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Will Hutton

Will Hutton

Principal, Hertford College, Oxford University and chair of the Big Innovation Centre

Wednesday 18 Dec 2013
How HR professionals can build a personal brand

How HR professionals can build a personal brand

Personal branding is important for career management. In the competitive world of business having a personal brand - standing for something - is a useful, if not essential, way to differentiate yourself.

Successful managers recognise the importance of a marketing plan to help their organisation meet its objectives, and you should do the same for yourself. A strong personal brand can rev up your career and boost your business success. As an HR professional, that goes for you and your colleagues.

The rise of social media means that potential employers, recruiters and hiring managers are increasingly reviewing the personal and professional social media profiles of candidates. This means that building your own brand profile will be more important than ever in 2014.

However, many HR professionals spend relatively little time thinking about how to develop their personal brand.

Here are some tips on how HR professionals can develop their own credible and sustainable brand:

First, ask yourself:

· What are the key strengths or skills you want to be known for, and how are you currently perceived? Are you happy with these perceptions?

· What are the important professional aspects that you want other people to recognise and associate with you?

· When you think of the image you want to project, is it both credible and sustainable? What is valued in your organisation?

· How is your style, or way of working, different from your team members? How would you like it to be different?

Successful brands are built on strength - they don't try to paper over cracks

You need to first define your X-factor, as successful brands set you apart from your competitors in some way. There are two aspects to brand appeal: one is rational and tangible and relates to what you do; the other is emotional and intangible and relates to how you behave.

The first is important because it relates to your professionalism. But it is the second that is the differentiator. How people respond to you at an emotional level is what will cause you to stand out. This is your 'brand essence'.

Stand out from the crowd with your 'brand essence'

These are intangible but will include concepts such as your personal presence, your charisma, your energy, loyalty, your openness, emotional intelligence, your attractiveness as an individual. Think carefully about what you want to focus on. Where are you trying to take your career? You can't be all things to all people - this will dilute your message.

Be honest and realistic in developing your brand

Start this process by writing down your tangible and intangible strengths. Map these on to what you know the organisation values.

Once you have decided on your brand personality - which is how others see you - then make sure that everything about you is aligned with this personality.

One route to a personal brand is to align yourself carefully with the brand image that your organisation wants to project. Another route is to choose consciously to stand apart from the brand image of the organisation, and to stand for something different, but important, to what the brand does.

For example, if you are an HR professional working in an organisation which is predominantly concerned with performance, you may choose to stand out by being the person who champions performance through relationship building and emotional intelligence.

Network, get connected

When you have decided what your brand image is going to be, you must project this. Get introduced to people who will find your brand image exciting and relevant, and look for opportunities to showcase your unique qualities and expertise by seeking speaker opportunities and writing for the media. Consider using social marketing tools to widen your brand awareness.

Be prepared for challenges

In a competitive environment colleagues may respond to attempts you make to differentiate yourself. They may undermine the brand you are trying to create; they may try to cast doubts on your credibility. Your brand image has to be robust enough to withstand this sort of attack. If, at the first sign of competition, you are seen not to be what you say you are, then your brand image will be immediately damaged.

Like brands in a supermarket, your brand image will take time to establish. Once established, it can only change incrementally and over time. Sudden changes in brand images are rarely well-received.

Personal branding is not a substitute for performance, but can be a vital part of how you are perceived. Your personal brand can help you remain top of mind with those who matter most.

On a wider level, there are also clear benefits to HR professionals in promoting personal branding across their organisation. Helping employees identify their personal brands through personal development plans and personal development opportunities helps employers understand the career goals and aspirations of their employees, and can help HR professionals develop more tailored learning and development plans. It can also aid succession planning and both team and cultural fit. Employers who know their employees' personal brands can use that knowledge to identify and prepare future leaders.

Roger Delves, director of the Ashridge Executive Masters in Management programme, and Sona Sherratt, Ashridge Faculty member and leadership expert.