I just spent a worthwhile 30 minutes reading Brenda Bence’s, “The Top 10 Branding Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make”. Since I went independent in June this year I’m still getting my head around many aspects of what it means to work independently. I thought this was a useful set of points for newly independent workers to consider – it works almost like a checklist, if you turned it around with an appreciative frame (I am not too fond of thinking in mistakes, I rather prefer opportunities to do things differently, which is a little easier on my ego.)
One of the first things that struck me among those 10 points was the second one (the first one about company names I felt pretty good about). The second point is: Forgetting that you are your brand. I type this as I sit on the Heathrow Express on my way to an afternoon meeting in a multi-national’s corporate Headquarters in London with a purple and black backpack and jeans. I am definitely going to change for my meeting this afternoon, and what if I bump into the whole group in the lobby before I even get there?
I would like to hope that my brand is more than just the aesthetics, and at the same time some branding expert/communication specialist/marketing guru might disagree with me, at least partially.
Before I became independent I worked for a string of sustainable development institutions, from small to large – an academic institute, a leadership training foundation, a conservation organization/NGO. The larger they got, the more people who were holding up the brand, and perhaps the stronger the corporate branding (and thus the lighter the individual brand within in.) When you turned up at meetings you were a person from that INSTITUTION, and although you obviously had to sound and look ok, the reputation of the institution made up for any shortfalls (e.g. from lost luggage, thus the tennis shoes at the conference, on down.)
And now I’m independent, and at least for the moment, it’s just me.
Of course I have a certain persona/reputation within my networks, with people who have known me and worked with me for years. But what about the new people, those that I am meeting for the first time? I can always quote my CV to them, if I get the opportunity, and still, the further I get from being an ex-staffer, hiding behind a great big brand, the more I need to build my own.
(Later) So, I made it to my hotel and managed to check in and get up to my room undetected, and of course, the electronic key didn’t work. On my second pass through the lobby I was not as lucky. That rather embarassed greeting of new colleagues from around the world firmed up my resolve to start thinking a bit more about what I want my brand to say about me, all the time, and what I want to say about my brand. After all, I’m not with the brand anymore, like Brenda Bence says, I am the brand.
(Next action: Reframe to make this sound less frightening and more exciting…)