By John C. Trimble, Lewis Wagner LLP
Every professional meeting I attend these days seems to have a segment on the subject of “branding.” We are either being encouraged to develop a law firm brand or a personal brand, or both (At first I thought that a personal “brand” was just a euphemism for a tattoo, and the thought of a branding iron on my backside did not interest me.). Now, of course, I understand that for all intents and purposes, your personal brand is your reputation. Your brand is also the thing that may lead to the referral of legal business from others. Few of us in the legal world can afford not to have a brand, and we certainly cannot afford a bad brand.
I heard a very wise rainmaking consultant describe how to determine what your brand is. He suggested that you begin by writing down three features about your professional self that you would list if you were asked to list your three best features. Then, you write down the three professional features that you believe that others would write down about you. The mid-point or overlap between your self-image and your public image is your brand. It is a combination of who you think you are and what others think you are.
Once you have determined what your actual brand is, the next step is to decide whether you like it. If you do, then you embrace it and market it. If you don’t like it, then you need to change it. The task of changing a personal brand may require a personal strategic plan to shake the negatives and to acquire the positives that you need to improve your brand.
At the heart of the branding discussion is the fact that your brand may impact your opportunities. If you are not aware of your brand, and if you are not aware of the impact of your brand on your advancement, then it is time to wake up and address it. In this world of social media you could be adversely affecting your brand every day and not know it.
If you try the exercise I suggested above and you still don’t know how to identify your brand, then seek help from others. I have seen that a small group of good friends and professional colleagues can help one another with the branding process (and still remain friends). If you have the money and the inclination, there are some pretty good branding consultants around town.
The last bit of advice on your personal brand. Embrace it. Do your best to be your brand. Take a mile-high view of all the things that you do professionally and think about how each thing you do affects your brand. Be consistent. Be authentic. Be mindful of your brand. After all, it is your reputation, and a good reputation and brand is too important to squander.