Personal Brand Management

Guillermo de Haro. Professor. IE Business School

11 February 2009

We all have our own personal brand, and Personal Brand Management can help us to enhance our image using the same techniques that enable companies to sell themselves better.

Valuing things is always complicated. As someone once said, "only a fool confuses value with price". In The Undercover Economist, Tim Hartford also gave a masterful explanation of how the utility (and, therefore, the perceived value) is different for each product or service, for each individual and even for each situation, and the price is a key element for making the system work, making it more fluid. That´s why putting a price on something is so complicated. And if we also try to put a price on ourselves, it is even more complicated. If you don´t believe me, ask people how much you are worth.

In Saxon cultures, they have no problem: you are worth as much as you earn. Nowadays, there are certain subtleties. If we ask a BoBo (Bourgeois Bohemian), they give more value to a million dollars that come from a book or a new company than from speculating on the stock exchange, something that would be valued very highly by a yuppie. And if I ask my mother, I would be listed on the stock exchange in less than 24 hours and I would also guarantee its recovery.

In my classes, I always tell my students that we should think of ourselves as another company. This exercise helps them gain a better understanding of things thanks to a new viewpoint that involves us in decision-taking processes. We can calculate our results account, value ourselves as an asset and value our assets, as well as determine our liabilities. And, as such, we can speak of the value of our brand and start thinking how to manage it.

Brand management is not a new discipline. What is new is the management of one´s own brand: personal brand management. There are several reasons why we should be interested in this new area. First of all, because it has a direct effect on our decisions. Whereas when we speak about the brand or company we work for, we maintain a certain distance, in this case the involvement is 100%. Another reason is the large number of tools that enable us to manage our brand, many of which did not previously exist. This is both positive and negative because not everyone will be effective and that will be a clear disadvantage with regard to other competitors.

Why we should manage our brand

Branding, or brand management, refers to the process of creating and building a brand; in other words, the management of assets related to the name or symbol that identifies a company. And as we have already said that we are the company ourselves, we have to see the differences between the process of managing our own brand and the well-known process of managing the brand for our company. Furthermore, based on the similarities, we can learn a lot about how to improve an organisation´s management.

First of all, we have to create it. It is true that we have little room for manoeuvre as far as our name is concerned, but we can repeat ourselves by looking to names that suggest triumph, something that is not possible when we create a company (unique names). There are studies that relate success with double-barrelled surnames, and Freakonomics analyses the most common names parents from different cultures give their children.

Once we have it, we have to associate it with certain values. This involves a large part of our lives on which we also have little influence. However, although we cannot choose the cards, we can play our hands as well as possible. It is feasible to change values at any time in our lives. Indeed, thanks to the birth of my daughter Lucía, I decided to work less and devote more time to writing to be more flexible and have more time for being with her.

Here we come to the key point. When our brand is more or less defined, we have to position it and increase its value. Here, advertising tools start to do their work, as well as our personal decisions for increasing our value. Advertising the brand is the same as advertising any corporate brand, only now, on a personal scale, we have the Internet. Social networks for the so highly prized networking that allows us to advertise ourselves more quickly and at lower costs to achieve our objectives. Like Sofía Oliveira, with 100,000 friends on the Internet but fewer than 10 in the real world (“Sofia Oliveira, con 100.000 amigos en Internet aunque menos de 10 en el mundo real”), who uses almost every social network to fulfil her dream of being an actress. She is well known, as are her interests, hobbies and curriculum. Because lying in your curriculum is now a complicated matter.

Because others lie about us, it is vitally important to know what there is about us on the Internet: there are many reasons for searching for yourself on Google, which also includes learning how it works. In the same way that the independent professional used to only have the classifieds in the written press or slots on local radio stations, now he has complex audiovisual tools on YouTube or Facebook to create a message, adapt it to the medium, broadcast it and process the replies. If one person is capable of managing around 150 people, according to the old military manuals, on the Internet efficiency is much greater. The bolder among us can follow the example of Julia Allison.

Making the value of our brand grow, as well as that of our tangible and intangible assets, is more than increasing our patrimony. It includes elements that are so in vogue at the minute, amidst the crisis, such as our prestige and credibility. Information systems such as PGP already value the members of a network depending on whom they were recommended by. Many high-level social networks only allow access through the recommendation of a member, something Groucho Marx would reject completely. It is not sufficient to have contacts, they have to be made profitable. Deciding whether to study an MBA or a doctorate instead of studying languages. Continuing in our company or changing to another job with more money by taking advantage of our present knowledge, but with fewer future possibilities due to stagnation. Decisions businesses take every day on the markets, as we do ourselves in our lives. This could be an example of the fact that our valuation (salary plus current assets) would not coincide with our potential future value.

I know the case of a Spanish company in which the marketing management work is not carried out by a person employed by the company. The professional the company considered suitable for the job demanded flexible work times, a motivating job, being measured by results and not physically dependent on being in one specific place. The company accepted the conditions. Because, in the end, what mattered were good campaigns and improved sales. And the way of achieving that was having this expert, who had the experience of a thousand battles. In my opinion, this is the ideal future for many businesses and professionals in relations where everyone is a winner.

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