Do you dread the thought of promoting yourself? Most of us do. If you aren’t comfortable promoting what makes you uniquely valuable to others, here are 4 ways to distinguish yourself through personal branding.
When I first launched my business, JLC Consulting, I was excited to finally pursue my mission to help women attorneys and leaders “get out of their own way” and realize more successful and satisfying careers. But I was less than thrilled about having to sell my services. I naively thought that my satisfied clients’ referrals would be my marketing strategy.
While I benefited from referrals, this passive approach to promoting myself limited my potential to serve others on a larger scale. I realized that if I wanted to help more clients, I’d have to find a way to get comfortable promoting myself and the unique value I offered as a professional coach.
Why Women Struggle with Self-Promotion
Do you struggle with self-promotion too? Most of us do. In the years I’ve been working with women attorneys and leaders, one of the most challenging obstacles I’ve observed is their reluctance to actively promote themselves and their value. While this is not unique to women, self-promotion can be difficult for many of us because we worry about being perceived as boastful and egotistical.
This struggle to self-promote keeps us on the sidelines and gets in the way of helping others (employers, clients, etc.) more powerfully. Instead of highlighting what makes us different, we try to blend in. We downplay what makes us special, and we become our own best-kept secret. The irony is that what makes us uniquely valuable is also what enables us to serve others better.
Distinguish Yourself through Personal Branding
If you aren’t comfortable promoting your value to others, personal branding can help. Personal branding isn’t bragging about what makes you great. It’s an active self-promotion strategy that appropriately describes, positions, and promotes who you are and what you offer.
You already have a personal brand. It's what others think about you (or maybe what they’re not thinking of you).
Whether you realize it or not, your brand influences your relationships with colleagues, access to job opportunities, business development opportunities, and whether or not you are on the shortlist for the next big promotion. So, if your brand isn't working for you as effectively as it should, here are 4 ways to distinguish yourself:
1. What Do You Want to Be Known For?
Have you ever been in a networking situation in which it's your turn to introduce yourself and find yourself robotically reciting your name, position, and company where you work, only to realize the other person's eyes are quickly glazing over? We often default to this basic (and uninspiring) narrative because we aren't sure or haven’t thought about how best to describe ourselves. All the while, this may be the only opportunity you’ll have to make an impactful impression and set yourself apart from the crowd.
If you don’t know how best to describe yourself, ask yourself this question: “What do I want to be known for?” A well-defined personal brand represents and promotes who you are, what you do, and what you are best at.
A former client, Marianna, often introduced herself as the “bet-the-company litigation attorney” for her firm. In the vast sea of general practice litigation attorneys around her, she wanted to distinguish herself as a powerhouse player in the arena of high-stakes litigation. She wanted to be known as the lawyer you hired when you needed the very best because your company's future was on the line.
2. Who is Your Target Audience?
Whom do you (want to) serve? Whether directed at an external client or an internal stakeholder, personal branding is most effective when it’s aimed at a specific audience. It could be a particular industry, demographic, or even someone just like you who can benefit from what you offer.
When defining our respective market, we tend to cast too wide a net for fear of missing out on potential opportunities. But personal branding isn’t about trying to be everything to everyone. It’s more about connecting with those you are most passionate about serving and being the best in that space. At first glance, appealing to a more narrow target may seem counterintuitive. But consider this: Don’t you tend to buy from those who deeply understand you and your unique needs?
In Marianna's example, while her colleagues competed for much of the lower value, high-volume litigation work, she positioned her brand to appeal to a tighter niche of high-end clients who were willing to pay a premium to ensure the best possible outcome. By being clear and consistent in who she most wanted to serve, her tailored brand better positioned her as the go-to attorney in high-stakes litigation matters.
3. What Makes You Uniquely Valuable?
What makes you worthy of being selected/hired/promoted over someone else? Personal branding is about marketing what makes you extraordinary and uniquely qualified to help others in some way.
If you aren’t sure what this might be, think about some of your unique skills and strengths and how to leverage them. So, if you are a great writer, look for ways to showcase your knowledge in industry publications read by your ideal client. If you are a great communicator, seek more public speaking opportunities, or do a webinar on a topic important to your employer.
Also, consider how your skills and experience relate to your target audience's pain points. How does what you offer address or solve their problems or fill a particular need in a way others can’t?
Susanna's company was undergoing a significant merger and desperately needed senior leaders to help navigate this period of uncertainty. Known for her brand as a “calm-under-pressure” leader, Susanna was promoted to help guide her company through this period of elevated stress and instability.
4. What’s Your Personal Brand Story?
Once you have a better idea of what your brand is (or what you want it to be), you may be asking yourself, “How do I share it with others?” Well, personal branding isn't about telling people about yourself. It’s about making a real connection with those you most want to serve. You do this by sharing your story.
Ever wonder why lawyers often use stories during their closing arguments? It’s because stories not only connect with people's minds but also their hearts.
Similarly, your personal brand story makes a heartfelt connection between your audiences' wants and needs and your role in that dynamic. It frames you and your uniqueness as the logical answer to their problems. It also explains how serving others in this way is aligned with your values and larger purpose.
I often share my story of becoming a professional coach and my passion for working with women attorneys, especially Latinas. It was inspired by my ongoing research on their unique challenges and my desire to help them achieve more successful and satisfying careers.
Want to Get More Comfortable with Self-Promotion?
Does self-promotion still feel like bragging to you? If so, consider how it’s distinctly different. Healthy self-promotion is focused on serving others. It draws people in because what you have to offer is valuable to them in some way.
Bragging, on the other hand, is about feeding one’s ego. It’s really about the need for external validation rather than the desire to serve the needs of others. This is why it turns people off.
Do you want to get more comfortable promoting your unique value so you can better serve others? If so, please reach out to me to learn how I can help. You are also welcome to schedule a 30-min consultation call with me to learn how coaching can help you "get out of your own way" so you can achieve your goals and realize your full potential.
Jill Lynch Cruz, PhD, PCC, GCDF, SPHR
Executive Coach & Career Development Facilitator