Whether you are in-house counsel or a business executive, your effectiveness as a professional depends in part on your ability to influence others. One way to enhance effectiveness is to brand yourself as a strong and competent leader through conscious direction, training and relationships. A personal brand reaches external audiences as well as internal stakeholders — and should not be left to others to define.
NOTE: This document does not constitute legal advice.
Top 10 Considerations for Developing and Marketing Your “Brand”
- Be authentic. Do not try to create an image of someone who is not at all like you. If you are not a sports enthusiast, do not try to talk like a “quarterback.”
- Be strategic. Consider the business goals that you would like to accomplish and stay ahead of the curve. Your brand should align with your strategic business plan and the goals of your organization.
- Be self-aware. Know your strengths and weaknesses (i.e., “non-strengths”), and maximize your appeal and influence by playing to your strengths. Being a collaborative, team player is a plus — but not if you are really a strong, independent thinker. Both can be assets, but do not lead your branding campaign with a weaker quality.
- Focus on your professional competence
- See AICPA Code of Professional Conduct applicable to public accountants:
- Rule 502: “A member in public practice shall not seek to obtain clients by advertising or other forms of solicitation in a manner that is false, misleading, or deceptive.”
- See ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct applicable to attorneys:
- Rule 7.1 requires that “[a] lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.”
- Rule 7.4 provides: “(d) A lawyer shall not state or imply that a lawyer is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, unless:
- (1) the lawyer has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate state authority or that has been accredited by the American Bar Association; and
- (2) the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication.”
- Know your audience. Consider personality types and decision-making styles of your target audience (e.g., introvert vs. extrovert; importance of data). When trying to influence another decision-maker, consider when to lead with current news headlines, especially about competitors.
- Get a coach. Executive coaches are a great resource, and many companies provide access to coaches, upon request, for high-performing and high-potential executives.
- Ask a marketing/communications professional. Marketing offers another resource accessible in most industries. An advisor with practical experience in the area of branding may help you to position yourself from a marketing perspective.
- Consider how to use advertising or other business communications to market your brand
- Advertizing by lawyers is a form of commercial speech and is subject to the rules of ethics. See Peel v. Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of Illinois, 496 U.S. 91, 100 (1990), citing Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977)
- Understand your role in the reputation of your organization. Leaders set the “tone at the top” from the perspectives of ethics, compliance and corporate citizenship. You may serve as the point person on an issue, especially in crisis times. A strong brand can enable you, under pressure, to position you and your organization in a positive light.
- Be “inclusive” in your brand. Ensure that your marketing appeal is broad-based and does not exclude key constituents. For example, as the demographics of the U.S. population change, prepare to adjust your messaging to reach a broader group.
- Be flexible.Tailor your brand to fit your varying roles and/or your target audiences. A CFO may have one brand, focusing on financial data and investors, while the COO develops another brand focusing on operations and performance.
- Seek input from your personal board of directors. And listen for feedback. The best test of your brand is feedback you receive from those you know — and trust.
In your professional life as in your personal life, you are who people think you are. In this climate of social media, your reputation often precedes you.
Therefore, proactive measures to define and market your personal brand can enhance your career success.