How to Use Communication to Build Your Brand
We hear about the importance of building your brand A LOT. The easiest way to think about your brand is the reputation that precedes you. What are you most known for at work? What are your strengths and values? If I were to ask your colleagues to describe you, what would they say? What about your managers or clients? What would they say?
Paying attention to others’ perception of you doesn’t mean that your brand is defined by rumours or gossip. Rather, it emphasizes the fact that building your brand is a two-way street: a successful brand requires both intentionality (on your part) and connection (from others).
So, when and how do we build our brand? Last week, we talked about “The 5 Stories All Leaders Need.” Stories can be a great example of how we build our brand, but we know that even the greatest stories have a time and place. No matter what our intentions are or how fantastic the story of our brand is, simply railroading someone can have detrimental consequences. These consequences can affect your relationship, their perception of your brand, or both.
In other words, in building our brands, when is just as important as the how. To take advantage of effective communication tools to build our brand, we must first learn to recognize the right opportunities.
In this article, let’s reflect on 3 examples of situations where we can use communication to enhance our brand recognition. Although our individual circumstances may vary, thinking about these types of opportunities before they happen can better equip us to respond quickly and effectively on the spot.
1. When we need to build connection
Given that building our brand is a two-way street, we want to ensure that we are connecting with the audiences that matter (for our brand success). This means first identifying who these audiences are, then reflecting on your current relationship level, and finally, communicating with authenticity and audience-centredness to increase their awareness of your brand.
The prior reflection on our audience before we communicate is crucial to achieving the right balance between authenticity and audience-centredness in our communication.
Even if it’s for a brief moment, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who do you want to connect with and why does their perception of your brand matter? Why do you want to connect with them now?
- What is the current status of your relationship with this person? How aware are they of you and your brand? What goal(s) should you be working toward in this relationship?
- What do you know about your audience? What are your common (or different) interests? How do they prefer to interact with people or share information?
These questions can be asked whether you have a week before your appointment or you are looking to approach someone spontaneously at a networking event. Your answers to these questions will help you arrive at the best communication strategy to build connection.
For example, you may determine from your reflection that your audience has a limited understanding of your strengths and past experiences that are integral to your brand. They may also be curious about your background since there are upcoming opportunities to work together on a project of your common interest.
In this case, you may share with them a version of your “how I got here” story (see how to frame this story in last week’s blog). The “where I am going” story can be effective when your audience has little awareness of your goals and areas where their support or collaboration can come into play.
You can also decide to ask them questions or ask for their feedback if you realize that you don’t have enough information to deepen or establish a connection. Sometimes, simply listening to their ideas can help your audience feel connected by communicating to them that you value their input while giving you more information (see our blog article on listening).
2. When we need to clarify our values
Think of someone you may have worked with for some time now, whether it’s a client, co-worker, manager, or direct report. How aware are they of your values toward your work, relationships, or about the organization/industry?
In order to answer this question you may first need to determine what your personal values are. Do you champion honesty, transparency, efficiency, or all of the above? Do you believe that people can produce their best results when they can bring their whole selves to work? Is speed, innovation, or the diversity of ideas the most important factor in your organization/industry for its current and future success? Your responses to these questions are great examples of the values you hold in your life and at work.
When we reflect on our values in relation to our brand, the connections between the two may be intuitively clear. For instance, you may believe that your brand stands for transparency since you deeply value transparency in your relationships and communication with others.
However, for your audience, these connections may be much less clear for several reasons. Perhaps you work in a fast-paced environment and you have not had the opportunity to fully demonstrate your value through your interactions. There may have been inconsistencies in the ways that your value translates into your work. You may have recently adopted new values that you aspire to. There can be a mismatch between your understanding of your work or your brand and others’ perceptions.
These are all relevant examples of situations when you need to use communication to clarify your values. As solutions, here are some suggestions:
- You may choose to craft an audience-centred message that summarizes your values.
- You can open up a dialogue about the values you bring to the table or what others value about you and your work.
- You can create a space for Q&A where others can ask you questions about your brand (see our advice on mastering Q&A here).
- You can adopt the “signature analogy” or “what success can look like” story (from “The 5 Stories All Leaders Need”) to further explain what your values are and why they matter to you and your audience.
3. When we need to demonstrate our impact
In today’s fast and complex work environment, it’s not uncommon for our individual contributions to go unnoticed or underestimated, despite their positive impact. However, the impact of our contributions and their consistency play a huge role in others’ recognition of our brand.
So, how can we resolve this discrepancy? We can use our communication to demonstrate our impact with more clarity and transparency for our audience. This doesn’t mean that your work doesn’t speak for itself or that you are exaggerating impact that doesn’t exist.
Rather, you are highlighting your impact in ways that are easier for your audience to remember and to associate with your brand. This process involves critically reflecting on the kinds of results that you/your work brought to the table and translating these results into measures or words that are easy to comprehend for your audience.
To demonstrate your impact through communication you can:
- Craft a clear and evidence-based message that highlights your performance/results on a given project
- Ask for feedback about your work and contributions
- Share an engaging chronological or before-and-after story that traces your contributions in a given process
There are a number of skills you can develop to help you identify the best opportunities and strategies to build your brand through communication. If you are interested in learning more about how to develop these skills, check out our learning experiences at thehumphreygroup.com.
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