What does it take for a personal brand – or any brand – to exist in the hearts and minds of your audience or target market?




That’s it. That’s the big secret. That’s personal branding in three words.

Let’s tackle the first part of the personal brand equation: attention. You can’t be successful if you can’t get attention. But, it’s not just any kind of attention you want. You – or your brand image – must be associated with a heart warming feeling, figuratively and literally speaking.

Let’s consider the difference between a waiter accidentally dropping plates and sending them crashing in an upscale restaurant versus George Clooney walking into one. As diners, we turn our attention to both events. One is irritating and one is a delightful surprise.

Even if you don’t like Clooney and feel irritated about the paparazzi lurking outside, who will mark your lack of celebrity by putting down their cameras, it is a kind of personal endorsement that he is choosing the same restaurant you did, because he could and does eat anywhere on the planet.

In fact, it’s hard not to take Clooney’s appearance personally. Your brain does all this work for you, as it does 98% of its job: in your subconscious, out of your control. Yes, only 2% of your brain’s work is done under your direction: on the surface of the deep ocean you live in, unseen to us and you, with the possible exception of what your dreams might be trying to bubble up to the surface.

Our brains pay attention and makes meaning, as much as they can, by taking in what happens in the environment around us, and integrating that with anything potential relevant we’re storing in our associative networks.

The center of our universe

You are not the center of our universe, but you are part of our environment: we the people with whom you work, bump into or otherwise interact. The marks of your personal brand, both online and on-ground are dots on the landscape we inhabit.

For example, your Facebook updates are a huge interruption, albeit one we agreed to when we consented to being your so-called friend. If we find something self-referencing in your posts, something that we can relate to, aspire to or find a surprising and delightful connection to – you are a good interruption – you get positive attention credits.

It’s like George Clooney walking into the restaurant where we’re having dinner. Because his personal brand is cool in kind of a Sinatra rat pack way, his presence elevates the vibe. When you arrive, do you elevate the vibe or suck out its sense of cool?

Have you considered what people think and feel when you walk into a room? Would you get a rousing welcome at Cheers or the deflating reception that a cooler gets when he stands by a successful gambler in Las Vegas?

Consider how we feel when we see your comments on LinkedIn. Do we think, hey, that’s was really smart! Or do we think: what a disappointment: another doofus made us go look when we got the email saying there was a new post on that discussion. Your waste-of-our-time comment is “Jack, you make a good point.” You go down in flames when it comes to getting our attention. So does your personal brand reputation. Your brand becomes “what a waste of time.” Ouch!

We not only dislike you, we dislike ourselves by association – and that’s all assigned to your brand. Your underwhelming performance sets the bar lower for all of us, but not as in a Club Med limbo, limbo, limbo amazing flexibility way. A superfluous comment makes you a doofus, but so are we for being on the same thread with such a doofus. You not only give us a bad name, but also this discussion, maybe this group and even LinkedIn.

Is that how you are mishandling our attention?

Spend the week measuring the type of attention you get. Look at the comments that follow yours on discussion threads. Is your contribution ignored, and does the discussion go on irrespective of what you said? Or, did five people look you up and ask you to be a connection, because you said something that grabbed their attention and got them to think the three little words we all want to hear in business: Tell me more (about you).

In similar fashion, measure the response you get when people are on the phone with you. Are they glad to hear from you? Do they seek your guidance? Do they feel lucky you called? Or, are they too busy to take your call?

Measure what happens when you get into a meeting. Is the air more electric? Is there a sense of expectation? Does the discussion get richer, do more people join in, or are you a cooler, sending the energy plummeting and the texting soaring?

Personal brands: check the attention units you get this week. It’s like keeping a food diary so a nutritionist can figure out why you are tired, fat or ill-nourished.

Next week we evaluate your emotion appeal. And, finally we’ll evaluate just how memorable you are.

This could be the breakthrough you’ve needed to assess the evidence of what your personal brand is actually doing in the environment. If you like metaphors –a big part of emotional connection, ask yourself: are you the irritating plastic bottles littering the beach, or the sparkle on the tips of ocean waves rising with the tide?