Building the brand of You

Develping a brand isn't just the domain of big business.

Why accountants need to think about what they want to be known for.

By Keith Barrett

Big companies have been doing it for years, and have turned it into an art form. Developing a brand isn't just the domain of big business though. Today, your personal brand is more important than ever.

Controlling what you’re known for in the marketplace is a powerful strength.

Whether you are a C-suite executive being headhunted for an appointment or a junior worker looking at changing jobs or career, people can research who you are in just a few keystrokes.

In an age where people change cross industry sectors more than at any time in history, developing your personal brand – and being known for all the right things – is essential.

Face the music

Employers looking at social media to get a picture of a candidate is nothing new. One CareerBuilder survey indicated that 45 per cent of employers used Facebook to check on potential new staff.

The result? 35 per cent of respondents stated that they had declined to continue with an application based on research conducted on social media.

“Today, we have many more tools than we had five years ago, never mind 10 years ago, and everyone's got a voice,” says Linda Coles, social media trainer from New Zealand-based Blue Banana.

“When it comes to what you're putting out on Facebook or Twitter, or what you're putting out in an email – down to the grammar, the spelling, the words you use, the tone – it all wraps itself up into the package of you.”

As Tom Peters famously put it in 1997: “You are the head marketer of the brand called You.”

Peters recognised that working on your personal brand was going to be an important part of doing business, and his words are more relevant today than ever.

“The execs that were able to use emerging tools, those early adopters, really managed to get their name and their face out into the blogosphere,” Coles says.

“[Xero’s] Rod Drury was one of the first early bloggers and early tweeters in New Zealand who started sharing a lot of stuff, not just about his business but about himself and his family.

“He started working on his personal brand very early on as he needed to get it moving in order for Xero to then come up behind him. He says that he needed to have a great brand in order to get funding and for people to believe in him, and it was a very successful strategy.”

Account for yourself

In today's world, where accountants can evolve beyond compliance work to become trusted financial advisors to their clients, and likely develop specialisations and key strengths, the personal connection will continue to grow in importance.

“If an accountant aims to move into a business advisory role, well, people buy from people - they don't buy from companies. Someone looking for business advice can Google someone, look at their LinkedIn profile, and do some due diligence before they get to meet them and see if they like them.” Coles explains.

As the business landscape diversifies – and more niche sectors develop – it makes sense that an individual wants to find a place for themselves where their skills are being put to good use. In order to make sure that the building of reputation is happening in the right way, it is important to make decisions.

“You need to think about what you want to be known for. If you're really passionate about your job and you're going down that advisory path, then what part of that do you want to be known for? Work out where you can be a commentator, and talk about it.

“Identify where the people are you want to reach, and work out how to get to them. Finding your audience and communicating with them is key.”