I’ve been hearing that word a lot recently.
It’s been repeatedly mentioned in meetings and for a while I was a bit confused. It’s all
“what’s your brand?”
“you need to think about personal branding”
“what’s your brand all about?”
Is it any wonder I was confused? After all –
But who exactly is just me?
At this point, I’m beginning to think I’m losing the plot entirely.
The first time this came up was a CWO (Conserative Woman’s Organisation) briefing. We were discussing where we wanted our political careers to take us, and part of getting elected is letting people know who you are and what you’re about.
At that moment, I was a very new Councillor, I didn’t have a day job and was a full time Mum. This didn’t seem to be very much to offer the voter. But that wasn’t quite what they meant. It’s a case of “how do you want other people to see you” and “what type of person are you” rather than list your job titles.
To be fair, I remained unconvinced. I was me, I was not a “brand” as a brand is something like Heinz or Andrex.
But anyway, I agreed to go home and do the recommended branding exercise, which to my mind looked on the face of it, to be quite brutal. I had to go home and get 10 people who knew me to write down 10 words that they associated with me, or how they saw me.
OK, firstly, I didn’t ask 10, but it was near enough. Those who agreed to do it, and some politely declined, were a mixture of people who had known me for years and some people who hadn’t known me for very long at all. The results were fascinating. The were also annoying, deeply unsettling but really quite interesting.
Some of the words came as no surprise, words such as opinionated, feisty and outspoken. However, others took me by surprise – such as angry, self centred and brash. These were my friends?!
These seem to be two flip sides of the same thing but if I had to choose how I wanted people to see me, I’m not sure angry, self centred and brash was quite the thing I was looking for!
So I put the list away and forgot about it for a while. Then last week at a communications training session, the whole “personal brand” thing came up again. We had to write down words that described what we would like people to think we were like. Funnily enough, I didn’t write angry, self centred or brash. Actually, I can’t remember what it was that I did write. But it reminded me of the list.
So I got it out again. I took off the ones where people had written sentences and I took off the ones that I considered to be so left of field they were silly and this is what was left:
I’ve never really thought of myself as being Inspirational at all, so was secretly quite pleased with that one. Both Patient and Impatient confused me – I am notoriously impatient, my husband roared with laughter at the very idea of me being patient. But apparently I am patient with other people. So I guess that’s ok then?
Both Outspoken and Reserved also sounded a little odd, but I think perhaps that is linked to being angry and Passionate. I’m normally quite reserved until there’s a cause to fight for!
It amazed me how the same words were used again and again. From different people, who didn’t know each other, who knew me in different areas of my life and for different lengths of time. None of them were that bad, (Although I confess there was one that had me seething with rage, but it’s not on the list anymore!)
So that’s me then. Mrs Smart, Passionate, Scary & Gobby? Maybe. Most of it is really quite perceptive, flattering even.
But it still doesn’t mean I know what my brand is. It’s just a collection of words.
Just as I can say I’m a politician, it’s not all that I am. It’s just a part of the whole machine. Just as Honest, Caring & Loyal are only parts of a complicated jigsaw.
I’m told the list is supposed to help me to know which bits I want to emphasise and which bits I’d like to tame and hold back a bit…….. <cough> I’m saying nothin’ 😉
For the record – Wilful was on the list my husband wrote.