How to Reinvent Your Personal Brand

by Dorie Clark

personal brandingWhat are you known for? What do people say about you when you leave the room? (They are talking about you, aren’t they?) How can you burnish your reputation to win that promotion or land that new client? You’ve diligently focused on your personal brand for years — but what if you now want to reinvent yourself?

It happens all the time. A financial services executive moves into retail. A techie wants to try marketing. A VC wants to jump ship and become a life coach. Your path may make perfect sense to you, but how can you convince others to embrace your new brand — and take you seriously? Here are five steps to reinventing yourself for the business marketplace.

  1. What’s Your Destination?

    First, you need to develop a detailed understanding of where you want to go, and the knowledge and skills necessary to get there. If you’ve been a techie for the past decade, you may understand every new marketing toy out there, from Facebook to Foursquare. But can you effectively convey that knowledge to a non-technical audience? Learning the skills you need will help you gain the confidence necessary to start identifying (and publicizing) yourself in your new identity.

  2. Leverage Your Points of Difference. 

    In marketing, we call it a USP — a “Unique Selling Proposition.” What makes you different from anyone else? That’s what people will remember, and you can use it to your advantage. Conservative pundit Ann Coulter, as the New York Times recently reported, has reinvented herself after losing popularity to newer, even more right-wing talking heads. Leveraging her unique blend of blonde vixen and conservative firebrand, Coulter is now courting gay Republicans who enjoy diva-style smack talk. You probably won’t find Sarah Palin hitting that circuit anytime soon, so it looks like Coulter owns it.

  3. Develop a Narrative. 

    You used to write award-winning business columns — and now you want to review restaurants? It’s human nature to have many interests, to seek new experiences, and to want to develop new skills over the course of your life. Unfortunately, there’s a popular word to describe that profound quest: dilettante. It’s unfair, but to protect your brand you need to develop a coherent narrative arc that explains to people — in a nice, simple way so they can’t miss it — exactly how your past fits into the present. “I used to write about the business side of many industries, including food and wine,” you could say. “I realized my big-picture knowledge about agricultural trends and business finance made me uniquely positioned to cover restaurants with a different perspective.” It’s like a job interview — you’re turning what could be perceived as a weakness (he doesn’t know anything about food, because he’s been a business reporter for 20 years) into a compelling strength that people can remember (he’s got a different take on the food industry because he has knowledge most other people don’t).

  4. Reintroduce Yourself.

    The vast majority of people, regrettably, aren’t paying much attention to you. That means their perceptions are probably a few years out of date — and it’s not their fault. With hundreds (or thousands) of Facebook friends and vague social connections, we can’t expect everyone to remember all the details of our lives. So we have to strategically re-educate our friends and acquaintances — because, especially if we’re launching a new business venture, they’re going to be our buyers and recommenders. That means a concerted effort to phone or email everyone on your list — individually — to let them know about your new direction and, where appropriate, ask for their help, advice, or business. (Blast emails are a start, but too often go unread.)

  5. Prove Your Worth.

    There’s a difference between my knowing that you’ve launched a new graphic design business and trusting that you’ll do a good job for clients. I may like you a lot, but unless I see proof of your skills, I may hesitate to put my own reputation on the line by sending you referrals. That’s where blogs, podcasts, videocasts, and other forms of social media come in. It’s critical to let potential customers see what you’re about and test drive your approach before they make a large commitment. Checking out your image gallery and seeing a roster of attractive corporate logos you’ve designed may allay my fears enough to send you that major new account.

What are your best strategies for reinventing your personal brand?

This article was first published here by HBR Blog Network. The article appears on the WellSpirit Blog by permission of the author.

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Dorie ClarkWe are delighted to welcome Dorie Clark to the WellSpirit Blog as the guest author of this post.  Dorie is a marketing strategy consultant, professional speaker, and frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review and Forbes. Recognized as a “branding expert” by the Associated Press and Fortune, she is the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013), which is being translated into Russian, Chinese, French, Polish, and Thai.

Dorie consults and speaks for a diverse range of clients, including Google, the World Bank, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, the Ford Foundation, Yale University, the Mount Sinai Medical Center, and the National Park Service.

In addition to being a former presidential campaign spokeswoman, Dorie is an adjunct professor of business administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She has taught marketing and communications at Tufts University, Suffolk University, Emerson College, HEC-Paris, Babson College, the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business, and Smith College Executive Education. She has been named to the Huffington Post’s “100 Must Follow on Twitter” list for 2013 and 2014, and to the #Nifty50 list of top women on Twitter.

Dorie will be joining Drs. Jeff & Renée Hale on Leaders Alive! May 1st at 5:00 PM CDT on WJOB 1230 AM to discuss her book, Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future.

Disclosure of Material Connection:

WellSpirit Consulting Group Inc. has not received any compensation for this guest post. We have no material connection to the brands, products, or services mentioned therein. We only recommend authors and books that we have personally read and that we believe will be good for our readers and clients. WellSpirit is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”