Personal Branding: The Lighthouse Branding Model

More and more people are talking about the importance of personal branding, both in career searching and in career development. Effective personal branding not only makes you stand out from the crowd to employers and recruiters, it can also increase your job security by communicating your value as a leader and team player to your organization.

What is personal branding?

Personal branding is the process of identifying the unique and differentiating value that you bring to an organization, team and/or project and communicating it in a professionally memorable and consistent manner in all of your actions, both online and offline, to all current and prospective stakeholders in your career.

The Lighthouse Personal Branding Model

The lighthouse is a great model for breaking down the branding process into four key steps: the foundation, the beacon, the tower and the beam.

Foundation:

Your foundation is your unarguable strengths and experience in your chosen area. To identify your own foundation, write down the strengths that differentiate you from the rest and ask your friends, family and colleagues/managers to do the same for you. Identify the top three to five overlapping strengths that support the career direction you want to pursue.

Beacon:

Your beacon is the memorable and consistent communication of your strengths and experience. Now that you have identified your foundation, it’s time to create your beacon by finding a word or phrase that represents these strengths and can become your brand. Develop a short pitch that can follow your brand, describing your strengths in more detail. Ensure that your word or phrase is versatile and can change with your direction.

Tower:

Simply put, your tower is your visibility, reach and presentation, both online and offline, which support the beacon. This is really everything you do to proactively build your personal brand. The higher you build your tower with your efforts, the more visible you will be to potential career stakeholders. Here are some ways to proactively build your brand and credibility in front of your target audience:

Create a LinkedIn profile and follow the suggested steps to complete your profile 100 percent, making sure you include your personal brand and pitch in your subtitle and summary sections.

Create a Google account and profile for improved search engine optimization.

Include your personal brand on your resume, cover letter, business cards, email signature, voicemail message and across your other social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Consider creating a personal website/blog site where you can house all of your information, including experience, education, skills, honors, entrepreneurial efforts and more.

Start your own blog with a unique point of view on your industry/area of interest.

Contribute value in your book or product reviews, your tweets, your comments on other blog posts, your own blog articles or articles for print publications, your discussions in LinkedIn Groups and your advice via LinkedIn Answers or other forums.

Start a company full-time or on the side with relevant and valuable products/services/resources for the industry.

Publish and offer print and/or electronic publications.

Get quoted in the media by joining HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and contributing advice, experiences and insights to writers and journalists seeking expert sources.
Beam:

Your beam is your career direction and more active personal branding and career search strategy. It involves you gaining and projecting a strong understanding of where you want to go, what you want to pursue and how you will pursue it. First, you need to determine what functional area, geography and industries/companies you want to target. Then, you need to actively network your brand with potential career stakeholders. Here are some ways to start:

Join associations or networking groups within your industry and attend events to meet new contacts and build your target network. Be sure to share your personal brand with those new contacts.

Conduct informational interviews with target network contacts (whether or not you’re seeking a job) and share your personal brand with them in your introductions.

Find ways to bring fellow industry thought leaders together on a project or at an event.

Find ways to contribute to the projects or events of fellow industry experts.

Get recommended on LinkedIn and display testimonials from customers, clients and partners
Personal Application

I used this model to help develop my own personal brand during my MBA career search. Having identified my foundation to be my endless energy, out-of-the-box creativity, relationship building and problem solving, I looked for a word that could pull all of those strengths together into one memorable brand message. The beacon I chose was “generator” as I generate energy, creativity, relationships and solutions to problems. I was pursuing a career in marketing and brand management, and therefore, I became a brand and marketing generator. I proactively built my tower by incorporating my brand directly into my online profiles, my resumes and my entrepreneurial efforts. I then took a more active approach, targeting the “beam” by incorporating my personal brand in my interview responses, networking introductions and informational interview outreach. It was this process that helped me successfully secure my current employment, and this model continues to help guide all of my professional and entrepreneurial ventures.

4 Principles For Strengthening Your Social Brand

A social brand is a transparent brand, and that’s just what consumers want. They’re tired of being lied to with offers that are too good to be true. They’re sick of being interrupted with irrelevant ads in their daily lives. They get enough of it from tv commercials and website popups. So when they visit their favourite social media sites, they expect brands to behave and be tame. Consumers want a less bombarding and more personal experience.

Your brand is reflected in everything your company says and does. And when you ‘say’ and ‘do’ via social media, that reflection travels at the speed of a browser refresh and amplifies louder than a thousand clicks of a share button.

Practicing these four principles will help you strengthen your social brand communications across all digital media.

1. Remember your brand’s core values

Whenever you sit down to craft a message, write an email, update your fan page, send out a tweet, or respond to a commenter, think of your brand’s core values and personality. Before writing a single word, ask yourself: will this help or hurt the brand? Is it congruent with what the brand stands for? Stay aligned and relevant, and you will communicate your message more appropriately.

If you’re just getting your brand onto social sites, then start by listening to your audience first. What are they talking about? What are they sharing with their friends? What questions are they asking? Once you get to know your audience’s interests, questions, and frustrations, you can begin interacting with them and offering up the type of content that they’re already sharing.

2. Help your employees believe in your brand

Absolutely everyone in your organization holds the responsibility of reinforcing your brand. If your people don’t believe in the brand’s vision and values, then they won’t be able to properly interact with outside parties. If they confuse or offend your customers somehow, it will only damage your image. This translates to the offline world as well. Employees must understand and agree with your brand before they can go off on their own and talk with consumers, partners, investors, suppliers, distributors, and the media. Make it a habit to consistently praise and reward actions that show brand responsibility.

Workers come and go. On average, a person holds a job for around two to five years. Somehow, it is up to you to make sure the brand’s culture is passed down to the newbies, like a legend is passed down to younger generations one conversation at a time. The experienced workers who understand your brand may be gone tomorrow, and the fresh ones that join have no idea what’s going on… until you educate them. Ongoing internal training is essential to ensure everyone is on the same page and your corporate culture doesn’t weaken over time.

3. Build relationships and create brand advocates

A social brand has to be social. Period. Throwing up a Facebook page with your logo on it and getting some “likes” is merely a half-assed attempt at social branding. It takes deep two-way conversations with consumers, and the building of relationships. Some companies use social media mainly for customer service, and it works wonders for them. For example, of all the tweets sent out from Whole Foods Market on Twitter (@WholeFoods), 85% are responses to customer comments, according to Bill Tolany, Head of Integrated Media.

Offering special treatments or incentives to happy customers can turn them into brand advocates. If a customer already likes your product or service, and you treat them right, they may start to share your vision and spread your message for you. What’s more, brand advocates naturally influence the opinions and buying behaviours of their family and friends, because that’s who people trust the most.

You could even think about starting your own brand advocacy program. Check out the Ford Fiesta Movement, in which 100 “Fiesta Agents” across the US get to drive a Fiesta for 6 months, complete monthly missions, and share their experiences in various ways. You can also check out the Microsoft MVP Program, consisting of around 4,000 teachers, artists, doctors, engineers, and technologists who share their know-how with huge online followings.

4. Respond properly to negative feedback

A social brand is an exposed brand, open to negative feedback and criticism. But dealing with negativity in the right way can turn a critic into your next customer or an angry customer into your next number one fan. The results of negative feedback depend entirely on how you deal with them. Handle them well, and you become a star; ignore them, and you might as well hang your logo on the corporate wall of shame.

We can’t be all things to all people, so you’re bound to receive complaints in one form or another. When an unhappy someone posts a complaint about your product or service, others tend to follow along and add their two cents as well. Whatever you do, don’t ignore this. It can snowball out of control unless you respond properly. However, if you say something wrong, it’ll make things worse.

One of the best and easiest things you can do is simply offer help (or maybe an apology) to the original complainer. It shows that you care about how your customers feel. And as customers, we love that sort of thing, don’t we?

Being a social brand means talking to people as a professional human, as if you were talking to them face-to-face. With pretty much any company and any type of response, you’ll want to keep it friendly and helpful, but at the same time, feel free to let your brand personality shine through. Then, before hitting the send button, get a second pair of eyes to check your tone of voice. Align your messages with the vision and values of the company. Continually educate your employees and make sure they are with you 100%.

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