I’m often asked in workshops, “who needs to be my number one brand advocate?” The guesses range from my current supervisor, a trusted mentor, a current client or a leader in the industry.  Some, even after going over the ”18 Critical Connections You Need to Know” still ask, “is there one that stands out as more important than anyone else?”

The answer is yes. Yet, it’s not one of the ones on the list nor is it any of the really good guesses.  Simply put – it’s you.  The biggest sale we make on any given day is the sale we make to ourselves – we either sell ourselves on our strengths and our great “you can do it attitude” or we sell ourselves short and buy into the many weaknesses, obstacles, should-ofs, would-ofs and could-ofs.

Where people fall short is in HOW to be your best brand advocate.  It doesn’t mean getting really good at spouting your unique value or promise (although that doesn’t hurt). And, it doesn’t mean being so promotional that all you do is talk about yourself. (I’m reminded of Bette Midler in the movie, Beaches, whenever I broach that subject where she states to someone who has been listening to her drone on and on about herself, “well I’ve talked enough about me; now it’s your turn – tell me what you think about me?”)

Here are three things you can do immediately to be your best brand advocate:

1.  Ask for documentation. What I mean is start asking for documentation of your strengths and your great accomplishments.  When you volunteer for an organization, while the plaque or t-shirt is nice or even a mention in a newsletter is appreciated,  you must be proactive and ask for a letter documenting what you did.  I’ve worked with many organizations and have even declined them creating a plaque for me and encouraged them to save the money and put it towards the “cause or cure” by just sending a letter on the organization letterhead to me that thanks me for helping them with their walk, event, gala, board of directors, volunteer team – basically whatever I assisted with.  Why? Because I cannot put a plaque or cute mug, into my personnel file.  I cannot flow the comments onto my blog, or include it in an online bio or a LinkedIn profile.  A letter, however, can be reproduced, excerpts can be used for quotes on website, blogs, profiles or brochures and it can be reviewed at evaluation time.

Be sure to keep the original and then you make copies for your immediate supervisor and one for the personnel department so they can place it in your permanent personnel file. That is your job to do – not to hand off to the personnel department or supervisor for if they lose track of the original then you lose a valuable piece of documentation.   If you’re an entrepreneur, keep it in your testimonial file, use it on your blog, website and any online portfolio.

It’s your job to be your best brand advocate and this includes documenting all of the great things you’ve done – from volunteering with the boy scouts, belonging to a Rotary club and providing a quick speech or walking for a cure.  Asking for a letter is a relatively easy document to ask for and to retrieve.  Look into your calendar for the past year or on your desk/bookshelf and see what other forms of recognition you’ve received that would serve you best in letter form.  Then ask! In the nine years I was employed by non-profit organizations, only once did anyone ask for a letter documenting their service.  I would of gladly written hundreds of letters instead of having to peruse promotional catalogs for days looking for paperweights or cool framed certificates to give.  And, worse yet, expending the hard raised funds on ‘thank you’s’ that could go towards eradicating, alleviating or advocating for the cause.

2.  Create an “I love me” wall. I know how narcissistic that must sound!  Yet, when people walk into your office, cubicle, space, store front or any place you conduct business this wall speaks volumes to them without you ever having to say a word.  Now, while I call it a wall – it can be a bookshelf or a counter top or even the flimsy press-board of a cubicle privacy separator.  What it showcases are all those certificates and plaques that you’ve already received BEFORE you started asking for written documentation.  (Understand that even as you start asking for letters and declining any plaques or framed gifts – there will still be organizations that give you that – regardless.)

3.  Collect your documentation. A little different from the “ask” recommendation – this is collecting all the “atta-boys, kudos, good jobs and gold stars” you’ve ever received and put them all together.  Some companies have slips like “catch them doing something right slips” or they have a “suggestion box” or some other types of employee recognition programs.  Collect those documents.  Make sure you have copies of each of those and that the personnel department has copies of them.

Did you make period sales three months in a row?  Do you have that documented or was it merely applause and an announcement during a staff meeting? Did you help reduce expenses or eliminate a line item?  Make your evaluations, whether it is an employee evaluation or someone evaluating hiring or doing business with you.  more than just discussion about – what have you done for me lately.  Give  a full and complete rendition of brand you!

(*Note: also if you’re saving some of these documents in scans or in word format be sure to also same them in PDF format.  Nothing reflects worse on you than you sending a perfectly formatted testimonial that someone has written about you in a word document and it converts to the receiver’s margins and specifications and now looks – sloppy.  Preserve your hard work and convert it to PDF format. CutePDF is a great free program that can be installed and show up like an additional printer for you so when you would like to convert a document it’s as easy as selecting the ‘PDF printer’)

Only you

You are responsible for your own personal brand – why would you let anyone else manage it? Managing your personal brand takes time yet yields great dividends.  I’m anxious to hear how each of you are your “brand advocate numero uno”.