Approach your personal brand like a project manager

Today, most professionals recognize the value of having a strong personal brand. After all, if you’re not associated with particular concepts, strengths, characteristics, or viewpoints, you’re probably invisible within your organization. It may be fine for where you are now, but if you want to move forward, you have to distinguish yourself in some way. Conversely, if you have a strong personal brand, people often seek you out for opportunities or want to work with you in particular. A strong personal brand is a form of career insurance.

But many of us feel too busy to ponder or focus on cultivating a strong personal brand, even though we know it would be beneficial in the long run. Amid the rush of meetings, emails, and other obligations, how can we find the time to make progress in this crucial area?

One solution is to apply the principles of project management to your personal branding efforts. Drawing inspiration from Dorie’s work on how to reinvent your personal brand and Antonio’s experience in project management, we’ve developed a framework that can help you as you embark on the important job of brand recognition. your expertise.

Not all elements of project management transfer perfectly to personal branding – for example, in personal branding, your “project sponsor” is almost always yourself! But here are six key project management principles you can follow to increase the likelihood that your personal branding efforts will succeed, despite the distractions and turmoil of almost any professional experience.

Identify your goal.

Developing and refining your personal brand takes time – and it’s almost never “urgent”. So why bother? It is essential to clarify your objective before you start, otherwise your motivation may quickly weaken when time constraints appear. A simple method to find the purpose of your personal branding project is to ask several times, “Why am I doing this project? »

The answer could be: to be recognized for my expertise. Then ask yourself again: Why do you want to be recognized for your expertise?

You could answer: To have more impact in the area of ​​sales. And again – why? The answer can be anything from supporting your family to getting your product or service into the hands of more people. There are no wrong answers, but it’s important to understand your motivation and how much it means to you.

If after the exercise you don’t achieve something relevant — something that will motivate you to work on it — then we strongly recommend that you don’t start the project.

Decide on your investment.

How much will the project cost? If we are talking about a business project, the cost can be measured in staff time, advertising expenses, research and development, prototyping, software, manufacturing, etc.

When it comes to your personal brand, while there may be some investment (you might decide it’s worth creating a personal website, for example), the majority of your investment will be in the form of your time. For example, you may decide to focus on building your network, creating content (like starting a blog), or cultivating social proof. It’s important to recognize that building a strong personal brand is a project that will take years to accomplish in the form you want. Antonio has been working concertedly on his brand since 2012, for example.

In his book The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World, Dorie observes that it often takes two to three years of effort to gain even minor recognition for your work, and five or more years to achieve significant recognition. It’s a long road, and you may decide it’s not worth it for you, or at least not yet. But it’s also possible that you decide that time will pass anyway, so it’s important to start now. Either way, it’s important to proactively recognize and choose the investment you’re getting into.

Be clear about the benefits – and how you will track them.

Here is an essential question that every project manager must ask: how will you know that you have succeeded? What will happen, and by when?

For example, you may be looking for benefits such as revenue (more customers seek you out because of your strong brand); impact (you are offered the opportunity to write a book or column for a high-profile publication); or career advancement (in a crowded field, you are chosen for the coveted promotion).

Building a strong personal brand is a process that takes place over many years. Benefits rarely accumulate over weeks or even months. But in order to stay motivated during the process, it’s essential to develop a hypothesis (perhaps through conversations with colleagues whose career paths you admire, or by researching the biographies of people you don’t know) about how long you think your project will take. . Just as important, you need to identify small signs of progress to watch for along the way (Dorie calls this “looking for the raindrops”) so you can periodically check in on your progress against your goals — and celebrate your victories.

Identify your stakeholders.

Building a strong personal brand may seem like a project for you alone, but it’s actually worth thinking long and hard about which stakeholders might be impacted. Your boss, for example, may feel threatened or worried that you’re plotting to quit your job if you suddenly start being active on social media or take steps to improve your profile. Whenever possible, it is important to keep them informed of your goals and gain their support.

Likewise, it helps to identify who you want to reach with your robust new personal brand. For example, you might decide that you would like to be recognized for your expertise not only within your company, but also in your field, so you might think of ways to get noticed, such as applying to speak at conferences or write for the industry. editions. (Of course, it’s essential to know your company’s communications guidelines and policies upfront.)

Arrange your resources and deliverables.

Here’s the (frustrating) thing about project management: projects are delivered by people, and they can’t be automated. It is therefore essential to ensure that you have enough time to devote to the creation and management of your personal brand. In most cases, before starting the project, we recommend that you stop one or two activities that you are currently doing. This might mean cutting back on your volunteer activities, quitting your sports league, or acknowledging that you won’t be learning Italian this year. But giving yourself enough resources—that is, time—to commit to the new project is an essential starting point.

It is also important to understand the deliverables you will be responsible for. All projects exist to develop something — often something new — in the form of results and deliverables. In the case of building your personal brand, this could take the form of starting a podcast, starting a networking group, starting a parallel education at a local university, etc.

Design your plan.

Finally, you need to ask yourself: how and when will the work be done? Every project manager will tell you that projects have a natural flow. There is a feeling of relaxation at the beginning of the project, as the end seems so far away. The stress starts to hit as the project moves towards the midpoint and teams realize that deadlines are coming fast. Towards the end of the project, everyone is in a mad rush to get things done. A key task for project managers is to break projects down into smaller deliverables with timelines to mitigate this effect.

By breaking work down into the most important tasks that need to be done on a weekly or biweekly basis, and then having honest conversations about what they’ve accomplished during those times, teams hold themselves accountable, focusing on what’s best. they have to do. Instilling the habit of making and reviewing commitments weekly is a great way to focus on what’s important and get a clear picture of what’s being done.

Developing a regular schedule is also important for your personal branding project, as it ensures that even if you’re busy, the most important tasks won’t slip away. For example, set up a weekly status check for your personal branding project, on the same day and at the same time of the week. Or publish your new blog posts at the same time every week, on the same day. Or schedule a networking cafe every Friday afternoon. These little habits will help build habits (in you) and expectations (in others), leading to faster recognition of the brand you are creating.

We can never fully control how others see us. But when you manage your personal brand culture as a project – filled with a compelling goal, ambitious goals, a realistic timeline and clear deliverables – your chances of successfully developing a reputation you can be proud of will be. much higher.

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