Lessons in being a brand

It isn’t just companies that need a corporate identity. As Supply Management’s Rebecca Ellinor Tyler explains, in today’s hyper-connected workplace employees should position themselves, too

Whatever your profession or position – whether you’re an engineer or an entrepreneur – it’s important to have a brand. And I don’t just mean being part of a brand: “I work for Oxfam/Amazon/Peppa Pig Corp” (I made the last one up, but you get the idea).

I mean having a personal brand reputation. Are you known for getting things done or doing as little as possible? Are you a maverick or a steady hand? Better at behind the scenes or front of house?

Perhaps even more importantly the question should be: Are you known for anything at all, because what’s the point of being brilliant at something if nobody knows it? That was the challenge set out by Cath Hill, Marketing Director of the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, at the CIPS Annual Conference, staged by Haymarket in London last month.

“Raise your voice; be vulgar”

The topic was raised during a soft skills and career development session at the event. In this case, Cath was speaking to an audience of procurement professionals, not known for their immodesty or PR skills. “Raise your voice so people know what you can do. Be vulgar and shout about your successes,” she said. The same message could apply to us all.

Imparting advice on how to build a personal brand, she added: “You need to know your unique selling points. Carry out market research on what your customers need, build your own style and profile, take on tasks, and drive value-add strategies.”

These messages are equally pertinent whether your customer is the man on the street or a company colleague, and adding value isn’t just about cash– you could be trading in ideas. Self-awareness of your personality, strengths and weaknesses is often essential to success, yet not always easy to come by.

Hire people who know better than you

One man who gave a refreshing take on his fortes and faults at the event was William Butler-Adams, CEO of global brand Brompton Bicycles. “I haven’t got a clue. I have never run a business the size of the business I am running,” he said.

“In business somehow you feel you have to be weird. [Business leaders] get on the radio and speak in funny voices in front of the microphone. Suddenly they are the CEO and they have to know everything… what a load of rubbish.” 

His recommendation is to always hire people who know better than you do in whatever field you are recruiting in and to give them the freedom to help you achieve what the businesses needs you to. “That’s where I want to get to. You tell me what you need to get us there – skills, people, budget – because I don’t know. That’s why I recruited you.”

Be your own cover star

To raise awareness of our own brand – Supply Management, the magazine and news website for procurement professionals – and to give delegates a piece of the personal branding pie, we gave them all the chance to feature on a mocked-up cover of the magazine. Scores of delegates seized the opportunity during lunch and coffee breaks to be photographed and become #smcoverstars. 

We then sent them a glossy mocked-up cover that made it look as if they had starred in the magazine as a leader representing their profession. It produced a shot they could share with and show parents/kids/colleagues/the boss. 

Two Claires (aka Bob and Alan!), even decided to do their take on SM’s recent cover feature about the Great British Bake Off face off and the story behind how Channel 4 won Britain’s best-loved TV show.

We like to think of it as a brand-raising win-win for them and us, and we loved it so much we posed for our own too.

You can follow Rebecca Ellinor Tyler at twitter.com/rebecca_ellinor