t? What are the jokes people make at your expense? (There’s usually more than a grain of truth there.)
You can do a more formal analysis, too. Using the branding model, you can do a SWOT analysis looking at the “Strengths,” “Weaknesses,” “Opportunities,” and “Threats” to the brand.
Strengths. Write down anything that you are good at and love to do, or what your boss or clients give you high marks on.
Weaknesses. Write down what you're terrible at and hate to do, or what your boss and friends criticize you for.
Opportunities. This is wide open. Write down anything that could be an opportunity for you. A key is to look for unsatisfied needs that you could capitalize on.
Threats. Write down what keeps you awake at night, whether real or imagined, about yourself, your career or your business.
What are you looking for? The intersection of a strength or asset you have and a market need that you can satisfy.
How can one "amplify" the elements of one's brand?
Great brands always build off their strengths – their authenticity – and you should too. Focus your efforts on the core elements of your brand and what you love to do. Work with coaches and mentors, take classes, read, attend conferences, stay on top of the media and the internet. Look for new assignments and challenge yourself. Watch what other people in your field are doing.
How can one increase the impact and visibility of one’s brand?
Frankly, women generally are not as good as men are at promoting themselves or at upping their visibility. It’s a mistake because when people have a reputation for accomplishment and they are more visible, they have an edge. It’s what I call the visibility premium.
You can start out with low visibility tactics like volunteering to be on cross- functional teams and going to networking events like The Women’s Conference. You can build up to higher visibility tactics such as contributing an article to your company website and participating in industry conferences as a panel member or speaker.
When is it important to adapt or update one's brand?
If you look at commercial brands, they stay true to their core message, but they evolve to attract specific target groups or to keep in sync with the marketplace.
When do you need to adapt your brand? If you switch companies, you need to adapt, not change, your brand to the new company’s culture. If you are an innovative marketer for a high-end brand like Ralph Lauren, and you are hired for a top job at Wal-Mart, you won’t be successful unless you redefine your brand so it is innovative in the context of the Wal-Mart brand and their customers.
How can someone use his/her brand to help others?
When you have a strong brand, you have a strong career identity and that gives you a lot of power to influence others as a mentor, or even as an influencer of corporate policy. At one company where I worked, a strong woman leader put a lot of women in positions of power and made sure that they were well paid. She not only had a cadre of loyal followers, she also influenced the CEO to adopt more women-friendly attitudes concerning flexibility in the workplace. She became an even stronger, more well-known leader.
In preparing to write The Female Brand, I interviewed over 150 women leaders and almost without exception, women leaders tend to have a strong need to find meaning in their work and to do good for others, whether that is something they accomplish at work or in the community or through the outside activities they are involved with. For most of us, giving back is part of how we define success.