We all live an interesting dichotomy: as digitally connected as we all are, the task of being memorable has not changed, perhaps grown more challenging. Yet, to succeed in business, one must take consistent steps to be seen and be known. Personal branding is placed at the very center of that.
In today’s business culture, it is not enough to be memorable. You need a personal brand that is a “promise” of your unique value proposition and consistent quality to your targeted audiences (i.e. clients and referral sources). Building a personal brand reflects the essence of why clients retain you and what she will receive when she does.
As you build a prosperous business, defining your unique personal brand is a meaningful way to provide you with a competitive advantage. Take the strategic step of outlining how you are different from your lawyer peers, what is uniquely you, and, ultimately, why clients should retain you over your competitors.
Below are questions to consider:
- How should I describe myself to others?
- How do clients, prospects, and referral sources perceive me? (If you don’t know, ask them).
- What do I want others to remember about me?
A personal brand begins with knowing yourself, your interests, passions, core values, the services you offer, what makes you different from your competition. It is about identifying what makes you unique.
Defining your personal brand is the first step to building a professional reputation.
Below is a step-by-step data dive to develop your personal brand message:
- Identify the primary service(s) you provide.
- Identify your core values.
- Identify your passion. What do you enjoy most of practicing law?
- Identify your gifts and special skillsets. What do you do better than most people?
- Draft a statement that weaves the items from your lists into a statement of your area(s) of legal focus.
- Draft a short paragraph highlighting your value proposition and your top key gifts, integrating your most important values, passion and skills.
This is your personal brand. How does that feel? Does it adequately reflect you?
Eight Essential Characteristics to a Solid Personal Brand
For your personal brand to ‘stick’, incorporate the characteristics below.
You must be clear about who you are, what you stand for and what you offer to clients. Why do you do what you do? You must communicate this verbally and visually in a clear manner.
How congruent and aligned are you with the real you? In our noisy world, people can smell a fake. When your brand message is clear, authentic and aligned with your values and you walk your talk, you will attract a following with whom you are meant to work.
Look at the “tone” of your brand. When people look at your business can they see and feel your brand personality. Step out of the box. It’s OK. In fact, your uniqueness will differentiate you in the marketplace. Separate yourself from the herd and be willing to be yourself.
Everything is energy and your brand is a living thing. With each interaction with your clients, you will issue subtle energy cues. Your brand will be unsustainable if you’re not passionate about your practice. If you infuse your business with passion and energy, however, your brand will be irresistible.
5. Emotional Connection.
Emotions make the brain sit up and pay attention. In order to have a powerful personal brand, you must understand how you make your audience feel. The late, great Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you say and will forget what you may do, but they will absolutely remember how you made them feel”. This is the core of an influential personal brand. In order to resonate strongly with your target audience, you must make an emotional connection. The most powerful question to ask yourself is, “How do I want people to feel when they experience my brand?”
I see it all the time, lawyers put the cart before the horse, marketing to everyone and anyone, before developing a solid brand foundation. In order to be consistent with your brand message, you first must create your brand platform. Take the time to identify your brand attributes and target market. Once you have a clear foundation, then you are ready to implement consistency across all of your marketing channels – from a professionally designed website and blog, speaking engagements and social media platforms.
7. Distinctive Design.
People make a decision about you and your brand within a few seconds of initial contact; first impressions matter. We process through our eyes, so design has a keen memorable impact. The design will speak for you when you are not present. Make sure that your visual branding elements are not only consistent across all media (business card, website, advertising, collateral materials, social media platforms etc.), but they convey the message and the feeling you want your brand to evoke.
8. Social Engagement.
Is your brand sparking conversations? A powerful, authentic brand is an act of social engagement. You must make the conversation happen. You are participating, connecting and collaborating.
Defining and communicating your personal brand
Once you draft your personal brand statement, print and place it where you will glance at it over the next few days. What does this statement means to you, your life and how will you communicate this cohesive message to others?
As you adapt to your new personal brand statement, reference it as you introduce yourself to others and how you describe yourself and your services. What are the most descriptive words that you can use to refer to yourself? Are you a strategic problem solver? A big-picture thinker who protects your clients’ business interests? Consider how you want others to describe you. Through your own words, show others how to characterize you. Own your own message. That is building a strong personal brand.
To stay on track, integrate your personal brand statement into your professional profile, your firm’s website, LinkedIn profile, Twitter and other digital profiles.
You also want to integrate your personal brand statement on all other digital assets, such as lawyer ranking sites (AVVO; Lawyers.com; Martindale-Hubbell; Findlaw; Law.com, etc.).
As you move forward to proactively build your reputation, be mindful of how to convey your personal brand to shape how others (qualified targeted audiences) perceive you and the services you provide.
The building starts now. Kimberly Rice