Whether you are a millennial joining the ranks of those seeking their first job, a baby boomer reinventing yourself with a ‘second youth’ in sight or anything in between, personal branding can be instrumental in taking hold of your personal and professional development and achieving your goals without sacrificing your unique personality and style. And in order to get there it is imperative that you follow an internally consistent, workable, tested model such as the one put forward by Dan Schawbel in ‘Me 2.0‘ (we are all looking forward to Dan’s new book, which is currently being written I am told!) with its four phases of discovering your brand, shaping and developing it, communicating it online/offline and finally the continuous process of managing it and adapting it to changing life circumstances.
This last and never-ending phase represents both a commitment and a challenge for most of us. Whereas the first two stages are usually nothing short of exhilarating – when we first approach personal branding, a new world of previously unexplored possibilities seems to open to us – it is actually proficiency in the 4th that guarantees the long term health and vibrancy of ‘that brand called you‘ along with the fulfillment of its goals. And contrary to popular opinion, brand management does not have to become a tedious chore and can ultimately result in a surprisingly rewarding activity, equal to that of tending a Zen (or for that matter any other) Garden.
Trees blossom, wither and go through its own seasonal cycles, and just like them our brand requires our watchful eye and solicitous care. It is our task to ensure that it always has the necessary health and vigor to keep producing fruit that we can in turn harvest when the moment is ripe. We need to understand in this sense that results are not always immediate and that our strategies will come to fruition in due course: patience and perseverance are a must, and we will have to remain flexible and alert to make sure no invading bird snatches our fruit from under our eyes! (If are you being passed over for promotions and opportunities, take it as a strong hint that it is time to enact new strategies and/or alter course).
If the garden of your Brand is indeed of the Zen variety, you will also be concerned with ornamental elements, proportions and achieving the right effect. Ever pleasant to the eye, Zen Gardens are living proof both of the penetrating, artistic minds that first created them but above all of the loving care of their gardeners. There can be no room in them for discord, ugliness, lack of proportion let alone invading and unwelcome weeds. Just like a well-rounded brand, all the elements must work together in unison to produce a holistic outcome that transports us into the desired serene and meditative state of mind. As you look into the multifarious elements making up your brand (pictures, social profiles, videos, your webpage), are you already halfway there? What impression does an impartial observer get when she first takes a glance? Is it compelling enough to deserve a closer look? Does your brand denote orderliness and planning or the workings of a showy, haphazard mind?
One of the crucial elements in most Zen Gardens is flowing water: it can be real with the presence of a fountain or pond or implied in the characteristic beds of raked sand. And I cannot think of a more powerful symbol of the suppleness and flexibility that our brand developing and building requires. Just like water finds its course through difficult terrain, we are called to carve a niche for our brands in an often saturated and highly competitive environment where substance and values are not always immediately appreciated. This is why we can greatly help ourselves by strategically placing other elements such as rocks, flowers or gravel to emphasize the landscaping effect we are seeking to achieve (are you using the power of storytelling to reinforce your brand core messages?).
The unrushed pruning, raking and nurturing of your Zen Garden is a powerful metaphor of that crucial 4th phase of your branding development that none of us can do without. I challenge you to pick up the fallen leaves, place new lanterns, think of what ornaments are missing and add whatever is necessary to enhance your Brand/Zen experience. The garden is never dormant and neither is your brand: make sure you don’t stop until it feels right and its symbolism represents ‘the real you’. It is your sacred space, after all.
Oscar Del Santo is a lecturer, consultant, key speaker, blogger and populariser of online reputation and inbound marketing in Spain. He has been extensively featured in the Spanish and Latin American media and is included in the ‘Top Social Media Influencers’ and ‘Best Marketing Tweeters in Spanish’ lists @OscarDS. He is the author of ‘Reputacion Online para Tod@s’ and the co-author of ‘Marketing de Atraccion 2.0’.