The 5 Secrets of Personal Branding Pros

When you start up your business, you are your brand. Here are five qualities you can develop and nurture to give your personal brand the best chances of success.

By Debra Walton (Chief Content Officer, Thomson Reuters)

I spoke in my last post about the parallels between a personal brand and a corporate brand and how there are lessons to be learned for individuals from the study of the attributes and influences of a corporate brand.

At the core is the strength of your product, and how you continue to hone the skills and talent that comprise it. Amplifying your personal brand is a process by which you overlay it with other attributes that attract positive attention, creating more opportunities to grow and developing its strength. It’s a cyclical process.

The First Steps

So how do you start building a brand in the first place?

On the most basic level, it is about your skills and domain knowledge. You’ll need a deep understanding of your industry and the challenges that face it.

To me the critical driver of that is curiosity, and that practice is crucial to building your personal brand. It helps you stay on top of what’s happening in your field, gain insight into future developments (and opportunities), and let others hear about your success stories.

Curiosity motivates you to become an expert in your company’s products and services, as well as how they function in the broader market. Curiosity means asking interesting questions (perhaps ones your boss isn’t asking) and bringing compelling answers to the table.

The Five Qualities

That’s the foundation to building a successful personal brand. From this level you can begin to create a ripple effect, and create buzz. The process involves managing five core qualities, each of which is important individually but which together create the amplification we’re looking for.

Mastering them will help you generate the kind of influence than can give your career a major boost.

Quality No. 1: Presence

This isn’t a matter of being the loudest or most visible, but something subtler, a combination of your demeanor, style, and confidence. It is also about how you package yourself—this is where my mother’s rule about impeccable dressing comes in. But it also relates to participating in meetings. There are times when great leaders may say only one or two things in a meeting, but they do it with gravitas. They also allow other people to speak and express ideas.

I have a personal rule: “Speak third.” I try to let at least two people speak before me. By waiting to be “third,” I demonstrate I’m thoughtful, open and am interested in listening to a range of viewpoints. Not always easy for an extrovert – but important.

Quality No. 2: Integrity

A person without integrity means a brand built on a house of cards. At the end of the day, it won’t matter what you try to adorn it with, the edifice will crumble.

Integrity shows up most optimally when you make a decision against your self-interest to further the interest of others or your company. Think of it as working for the greater good. You give up resources for the company’s benefit or reduce your personal gain for the better of those working for you. Integrity demands courage, since it often means going against popular opinion to stand on principle.

Quality No. 3: Reliability

One of the frequent complaints I hear about people (and one of my true pet peeves) is that they never return calls or emails, and sometimes don’t even show up for meetings. Not being dependable is completely detrimental to your brand.

People expect reliability, it’s not an option. Unreliable people project selfishness and disorganization. I always try to get back to anyone who contacts me, inluding cold-call emails, even if it is to say I’m not interested. Do yourself a favor: answer your e-mails and return your calls. Do what you say you will do. I’m likely to give higher marks to someone on my team who is reliable than to someone who is simply smart and clever.

Quality No. 4: Demonstrating Knowledge & Skill

Knowing how to do your job well is, of course, crucial. But if you are a shrinking violet, you will fail to demonstrate your knowledge and skill, and you won’t get ahead. Make sure you’re reading the publications that cover your industry to stay on top of trends and issues. A small insight you glean from a trade publication could be just what your boss needs one day, and if you’re able to present it in a meeting it will make both of you look good.

Since a very early age I have always stepped up to opportunities to lead. I remember being about eight years old and working with three other children in my class on a project about Helsinki. We created a large piece of cardboard with various bits of information pinned to it, but nobody wanted to speak in front of the class about it. I volunteered, and have been doing so ever since.

Opportunity favors the bold and brave. Don’t shy away when given the option to present your knowledge or demonstrate your prowess.

Quality No. 5: Generosity (Which Breeds Influence)

Generosity may seem like an odd term here, but it remains a key part of the puzzle. There are people who won’t help others because there is nothing in it for them. That’s a mistake. Take the time to help your colleagues without looking for credit. You will find that peers and even those senior to you will seek you out if you provide helpful and unencumbered insight.

The result of inculcating these five qualities will be a growing influence in your company and in your field. Others will seek you out and ultimately evoke your name as a supporter, and you will increasingly widen your followership as your personal brand amplifies – and your career takes off.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Which qualities do you most admire in business?

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