For many of my clients, their personal brand is their business brand. Coaches, consultants, solopreneurs – they’re not only the face of their company, they are the company. So it goes without saying that what they do and say as an individual has a direct impact on their business.
But what about businesses that are more than just a one-man band? Does personal branding really affect how a business is perceived by its stakeholders?
Early on in my career as a brand consultant, I worked with a business to help develop its brand identity, positioning and messaging. It was a rather lengthy process and involved collaboration among multiple employees and affiliates.
Overall, despite the usual pushback that comes with helping an organization narrow its focus, the end result was a more succinct and consistent brand. The company was left with the resources it needed to engage and communicate with its target audience in a way that resonated with their needs, desires and pain points.
Unfortunately, I neglected to educate the client on the importance of personal branding for the organization’s leadership. Feeling like I would be crossing the line, I also failed to address the rather inflammatory social accounts held by one of the organization’s top executives.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many instances where taking a strong and aggressive stance on an issue will help to form stronger connections with your target audience – assuming you’re well educated about what their attitudes and beliefs are. Also, assuming that alienating everyone else is sustainable for the company and will enhance the brand’s positioning.
This was not the case for this particular organization, however. The messaging of this executive did not align with the business brand. Except for a small segment of the organization’s target audience, most stakeholders found the viewpoints and tone of voice offensive and opposed to their own values and beliefs.
I’m not judging the exec for his views. In fact, I agreed with some of them myself, though not a fan of his antagonistic approach. The problem, however, is that a large number of the organization’s customers and supporters were not receptive to the personal beliefs and attitudes of the executive, and judged his organization by the essence of his personal brand.
The repercussions were significant. Financial contributors cut funding, community members initiated boycott campaigns, the executive was personally attacked on social media, and even supporters who had similar beliefs and values distanced themselves from the organization in fear of sharing in the retribution.
Whether or not you have used research and analysis to carefully craft a personal brand strategy, you still have a personal brand.
As marketing and communication strategist, Gay Flashman, put it, “Everything you say and everything you do interconnects as part of both your brand identity and your overarching narrative.”
If you’re the face of a company, you can’t have a personal brand that conflicts with your business brand.At best, the inconsistency can create confusion for your target audience. And, as we just saw in the previous instance, the consequences can be far worse.
This certainly isn’t new information. We have seen a number of large corporations brought to their knees from the words and actions of CEOs. Sexual misconduct and fraud are some of the more recent and common transgressions of top executives. Additionally, hypocrisy, narcissism, deceit, and a lack of empathy, transparency and authenticity can be added to the list of personal brand characteristics that have negatively impacted companies small and large.
Keeping in mind the importance of having a personal brand that aligns with your business brand, what steps should you take to ensure consistency and avoid a business meltdown?
- Build a business around your values. If you attempt to design a business brand that conflicts with your beliefs and standards, not only will you constantly deal with a feeling of being an imposter, but you will also find it difficult to create something you truly believe in. This extends to the higher purpose of your business as well, to include the causes you support, the nonprofits you align with, and the social responsibility campaigns you develop.
- Integrate elements of your personality into your business’ brand personality and voice. This will help to create authenticity and allow you to connect with your target audience in a genuine way. Just like with values and beliefs, attempting to manage a business with a personality contrary to your own is difficult to sustain.
- Be selective in what you reveal. We all have many sides to our personalities, and our value system can be rather complex. You don’t have to completely expose everything about yourself in order to be transparent.
I’m not saying to hide or disguise your true beliefs, values and personality. Rather, choose the aspects that best align with your business brand and will most resonate with the beliefs and attitudes of your target audience. This entails conducting customer/client research and a good understanding of what their expectations are for the type of products and services you offer.
Here’s an example. If you offer business consulting, your client is expecting professionalism and a “sage” type personality. It’s acceptable to add some humor into the mix, but if you let the jester side of your personality take the lead, the client would most likely have a difficult time trusting your expertise.
We’re Here to Help
Developing an integrated and consistent personal and business brand can be a large undertaking, especially if you’re just getting started or you suddenly discovered your “brand” is all over the place.
If you want to discuss how we can help you define your unique brand identity, establish your position in the market, and engage your target audience, set up a free 15-minute consultation.