Personal Branding: What Rainmakers Can Learn From Politicians

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“Personal Branding” is a term that gets bandied about business circles a lot these days, but few professionals seem to have a firm grasp of what it really means or what its potential is.

Personal branding is the strategy of marketing yourself using the same methods a major corporation might brand and market one of its products. When used effectively, you can use these techniques to “position” yourself in the minds or your prospective clients, employers or buyers.

Here’s an example: Several years ago I volunteered to teach job-search workshops through a non-profit organization that helped unemployed people find new jobs. One of the things I repeatedly drove home to the people in my classes was to think of themselves as solutions to specific problems.

It was all about positioning.

They could either join the ranks of thousands of other job seekers who mass mailed resumes out to hundreds of companies, or they could package themselves as the answers to pressing problems that targeted companies had to solve.

The point here is that no company will hire someone just because they want to sign another paycheck. People get hired because the company has a problem that must be solved. And the person who is hired is the person who impresses them most that they are the solution to that problem.

Now let’s think about a group of people who (at least in the U.S.A.) seek employment every November. Politicians.

Politicians are the ultimate role models for personal branding. And like them or not, they provide great lessons for anyone who wants to attract new clients, new business or a new employer.

The first thing politicians must establish is name recognition. Even those people who are running for the jobs at the bottom of the ballot must have some sort of name recognition.

As much as I try to be an informed voter, I always walk into the polling booth and find that I know nothing about the people who are running for dog catcher or judge of some obscure district. So what do we all do in such an instance? We look at the names to see if we recognize that person.

But as Caroline Kennedy learned when she threw her hat into the ring for the New York senate seat, name recognition is not enough. It will only take you so far, but if you can’t show that you can do the job, name recognition alone will not take you to the finish line.

The second element of personal branding is the ability to solve problems. If you want to be my lawyer, it certainly helps if I recognize your name, but I also want to feel confident that you can solve my legal problem.

Barrack Obama won the presidential election not just because he had established a lot of name recognition, but also because more people perceived him, rightly or wrongly, as the better solution to the nation’s problems than they did John McCain.

Personal branding means that you position yourself in your prospects’ minds as a solution to their problems. Sarah Palin and Caroline Kennedy ran into the Katie Courics of the world who asked tough questions. And when this happens to you, you had better be able to articulate your solutions to the problems that are keeping your prospects awake at night.

Or better yet, present your solutions up front before you get to these interviews.
The internet gives you many, many ways to get your ideas known. Write about your solutions on a blog, post YouTube videos, do a lot of public speaking, write articles, write books, conduct your own versions of town hall meetings.

And all the time, remember YOU are the solution to a problem or set of problems. People will buy you if they recognize your name and perceive you to be the solution to their problems.

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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