When you’re defining your personal branding, it’s easy to get trapped into relying on only your own impressions of yourself.
After all, who knows you better…than you?
However, that’s exactly the problem. You know too much about yourself. There are so many various details that make up your personality. Trying to include all of them can dull the distinctness – the gestalt – of your brand.
To distill your personal branding down to its essence, you need to remove everything except for one core message. Your personal network already knows your core message. Because unlike you, they can see it from the outside.
“Your brand is what people say about you when you are not there.” – Jeff Bezos
Who should I ask about my personal branding?
Think of your biggest advocates. Not just the people who would recommend your services, but the people you can call at 2 AM in distress. The people who will always support you, no matter what.
- Family members.
- Business partners.
- Buddies you share hobbies with.
- Old friends who know your secrets.
- Colleagues who have given you referrals.
Other people have the ability to do something that you cannot do: they can look at you from an outside perspective. This makes them better suited to define the distinctiveness of your brand than you are. They can see what elements of your character define you the best, and what is distracting from the real core message that they perceive.
Cast a wide net, and catch a lot of nothing.
When I worked as an insurance salesman, I kept trying to work Parkour into my brand.
This athletic discipline is unique, and I thought it was a great way to differentiate myself. It’s a mildly hazardous pastime, so it was a great segue into talking about liability and risk.
But ultimately, the pairing of Parkour + Insurance Salesman was distracting, and actually worked against the distinctiveness and memorability of my brand.
I would never have known this, without the Ask A Friend Survey.
The Ask A Friend Survey
As its featured on Danielle LaPorte’s excellent blog on inspiration and branding, the Ask A Friend Survey challenges you to ask your nearest and dearest 7 really tough questions:
- What do you think is my greatest strength?
- How would you describe my style?
- What do you think I should let go of?
- When do you feel that I am at my best?
- What do you wish I were less of, for my sake?
- When have you seen me looking my most fabulous?
- What do you think I could give myself more credit for or celebrate more?
When I sent this survey around to my friends and family, it gave me an incredible insight about how I portrayed myself to the world around me. There were things that I did not know about my own brand…things everyone around me could see, plain as day.
My close friends liked my Parkour skills, but they didn’t like talking to me about insurance. My insurance clients didn’t even talk about Parkour – they talked about my business savvy and networking skills.
After spending two years trying to pair these two aspects of my life together, the Ask A Friend survey showed me that these separate parts of my life should remain separate. This streamlined my personal branding, and helped me stand out clearer to different groups of people.
You may be missing some obvious contradictions about your own brand.
The only way to find out…is to ask.
- Make a list of 10 people who know you really well. They should be from different areas of your life. Family, high school, business, hobbies, etc.
- Send them a really nice email, telling them about the Ask A Friend Survey, and describing why you are looking for this feedback.
- Thank them for their time. Anyone who is willing to spend fifteen minutes writing about you has got to be a good friend, and they deserve your gratitude.
- Encourage them to be honest. Make it clear that you’re not fishing for compliments; you’re looking for the meaty, sometimes challenging feedback that helps us become a better person.
You’re probably thinking of someone right now. Someone who could give you incredible insight about yourself. Is it a friend from middle school? A former boss? An old band-mate? Leave us a comment and declare it now – who are you going to ask to help define your brand?
I really like the idea of asking a variety of people how they perceive you, and going from their to (re)consider your personal brand.
My best friend (whom I’ve known since high school) will say something different than my current coworkers, who will say different things than the friends I met in grad school.
I think looking at these different perspectives will be valuable as a catalyst for self-reflection. Thanks for the project. 🙂
I wonder what the major differentiating factor would be, between people who get consistent answers from all the people in different parts of their life, and people who get wildly different answers.
I think it might be secrecy, or authenticity, or plasticity. Maybe all three.
Great, now you have inspired me to take on a new project! Time to go do some research….