Hey listen, have you got a feel for your brand?
21st February 2007
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Book review: The Power of Personal Branding

From the introduction: "Can you guess the identity of this person? - Under his leadership, a war was started under false pretenses. - He never distinguished himself personally in battle and yet was hailed by many, including those in the military, as a great leader. - He presided over a war that seemed to drag on and on. - He made poor strategic military decisions that caused the loss of thousands of American lives. - He stubbornly refused to change his war strategy despite diminishing public support. - During the war, he appeared to act at times like an American dictator. - He practiced self-aggrandizing theatrics in connection with the war in order to make himself look good. - He never held a real job in the business marketplace as an adult. Most of his wealth came from inheritance. By now, most of you have surely made up your minds about who this person is."

Well, it’s been a while since I last posted – over a week in fact. The simple reason? I’ve been engrossed in a new book by fellow personal branding expert, Tim O’Brien. I’ll confess, I’m an avid reader – I’ve seen the inside of more Borders stores than I’d like to admit, and my office floor is groaning under the weight of rather more books than I can probably expect to read in an average lifetime *grin*. Nevertheless, I was delighted when Tim asked me to review his book, “The Power of Personal Branding, Creating Celebrity Status with your Target Audience”, and I’m glad I agreed.

Tim has an engaging writing style that grabs you from the first page of the Introduction, with an intriguing look at George W’s presidency – complete with a sting in the tail – and keeps you turning the pages.

So what kept me reading? Well for one thing Tim’s ideas are very much in line with my own: personal brands that start with being honest to yourself, which are authentic, create an emotional response and are based on your personal values, not just ‘being the best X in town’.

For another the book is full of examples. Not multi-page analyses of megabrands, but little vignettes that neatly illustrate the points Tim is trying to get across, and for the most part they are people we can relate to whatever our nationality or cultural background, either because they are global figures (like Gorbachev) or because they are normal, everyday people, often one of Tim’s many clients, just like us, the readers. OK there are faults – some of the references are to American celebrities that anyone outside the US is unlikely to have heard of (but you still get the point), and some of his historical research is a little patchy (Mandela was imprisoned by the South African government, not the British!) but overall the examples are well chosen, well explained and convincing.

The book is divided into two roughly equal sections. The first is an overview of personal branding, and the approach Tim and his team take with clients.

There are some salutary lessons to be learnt here. The message that better performance, educational pedigree and top-class service don’t sell is a hard one for many of my clients to accept – hopefully the examples in the differentiation chapter will bring it home to more people.

The approach itself is a fairly standard one of defining your target, identifying your key qualities, communicating it and aligning everything about you and your business around that position, and the second part of the book takes the reader through the process in a workbook style that guides you through it end-to-end. Drawing on many examples, and even on his own experiences at times, Tim builds your brand up layer by layer until you become, as he puts it, ‘the person to see’ in his field.

There aren’t many books around yet on personal branding, and many of those that are available approach it from an image management viewpoint. This is the first personal branding book I’ve seen that avoids that area altogether and takes a more strategic, market-led approach, effectively applying the principles of corporate branding to the individual.

Should you buy it? Absolutely. If you have an interest in personal branding (and if you’re reading this blog I have to assume you have) then this is a must-have for your library. If you have to ‘sell’ yourself in any context – getting clients, job hunting, presenting ideas, whatever – then this is a must-have for your library. And if you’ve never heard of personal branding before you read this blog, then guess what…

If you want to order the book click here. Please note, this is a straight redirect to Tim’s site, not an affiliate link.

OK that’s me done for tonight. Tomorrow is another day, and I have to be up at dawn for a couple of client meetings at the other end of the country. Now if I can only stop myself from re-reading this damn book…

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