The branding of you
by Greg Hutchins, Contributing Editor
PERSONAL BRANDING is one of the hottest ideas today. What is a personal brand? “It's a way of encapsulating and communicating a product's power, pitch, and position in the most succinct way: the combination of one's name and visual image—a personality—that anyone, anywhere, will recognize and interpret in precisely the same way,” said David Andrusia and Rick Haskins in Brand Yourself [Ballantine Publishing, 2000].
Tom Peters and others have been pushing the idea for several years. The following from the jacket of Peters' The Brand You 50 [Alfred A. Knopf, 1999] explains the logic behind personal branding:
The fundamental unit in today's economy is the individual, a.k.a.YOU! Jobs are performed by temporary networks that disband when the project is done. So to succeed, you have to think of yourself as a freelance contractor—Brand You. Someone who is savvy, informed, always learning and growing, who knows how to sell herself, and—most important—does work that matters.
You are responsible for your life/work/ career future. In other words, you design Brand You. Your success at work and prosperity through life will be due to your inventiveness, flexibility, and desire to renew and reinvent yourself yearly, if not daily.
The magazine Fast Company popularized the idea that we are becoming a Brand You nation. We will all become itinerant professionals working on projects either inside companies or as contractors. The numbers are stunning. Job hopping (think of project hopping) is frenetic. There were 17 million job hoppers in 1999, up from 6 million in 1995 [Zuckerman, “Whistling While We Work,” U.S. News and World Report, 24 January 2000].
What does this mean according to Peters and others? “Brand You is about breaking bounds and creating unmistakable value-added ‘products’ (projects!) for identifiable ‘customers.’ The products/projects become your ‘braggables,’” says Peters.
Free agency is coming to all professions and to all of us. And, this is an extremely significant idea because if we follow this logic, we will all evolve into project managers.
How is this done? “The high-impact project is the gem … the nugget … the fundamental atomic particle from which the new white-collar world will be constructed and/or reconstructed,” says Peters in The Brand You 50.
So, what's your high-impact project? What's your signature project? Do you do work that matters? What are your braggables? How are you making a difference?
Tom Peters, Oprah Winfrey, and Martha Stewart are mavens of personal branding. We know what Peters has done. Well, Martha has branded herself and is universally accepted as the “Taste Goddess.” She has books, magazines, videos, website, software, and so on. You name it; she has used it to extend her brand.
As the marketplace, customers, and companies change, what communicates core values or a sense of who you are? The answer is personal branding. Your personal brand tells people who you are, what you can do, and what they can count on from you. “A brand is your essence: who you are when you burn away all that is excess,” says Harriet Rubin [Soloist, Harper Collins, 1999]. It becomes part of your character and personality.
Can you become a recognizable brand? You bet! It's a matter of creating your personal buzz and interest. This may mean managing signature projects, writing best-selling books, or simply talking at professional meetings. With the Internet, it's easier than ever to create personal buzz.
The bottom-line personal branding lesson is: Remember it's your Brand You life, your work, your career, and your decisions. Will your employer do it for you? I don't think so.
What is the Greg Hutchins brand? I have a vocation and an avocation. Both are branded. We want to position Quality Plus Engineering (my day job) as the preeminent project management brand. My avocation (my passion) is to brand myself as the head geek, work guru. We've developed a trademarked work methodology: Paradigms–People–Principles–Practices–Products– Processes–Projects®. And we communicate our brand through PM Network and IEEE's www.ieee.org/organizations/eab/gregcolumn10.htm. ■
Greg Hutchins, PE, is a principal with QPE, a program, process, and project management advisory firm in Portland, Ore., USA. QPE's core competency is leading/coaching project teams to do the right things right on time. He can be reached at 800-COMPETE or email@example.com. Comments on this column should be directed to editorial @pmi.org.
June 2000 PM Network
PMI research shows project teams that draw from an array of perspectives and skillsets deliver powerful outcomes.