While it might seem counter-intuitive at first, companies hoping to strengthen their own corporate brand might first want to encourage their employees to build up their personal brands.

“When it comes to truly successful organizational innovation, it’s imperative that companies rethink how they work,” says corporate trainer Marion Chamberlain. “Companies need to maximize performance from each employee to grow and maintain corporate brand strength. A way to maximize performance is to encourage employees to build a strong personal brand to increase their visibility and as a gateway to share their thoughts to solve organizational problems to take the organization to the next level.”

Chamberlain will lead a free webinar on personal brands Tuesday, March 18, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., sponsored by the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners. For participation information visit www.njawbo.org.

Acknowledging that some people believe that their work record and reputation ought to be enough to insure recognition, Chamberlain says “I hate to break the news to you — we are indeed in a highly competitive environment in all corporate fields. You have to set yourself apart from hundreds or thousands of other candidates vying for the same career opportunity as you. The days of automatically being recognized for your hard work efforts are long gone.”

A personal brand, says Chamberlain, “essentially is the story people will tell about you even if they can’t remember your name. Your goal then is to positively influence the story that is created.” Chamberlain says that a strong personal brand can be built by taking just three steps:

Maximize the influence of social media. Social media isn’t only for companies. It’s an essential tool in building your own span of influence. Setting up a professional Facebook page, a Twitter profile and a Pinterest account will help you exhibit your accomplishments. However, it’s not only about sharing your successes and capabilities, it’s about providing value to your audience.

If you like your current company and would like to move up the corporate ladder, make it your business to promote them. Did they just launch a new product or get a media mention? Write about it. Or do you have any potential employers that you’re looking to connect with? See what they’re up to on the social media circuit and see how you can tie in. Also, generously share news or articles relevant to your industry. Show that you’re in the know.

Toot your horn elegantly via self-promotion. We’re not talking about being the braggart at the company event who bores everyone to death and whom people avoid. We’re talking about the person who can elegantly weave in her accomplishments and capabilities into a conversation, and, yet, still make the other person in the conversation feel valued. If someone mentions a problem he has, tell him how you can help him with the issue.

During a meeting with a potential client, identify the client’s core need and give examples of how you’re experienced in this area. The key here is not to shy away from the word “I.” The corporate world is very team-oriented. However, it’s on you at times to promote your solo accomplishments and not always take one for the team.

Spruce up your style. That’s both your communication and appearance style. Be mindful of the language you use and express yourself confidently during meetings and in presentations. The latter is especially important for women who tend to hold back because they overanalyze what they want to say for fear of looking stupid. Also, try to avoid starting off your sentences with “I feel.” “Allow me to chime in.” “Sorry for.” “It’s my opinion.”

Just clearly communicate your view instead with words that get quickly to the point. Also, when it comes to your dress and appearance, dress for the position you want to move into and not for your current job. Wear fashions that allow you to be taken seriously — you can still add a unique flair to it. However, if a black power suit is what the higher ups tend to wear — emulate them to show that you’re leadership material.

If you still question the need to having a powerful personal brand, take heed and listen to Tom Peters’ famous personal branding quote: “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies, Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

Chamberlain, who lives with her husband in Braddock, part of Winslow Township in Camden County, has a resume that includes executive leadership, corporate strategy, environmental stewardship, and internal and external relations with departmental and executive management, shareholders, the government, and the media.

Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Chamberlain served as the strategic business planning and sustainability manager for a leading metropolitan transportation authority. She also served on the Philadelphia Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Board and Subcommittee on Environment & Equity; City of Philadelphia’s Sustainability Working Group; the metropolitan planning organization’s Food System Study Stakeholder Committee; and Walnut Hill Community Farm Advisory Board.

She is also the author of “The Impactful Leader: The Top 10 Skills to Set You Apart.”

A pivotal event in her life came on November 4, 1996, when she was on her way home from a MBA class and involved in a near-fatal car accident. Despite warnings from her doctor, she went back to work as soon as she could. “I was 25 and had been career-obsessed since my first job in college,” she says now. “I had just started a new job at a prestigious university hospital.” But on her first day back she was fired. “I had this immense sense of relief since I realized that I had been deluding myself. I hadn’t been happy. The workplace felt sterile. My boss was a micro-manager. I felt caged with a staff that didn’t get along.”

From that point, Chamberlain says, she became obsessed with businesses having a mission and societal impact. “I tapped into what had been missing for me as I served as a corporate leader — social activism — an outlet for my need to have an impact in this world. My drive for career growth and personal development was all related to my wanting to make a mark in this world,” she says.

“When I was able to integrate this passion into my job through championing the launch of a corporate social program, I felt fueled and elated. I also realized that I wasn’t alone. There were other corporate leaders who had that same sense of dissatisfaction with the day-to-day direction of their business and were looking for more. Defining a business mission and to be purpose-driven was the solution.”

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