In this new economic arena, there are a lot of new and even odd buzzwords being thrown around. Branding used to be something you would hear either in a company-marketing meeting or in the farmhouse. But today, branding is who you are. It’s your resume, your blog, your business meeting, your Facebook page, your fashion, your generosity, etc. Everything you do or say makes a statement about who you are, and in this competitive market, who you are, is the only weapon you have to win.
But how do you use what you have? How do you sell that you’re the best person or the best business to someone by just being you? We sat down with branding strategist Melissa Dawn Johnson, who, over the last 12 years, has shown individuals and massive corporate entities just how to do it. Her refreshing approach is the very reason we decided to bring you Brand Me Minutes every week. Sixty seconds of that kick in the pants, that reassuring pep talk, that “umph” you need to start transforming your image into a brand that no one can refuse.
To kick off the video series, we decided to lay down the foundation of branding to get you going.
ESSENCE.COM: What is branding or changing your professional image mean?
MELISSA DAWN JOHNSON: In all the messages you put out about yourself, your company, it’s important to cut through the clutter. Branding is the expression of your value. In life, whether you were trying to get into school, to get your first job, to get the promotion, to get married; you are always presenting and repackaging your value. And based upon how well people understood your value, they bought into it. They supported you and gave you the opportunity. I give people a mirror to help them understand how their strengths, unique gifts, qualities and experiences can help them leverage their life. It works personally and professionally. And I believe this is the new currency to compete. You take the strengths, gifts, and experiences and learn to package, present, promote and ultimately profit from them.
ESSENCE.COM: How do you discover what your brand is?
JOHNSON: It’s a lifetime process. You get a piece of the puzzle along the way. They are clear, practical steps to make a difference. Most people get stuck in the area of self-discovery. Most people are externally motivated– interacting outside of themselves, on TV, Twitter, etc. Very few of us take the time to get stimulated internally– which are the questions of purpose: How have I paid attention to my life to see when things are really working and when they’re not? What have I learned from past experiences, when I’ve failed or had to deal with a strategy? How did I respond? What are the skills that make me resilient?
With everything going on today in the world, in their careers, people want to create a new beginning. They’ve either made mistakes or realize they’re not on the track they wanted to be on. You discover that you need a change, a reinvention, when you know you’re not happy. When you’re not happy, you start to ask questions–“What’s next? How did I get here? Why isn’t this happening?” When you ask the questions, you need tangible steps to get where you want to go. Branding provides that.
Check out Johnson’s video on “How to Stay Motivated” (below)
ESSENCE.COM: How does branding separate me from others who are seeking a position or an opportunity?
JOHNSON: Your whole package creates credibility to stand on authority. You’re the only one who has lived your life. It’s how you define your attributes: people come to know you as something; something that comes natural to you; and then you create experiences and exposure that validate that expertise. For example, I found that I had a natural knack for encouraging people and helping them feel better. Before, I took that for granted because I wasn’t connecting the dots.
Your hard work or your resume may get you to the table, but it doesn’t close the deal. It’s your responsibility. Branding will clarify your purpose, give you a tangible plan for action, raise your confidence and get you more experience as a result.
ESSENCE.COM: How can you get people to recognize you have a brand?
JOHNSON: You already have one. It’s what people already think of you. One of my clients mentioned to me that others perceive that he is distant and aloof and introverted. He said in his first interaction with people he’s sizing them up and he listens more than speaks and he discerns whether he wants to connect. But people get their impression in 3-5 seconds. They only know what you give them; verbal and nonverbal. You have to focus on giving them the message you want them to have and spread.
And, the genius of branding is that it’s the one thing that will work for YOU. Once your brand yourself, you don’t have to do the work. Others will sell you. And there is a return: More passion on the job; more opportunities; even a financial return.
We’ve not been trained this way. It’s a new thing. But we have to make the shift.
To learn more about changing your image and beginning the journey of a new life, check out Essence.com’s Brand Me Minutes by Melissa Dawn Johnson, appearing every Wednesday.