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The power of personal branding

I've been helping frustrated firms in the construction industry look and sound as credible online as they are offline since the '90s, and it's safe to say our industry's seen some tough times before – but nothing quite like this.

You might think I'm here to tell you that you need to rebrand yourself and that now is the perfect time for you to change up your entire brand: overhaul everything in your company from the logo to the messaging on your website to your marketing.

But I'm not.

Now is not the time to rebrand. 

Right now is the time to take stock of what is working and what is not. And focus on what you can do to help your business and your career in the long run.

When this whole pandemic nightmare is over, and the dust settles, you can circle back and evaluate if you need a rebrand, a brand refresh, or just a tweak here or there.

LinkedIn guru Goldie Chan recently wrote: “Creating the right personal brand will not only help you be known in your field and consistently land work, but it could be the difference between “Who are you?” and “Thank you for being here” in your career.”

So, for the moment – let's take a look at your personal brand and how it can help you connect with clients through the tough times.

What does your current personal brand say?

In its most basic form, personal branding is essentially long-term reputation management. In many ways, personal branding is a lot like business branding; it's a mix of reality and perception.

A brand is the definition people hold in their minds about you or your company. It's a collection of emotions, senses, memories, and assumptions. A brand is built in two ways: by what you tell people (or they hear from others/read online) and by what they experience themselves.

Your brand reputation is either created and managed with intention or grows organically over time (sometimes not in the desired direction).

To have a brand, you need to be known.

To be known, you need to be remembered.

To be remembered, you need to be memorable.

To be memorable, you need to be visible and clear on the value you create and who you create that value for.

Clarity sounds simple, but it's not. Clarity is subjective. What is clear to one audience is complete irrelevant gibberish to another.

To be clear, you need to know who you are talking to and what they give-a-damn about.

To be clear, you need to know why people buy what you are selling.

To be clear, you need to get rid of jargon and be direct.

A brand, personal or business, is rooted in being known for something, in the industry or market you work. If you want to build a personal brand intentionally, you must first ask, what do I want to be known for? What would someone like that do to get that reputation? How would that person need to be in the world to maintain that reputation?

Do you want to be top-of-mind and known for:

  • Your expertise in the market?
  • A strong point of view and being outspoken?
  • As a champion for a cause in your industry?
  • Your creativity and ingenuity?
  • Your thought leadership?
  • Making a difference in your community?
  • Delivering amazing customer service?
  • Being the best salesperson on the team?
  • Successful marketing and social media campaigns?

This isn't about popularity. It's about clarity, visibility, and consistency in your market.

So, what's the state of your current personal brand? It's time for a little soul searching and some (possibly uncomfortable) honesty.

The ultimate goal of personal branding is to build a reputation as a go-to authority in your field. You need to be AN authority, not necessarily THE authority.

Being seen as an authority is how you go from being hired as a service provider to being hired as an expert. Being hired as an expert is how you go from commodity pricing to charging based on value – multiplying your price and profitability.

If you are seen as the best choice for X in X industry, and there aren't viable replacements because of how you do what you do in a way only you do them, then you have done your job of positioning your personal or business brand successfully.

We all know the secret to loyal customers, and happy colleagues are personal connections – they need to feel like we have their best interests at heart. Personal branding can promote and encourage this relationship for you.

Here's a quick exercise: think of one person in your company or friend group that you wish you could clone. Think of all the reasons and traits they have that you would love to have more of in the world. All those reasons boil down to one thing: that person has a great personal brand, that's made up of delivered value in their own unique way.

When someone gets to know you through your personal brand, you're already a step closer to winning them over. What does that mean? Better working relationships, easier sales, and, ultimately, more job satisfaction.

How to improve your personal branding

When you have discovered who you need to be, it's time to figure out what you need to do to uncover the sustainable personal brand you want

Branding, personal, or business, is not about fabricating. It is about finding what already exists and enhancing it. Decide what you want to be known for and create a plan that requires your A-player self to show up.

To get clear on what you want your personal brand to be, you need to take a deep look at a few things:

  • Where you are now
  • Where you want to be
  • The value you provide
  • What you want to be known for
  • How you are going to be known for that
  • What does that type of person do
  • What does that type of person act like

When you know the answers, it's time to magnify and promote those qualities for your whole industry to see.

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” ― Dolly Parton

Promoting your personal brand

Promoting your personal brand online pretty much has one goal: to get you seen by the right people, at the right time, in the right light so that they remember you and think of you when they have a need that you serve.

Try Googling yourself. What comes up? An impressive LinkedIn profile? An outdated company website? Drunk holiday photos on Facebook? There's no judgment from me – we all need to let our hair down once in a while – but how we present ourselves online matters in our careers. And there is nothing wrong with a drunk holiday photo if it fits your brand personality.

Imagine a huge referral heads your way – they Google you to see what the deal is…and they're greeted with a rant on Twitter you posted 5 years ago where you come off as an ass. Not good.

Remember, you intentionally shape your brand perception, or it grows organically over time, and it is what it is. It is your choice.

If you promote yourself with an optimized LinkedIn page, a professional website, and maybe even a guest article in a well-respected niche magazine – you're going to make the right impression. You might stumble into this, but for most of us, we have to do this with intent.

In order for customers/friends/employers to understand who you are and what you do, you need to send out a consistent and clear message. If you can't articulate your own value, you can't expect anyone else to get it. And you certainly can't expect them to remember it.

Where to begin:

  • Figure out what you want to be known for
  • Make a list of ways you can demonstrate being that
  • Make a list of relevant channels you can use to showcase that

This is where you get creative, make lists, brainstorm, don't edit, just let the ideas flow. Start with your skillset, if you are comfortable on camera, make videos. If you are a good teacher, start a Whiteboard Wednesday webinar. If you can write, blog, and pitch articles (you can use a writer to clean up your ideas). If you have the gift of gab, interview thought leaders in your industry or host zoom happy hours. Run for a leadership role in an industry association. Pitch to be a podcast guest, speak on stage, teach a class, share your gifts, and get seen. The goal is not to be famous; it's just to raise your awareness. And as Brad Martineau says, “start simple, get fancy later.”

Don't wait for permission. Sometimes you have to put on your own crown.

Yes, times are tough right now, and the world is upside down – but they won't be forever. Now's the time to put the effort behind the scenes and reap the benefits when the world opens up again.

The moral of the story? Stop blending in. Stop sounding like everyone else. Be 100% you – that's the power of personal branding in construction. Let's chat if you need help with branding.


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Tracy O’Shaughnessy Founder / Lead Brand Strategist of Branding & Beyond

Tracy and her team help B2B firms in the construction industry and professional services look and sound credible online and off.

She has been in the industry since the early '90s and is tired of great companies being treated as commodities and competing on price because they don't look and sound as credible as they really are.

You can find Tracy on Linkedin and here on this blog.