What does a personal brand mean to you?
I am often asked about how to develop your personal brand and specifically developing a personal brand as a lawyer. I support my team to establish theirs every day. To give some context on my approach, I’ve been on a steep learning curve after leaving marketing agency land and taking on an in-house role with a boutique law firm over the past year. At University and in the agency world, you learn and rely on so many ‘tricks of the trade’ and pre-defined campaign tools and tactics; when you’re producing marketing as service, you need to “package it up”, commoditise it, put parameters and scope on the work you deliver. For me, depending on the nature of the work, this process can be where you lose some of the sparkle and meaning. In contrast, in an in-house role, you need to explore, go a bit deeper, be open to what naturally arises, jump on opportunities, and foster concepts as they grow. Now don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a place for agencies to support professional services, but when it comes to personal brand building, for real success, I believe this needs to be driven by the individual with the support of a few trusted advisors. While you may gain some wins, you can’t simply roll out a pre-defined list of activities and check them off to achieve long-lasting career growth and success.
So while I apply my campaign experience to how Travis Schultz & Partners as a brand is seen by the world, when supporting our lawyers on their path to growing their careers as an expert in their field, I take a less curated approach. In a professional services firm, there is so much emphasis on promoting the individuals within the mix of the broader firm strategy. And while every team member is an extension of the firm’s brand, they are people, and people are unique; they aren’t a product for you to market and pigeonhole. Embracing the “human-ness” of yourself and the people you want to connect with is the first step to building a personal brand in law.
“100% of employees are people. 100% of customers are people. 100% of investors are people. If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.”– Simon Sinek
Here’s eight awesome tips (well, I think they are!) that you can adopt to help build your personal brand as a professional:
1. Expertise and authenticity
You can’t fake expertise; if you’re no good at your profession, lazy or not engaged with the law, people will see straight through this, and you won’t gain traction. A commitment to genuinely ‘do-the-work’ to become a leader in your field is needed. You’ll need to build trust with your clients. There aren’t any shortcuts. Sorry.
2. Don’t wait around for luck to come knocking
A wise woman once told me, the harder you work, the luckier you get. When you see someone you perceive to be successful in your profession, someone you look up to, don’t assume there was much ‘luck’ involved in getting them to where they are. From my experience, they’ve done the hard yards, they had a goal and consistently chipped away at it.
3. Relationships are gold (in real life and online)
Make time to connect with people genuinely. These might be people you align with, your peers, your clients, superiors, or anyone you engage with professionally. Take the time to get to know people, develop shared interests, stay in touch, be connected and engaged. You may treat your professional network like friends. And, people chasing efficiency will hate this but don’t delegate the small stuff. If you want to invite someone to join you for a coffee, dinner or to attend an event, pick up the phone, send them an email or text them personally. Relationship building gets broken when you have intermediaries involved or try to automate the process.
4. Experience and experiences
On two fronts here, to have a successful personal brand in law, I believe you need to take the time to build your craft and your ‘soft’ skills such as: communication, reading the room, being a good host, staying connected, and being an active listener. Secondly, be open to experiencing new networks and connecting with people. If you’re just starting out or looking to build your existing profile, get along to local networking events, attend charity galas, get involved in community groups, join a board or a committee. Having these broad experiences will improve your emotional intelligence, expand your network, and help you hone in on where you give and gain value, it’s also an ingredient for a meaningful life and career.
5. Put yourself out there
To build your profile, you need to be noticed, and you need to be ‘out there’. There are so many ways you can approach this, including:
- Taking the time to apply to be a speaker at a relevant conference
- Host a dinner seminar – you could also build relationships by inviting a co-presenter
- Seek out media and podcast opportunities
- Research, write and publish academic articles
- Write blogs or opinion pieces and share them with relevant publications
- And engage on social media.
6. Patience is a virtue
If you approach personal branding like marketing KPIs you will be consistently disappointed. While you can measure some elements of progress, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a personal brand. Sometimes you just have to accept that it’s a long term investment and simply be okay with that.
7. Accountability and goal setting
Set yourself some personal brand goals for the year ahead and check-in monthly on what you can do or what you have done to progress those goals. These might not be measurable in a numeric sense (see above point), but you will be surprised at what you can achieve with a roadmap and focus.
8. Be kind
Be a good human. Find ways to help others. When you genuinely care, people can see and feel your realness. Not only is it good karma, but a bad reputation will also beat you to the next opportunity.
In a nutshell, building your profile doesn’t happen in a silo. Relationships really matter. Doing the hard work really matters.
If you want to discuss personal branding, meaningful marketing or just say “hello”, I welcome you to connect.
Community & Brand Manager
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