Personal Brand Building – An Expat’s Secret Weapon in the War for Talent

A Brand Called You?

As many of you will know, Tom Peters coined the terms personal branding and “Brand You” in 1997 and, according to Execunet, it is now the number one career management tool used by executives worldwide. How and why did this happen – and what does it mean to you as an expat overseas?

As the nature work force has changed through globalization and the IT revolution, there is no longer a job-for-life, and competition is fierce and internationally pervasive. In China, for example, localization is rife: you are only as good as your last project or position. It’s not just who you know that counts, but who knows you and what unique value you are perceived to have that your client or employer feels they must have.

What is Personal Branding?

Just like branded goods, people have brand attributes. A personal brand is simply your unique promise of value, that which distinguishes you from competitors. Personal branding refers to the process by which this value proposition is communicated to your selected target audience (your “brand community”), using various on-brand platforms, clearly, consistently and constantly (3 Cs of branding) to achieve specific goals. We all (probably) think the same things when we think of Subway (eat fresh) and Disney (happy) and even Oprah and Madonna. Martha Stewart has widely acknowledged for many years that she is a brand. What do people think of when they think of you? To be successful, your brand has to be authentic; a personal brand is never created, rather it is unearthed, polished and put in the right setting, rather like a rough diamond.

Why do we need it?

Does this sound egotistical and vain? Consider, then that:

Strong Brands:

– Are more valuable assets and can thrive in recessions and downturns, potentially protecting you against localization and redundancy
– Make you more visible – to hiring managers and recruiters
– Can extend their product lines (think Starbucks, MacDonald’s)
– Set you apart – differentiate yourself from other vying for the same positions and opportunities – and more clearly communicate the unique value you can deliver
– Help you win opportunities you may not be the most obvious applicant for
– Can command a higher salaries or fees – people expect to pay more for premium brands – not commodities
– Increase their market valuation (90% of the top soft drink manufacturer’s market value is reported to be its brand)
– Ensure people will trust you more and judge you less harshly if you make a mistake (Oprah?)
– Can attract and also retain quality staff and partners
– DRIVE SALES AND PROMOTE NOT JUST A WANT, BUT A NEED TO BUY

Who Needs Personal Branding?

With over 22% of people worldwide using the internet globally, and more than 80% of users searching candidates and clients online, (and less than 20% of people actually “ego-surfing” – checking their online results), not cultivating, controlling and protecting your personal brand is not optional these days.

If you want to be known for something and develop an area of thought leadership (CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs), build a following (authors, speakers, CEOs) or a reputation for your expertise (entrepreneurs and consultants), or even just be known as a high performer or potential in your industry or company (everyone?), then branding yourself and knowing how to market your authentic value proposition effectively and selectively is essential.

How do we find our personal brands?

You already are a packaged brand, like it or not. You have a personality and people perceive you in a certain way, but there is a lot you can do to identify and emphasize the positives of your brand, which will guarantee distinction in your career or business.

Discover, Communicate and Build your Brand to Land Your Job

The three processes brand strategists use are extract, express and exude. Who you are (your authenticity), who needs to knows you (your selected target audience) and how you stand out from your peers (differentiation) is the extract phase, and your ‘personal brand’ is at the intersection of these three factors.

Extract: Involves introspection (a clear understanding your own motivated strengths and weaknesses) and getting external feedback through references, assessments, 360 brand assessments, performing a detailed SWOT analysis and being clear on exactly what is the value you can deliver and to whom. Take into account your similarities and key differentiators from your competitors. You will also need to examine your values, passions, vision, purpose, and set clear and measurable goals.

Combine this information into a compelling statement that communicates your unique and authentic value, says clearly who you serve and how you serve them, you will have a GPS for your brand. Weave all this information into a branded biography that tells a story and creates an emotional connection with your reader and build the foundation for your new personal branding marketing collateral.

Express your brand: When you are clear about your personal brand and the top 5 attributes you need to emphasize to resonate with your target audience, you can communicate your brand message to your target audience making it visible and credible, using the appropriate vehicles. Strong brands are known for something, not many things, and they are sending a clear, consistent message constantly. Are you using channels that your selected audience use and appreciate to communicate a strong message?

You must ensure you are managing your brand environment and exuding your brand with everything you do, buy and use. Examine all aspects of your life style: wardrobe, accessories, surroundings. What is the brand message they send to your brand community? Do they add or detract from your brand’s core message? If your primary attribute is ‘forward thinking’, for example, do you use an appropriate PDA to support this? If it’s ‘professional’ how does your appearance reflect this? What does your work or meeting space say about you? Should it be Starbucks or a particular (boutique?) hotel lobby? Is it tidy, corporate or trendy? More to the point, is it ‘on brand?”

Bottom Line for Expat Entrepreneurs, Executives and Job Seekers?

Identifying and clearly communicating your unique differentiation in the candidate or business market will help you be found by your target audience on and offline, boost your chances of landing a job you may not otherwise be considered for and help you stand out and be memorable so that you can increase your chances of winning or maintaining your target position in Asia’s war for talent.

Lois Freeke is the only China career and personal branding strategist combining 18 years’, mostly Asia Pacific, marketing and recruitment expertise. Lois is a successful China entrepreneur and co-founded the Industrial division of Niche, a ground-breaking fire/security specialist recruitment firm in China.

Leveraging her 10 years’ China experience and deep China insights, Lois helps China expat executives and solo-preneurs effectively differentiate themselves in the highly competitive market for career and business success. She has helped hundreds of clients and candidates manage their careers and job search strategies market themselves effectively and access hidden opportunities – and land their dream jobs.