Ten Ways You Can Sink Your Personal Brand

Your personal brand is more fragile than you may imagine. You need to be vigilant in maintaining the standards that you’ve set for your brand. All it takes is one major mistake, especially one that you handle poorly, and all that you’ve built will vanish.

Letting it go stale: Taking your brand for granted

Your personal brand, no matter how well crafted it is, is never “done.” If you think that developing your personal brand is a one-time event, think again. Your personal brand can easily grow stale.

Keep your brand fresh by continuing to grow and serve your target market. Yes, it’s possible to stay on brand and grow your brand at the same time! Don’t ever take your brand for granted.

Neglecting consistency

Being inconsistent is a brand killer. People like to know what to expect; it gives them comfort and solidifies that they can count on you.

You need to be consistent in your marketing materials, in how you dress, with what you say, and with how you behave. You need to maintain a brand identity and follow it steadily. Consistency is key so that people know what to expect from you and can trust what you stand for.

Speaking before you think

With branding, there’s a certain irony: Your words alone can’t build your brand; you need actions to back them up. But your words can most definitely undermine your brand all by themselves.

Remember Tony Hayward, the past CEO of BP Oil? It seemed that everything Hayward said made the situation worse. The damage done to the environment was unbelievable, and the damage done to his brand was irreparable.

Most people won’t ever have to deal with a situation as serious as the one Hayward faced, but at some point you’ll undoubtedly need to explain why something went wrong or give an opinion about an issue. Be thoughtful in how you phrase your answers, and notice the impact your words have.

Exhibiting bad behavior

Every time you’re in public (whether at a professional event or at the drugstore), you represent your personal brand. Don’t ever fool yourself into believing that how you behave matters only in the workplace.

Be careful how you behave — even when you think no one is watching.

Being unresponsive

Unresponsiveness reflects badly on your brand. It’s especially dreadful in a business setting because your lack of response tells your clients that you don’t respect them. Your behavior quickly becomes a known (negative) part of your brand: “That Bob, he never returns his calls.”

Your personal brand is built around serving your target market. If you ignore them and don’t respond to their needs, they won’t recommend you to others. You may do excellent work, but if the customer doesn’t get your full attention, your business will develop a reputation as one that doesn’t care about the customer. To keep your brand sharp, respond!

Ignoring the politics

Being a savvy personal brander means that you show an awareness that your colleagues don’t: You notice your surroundings and have your antenna up for the nuances of behavior (in other words, the politics) that take place in your office.

If you work in a company, part of your target audience is your boss and coworkers. You need to pay attention to the politics and understand how you need to adjust your brand to succeed inside your organization.

Having an unprofessional online image

You’ve worked hard to establish yourself as a solid professional. You dress the part, you put in extra hours, you produce stellar work, and then you blow it with your picture on Facebook behind a table lined with empty bottles of vodka (looking like you just drank every drop of it).

Getting crazy once in a while is okay, but you don’t need to share that image with the world! You don’t want your moment to be posted on the Internet for everyone to see for eternity. Monitor your online images and know that employers are watching. You don’t want to work hard to build your reputation and have it ruined with a single picture.

Not telling the truth

Not long ago, a journalist who had fabricated stories (and hurt people with his untruths) made front-page news. He was banned from journalism and went to law school to become an attorney. The state bar of New York refused to admit him to practice in that state, so he moved to California to try to become a lawyer there.

His reputation of lying followed him and has stuck as his brand. Even with testimony from his employer, psychiatrists, and other people promoting his character of reform and remorse, he cannot overcome the brand he has built as someone who cannot be trusted. The jury is still out on his license.

Always tell the truth. Being caught in a lie has sunk many a promising brand.

Being inauthentic: Looking like a phony

True personal brands are based in authenticity. That means that you need to be you. If you’re building your brand on what you think you should be instead of what you are, you’ll most likely fail. You can’t sustain phony forever.

If you misrepresent your experience or skill set, you will be discovered. Don’t call yourself an expert unless you are one. Build your brand from a position of strength, which means building it on truth.

Losing focus

Being scattered dilutes your brand. When you do too many things, you appear to lack focus, and people don’t really understand what you stand for. Trying to represent yourself as appealing to everyone actually appeals to no one.

Know who you are and what you stand for. Identify the core of your work and be true to your brand. If you lose focus on who you are, who your target market is, and what you do best, no one else will be able to figure out your brand either. Stay focused and be on brand.

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