10 Branding Commandments for HR Leaders

To stand out, know how to market yourself as a leader

Christina Folz By Christina Folz October 4, 2017
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PHOENIX—Human resources leaders should put people first—and "people" includes themselves, said Bettina Deynes, SHRM-SCP, vice president of human resources for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). "You don't have to wait to be promoted to be recognized as an effective leader," Deynes told SHRM's Leadership Development Forum on Oct. 3. "Seize opportunities to lead."

Start by understanding what sets you apart, and then market that value to others. Keynoter Kaplan Mobray, bestselling author of The 10Ks of Personal Branding (iUniverse, 2009) showed attendees how to do that. "There is no world-class whatever-company-you-work-for if there is no world-class you," Mobray said.

Here are Mobray's 10 principles on building a personal brand:

1. Know yourself. Imagine you've been asked to fill out a blank name tag that expresses your professional essence without using your name. "What words, images or phrases would you use to describe yourself?" Mobray asked. "When people meet you … they often meet that thing that defines you well before they learn your name. Your brand is everything, and it precedes you."

2. Know what you want to be known for. Mobray challenged the HR leaders in the audience to envision an original superhero who embodies the impact they have on their organizations. What would such a caped crusader be called? While some attendees struggled with the question, others came up with names easily: Queen Commonsense, Captain Awesome, Fair Man, The Friendly Enabler.

This exercise is a great way to crystallize your unique talents. "What do superheroes do? They save the day," Mobray said. But "if you don't know your superpowers …, why should someone invest in you?"

3. Be consistent. Great brands deliver uniform products. For example, no matter where you are on the planet, you know exactly what to expect when you order McDonald's french fries. "What is it that you consistently deliver that keeps others loyal to you?" Mobray asked. Compare your answer to any insights you may have from others, which you might glean by Googling yourself or reviewing others' recommendations of you. Then develop a plan for bridging any gaps you find. "When you manage your brand … with consistency, you're giving people the words to take into the room when you're not present."

4. Know how to accept failure as a part of building your personal brand. Ask yourself what you've learned from failure that changes the way you do business—and share that lesson with others when communicating in resumes, interviews and on social platforms. "The answer is part of your brand story," Mobray said. For him, it was "listen first, transact last."

5. Know how to communicate your personal branding attribute. You should be able to do this within no more than six seconds by summarizing who you are, what you do and how you add value in just a few words. "We live in a hashtag world," Mobray said. "If you can't tag yourself with … how you want to be remembered, you leave it to chance."

6. Know how to create your own opportunities. "People remember people who take initiative," Kaplan said. You may do this more often than you realize. To get a handle on it, think about the times when you provided an unexpected benefit to others—and then leverage that as part of your brand to create new possibilities in your career.

7. Know and master the art of connection. If you want to be memorable, people must be able to link you to your brand nearly instantaneously—the same way they associate "coffee" with "Starbucks" or "sneakers" with "Nike." The way people "advertise" their personal brands to others is by articulating, and reinforcing, what they want to be remembered for. "I tell people I'm a high-energy speaker," Mobray said. "You build your brand by telling people first the words you want connected to your story."

8. Silence is not an option. Branding is just as important for introverts as it is for extroverts. In fact, being an introvert may be a part of your professional identity that you want to highlight. Pick the vehicle that works best with your personality—introverts may decline a TED talk in favor of a blog post—but don't go silent. "If people cannot commit [your brand] to recall, they may also not think you're good," he said.

9. Know your expectations, not your limitations. "Do we know what others expect from us, and is it enough to advance our careers?" Mobray asked. If people only view you in a single dimension—as a "process employee" rather than a "business partner," for example—work to change that. One suggestion: Tell others you're sharing an alternative expertise, perhaps by saying you're putting on your "finance hat" at a meeting. "They would never know you had a finance hat unless you told them," Mobray said.  

10. Know why you're doing what you're doing. Ask yourself why you do your work. This helps you define your brand and gives it emotional resonance. Mobray put that question to the audience, and here are what some attendees told him: To make a difference. To allow people to be heard. Because I'm good at it. To inspire others. Because I care. Because it matters.

Christina Folz is the editor of HR Magazine. 

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