1. Being fake.
Effective personal branding is based in authenticity. You need to be yourself – your best self. You’ll be found out if you try to fool people by imitating something you’re not or lying to your target audience. Just think about Milli Vanilli, Rosie Ruiz and Lance Armstrong. Faking it is also a waste of energy. Anne Morrow Lindbergh once said, “The most exhausting thing you can be is inauthentic.”
2. Being a people pleaser.
Strong brands express an opinion and take a stand. If you are trying to please all the people, you usually please none. Want to inspire people and connect with them on a deep level? Get clear about your point of view and make it public. Be willing to repel some people – all strong brands do. Know your message and be willing to stick your neck out and express yourself.
3. Acting first, thinking later.
When it comes to personal branding, I see people building Blogs, using social media, and joining associations without any strategic plan for how it will help them build their brand and achieve their goals. Successful branding requires having a plan. Don’t act until you think – and make your decisions based on your brand strategy. Start by identifying your goals. Then get to know yourself, understand what makes you different, and discern what makes you compelling. You have to establish your brand promise before you can start to build the brand itself with your target audience.
4. Shoot for quantity.
5. Seeking fame and glory.
Branding is not about you, it’s about serving others. Fame is difficult to achieve, and if you make it your goal, you’ll focus too much on the attention you crave instead of focusing on the value you can deliver. You only need to be known to the people who are making decisions about you and those who influence them. I call it selective fame. Work to be known by decision-makers and influencers who will help you reach your goals.
6. Being binary.
Branding requires a steady and steadfast approach. Being binary means that you divide your attention and run a two-track career, perhaps even thinking of branding as an activity that is separate from your career. Personal branding is not something you do occasionally with bursts of activity – like at the beginning of the year when you begin to work on your resolutions. Have a single, focused plan and act on it daily. Don’t let yourself run out of steam; slow, consistent actions will sustain you for the long haul.
7. Being exclusively virtual.
Personal branding actually went mainstream when social media came onto the scene. This left many people thinking that personal branding is an online activity. It’s not – at least not exclusively. Sure, having a digital strategy for your brand is critical, but your actions every day and the things you can do in the real world matter. Shaking hands and scheduling face time (and I’m not talking about an online video meeting) bring your brand to life. You must put your personal stamp on everything you do. Think of your brand holistically, and you’re on your way to achieving your goals.
8. Going solo.
Personal branding sounds like it should be an individual activity, and it is “personal,” but it’s not solo. My collegue Sam did a really nice post on this. The Lone Ranger syndrome will work against you. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. Much of the personal branding process has to do with being part of a community and contributing to that community. This is the key to building your personal brand network. Have a mentor, hire a coach, and reach out to colleagues and friends for their opinions. Don’t go it alone.
9. Being selfish.
Personal branding is not about you. It’s about what you’re able to give to others. Generosity is one of the best strategies for personal branding. When you give to your network, you remind them you are there through actions that also demonstrate how grateful you are for your success. When you give to your team, you show them you care. When you give away your services, you let people discover firsthand what you’re great at.
10. Not assessing your impact.
You could be spinning your wheels, but you won’t know how much impact your work has made unless you measure it. That means that even before you begin your quest, you need to have scribbled down your goals for your personal branding activities. Your goals might be the number of thought-leaders in your area of expertise who know you, or the influence you create internally, or being recognized by a relevant professional association. Whatever your goals, document them. Focus on them. And measure your momentum as you strive towards them. Regularly – say quarterly or monthly – evaluate your progress against your goals – and refine your strategy accordingly.
If you avoid these personal branding don’ts, you can make a name for yourself that fuels your success for years to come.