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Webinar report: Self-marketing – developing a credible and genuine personal brand and living it

In this first of the series, Joanna Gaudoin looked at the importance of standing out positively and getting your work recognised.

Internal clients, external counsel, your colleagues, your wider network and social media community. As an in-house lawyer, you have diverse relationships.

How are you perceived in those relationships? What are people thinking about you? And what would they tell someone who asks them what you’re like to work with?

The answers to these questions reveal your personal brand. Whether we realise it or not, we’re always projecting an image of ourselves to the people we interact with – and they are always forming impressions of us.

To help us create the best impression and build our personal brand, Joanna Gaudoin has teamed up with CLL to present a series of four webinars. Self-marketing – developing a credible and genuine personal brand and living it kicked off in early June. 

Having worked in marketing and consultancy in large corporates, Joanna understands the business world and its challenges. In 2011, she established Inside Out Image, a consultancy firm specialising in workplace relationships and skills that are rarely taught in formal educational settings. Joanna’s clients include HSBC, RPC, Mastercard, Irwin Mitchell, Ashurst and Willis Towers Watson.

Your personal brand – the foundation of great relationships
As the basis of great working relationships, your personal brand matters. It’s an essential building block of a workplace environment that enables:

  • Mutual learning;
  • Collaboration;
  • Creative problem-solving;
  • Enhanced sense of purpose;
  • A positive work environment
  • Client retention and attraction if clients are external and more trusted relationships to tackle issues early on where clients are internal;
  • Improved performance; and 
  • Personal career success.

Being known, respected and trusted (and ideally liked) are the keys to building a strong personal brand. Underpinning these attributes are:

  • Credibility – being genuine and showing vulnerability. Consider the power of ‘I don’t know.’ Admitting you don’t know something is always more credible than pretending you do;
  • Reliability – delivering on your promises – or giving timely notice that you may not is better than letting a deadline lapse with no explanation; and
  • Intimacy – engaging with people on a personal level helps build your likeability and deepen a relationship. 

Three adjectives

A great starting point in defining your personal brand is to come up with three adjectives you’d like people to use to describe you. Joanna used the example of two cars – a Skoda and an Audi – and asked the webinar delegates to submit words that describe each brand. That process can be applied to people. 

From here, ask people you trust what adjectives they’d use to describe you and how you come across in different situations. This can be illuminating, yet also show you how close you are to living your brand. The secret here is show, don’t tell. Nobody will believe that you’re dependable, super-efficient and empathetic just because you say you are. However, they will when they see you living those qualities.  

Never try to emulate somebody else’s brand. Build your own unique identity around the combination of qualities that make you… you.

Bringing your brand to life

As mentioned above, we’re always projecting information about ourselves. This means we should be aware of the messages we’re sending out and ensuring they’re consistent with our adjectives (or values). For example:

Our appearance. As Coco Chanel said. “Good clothes make you notice the person, not the dress.” Choosing clothes that are appropriate to what you do, the environment in which you’re being seen and your own comfort levels sends messages to people. These can range from ‘over the top power dressing’ to ‘far too casual’ with a lot of variations in between. Of course, be an individual and be comfortable. However, consider what your choices say about your personal brand as well.

Our body language. The four key elements of body language, as it affects your personal brand, are:

  • Posture – how you own and fill the space you occupy gives people clues about how engaged and dynamic you are – even before they make eye contact with you or see your facial expression;
  • Expressions. Does your facial expression align with your personal brand values? For example, if approachability is one of your three adjectives, will people sense that from looking at your face? In the ideal world, you’ll naturally reflect your approachability in your body language, but if you’re having a bad day or are distracted you may need to consciously think about the messages you’re projecting;
  • Gestures and mannerisms. These can accentuate your key points when talking, convey your enthusiasm for your subject and underline your empathy with people you speak with. In that way, gestures and mannerisms are powerful tools in your personal brand toolkit. Bear in mind too, however, that some types of gesture can be distracting for people and work against the impression you’re looking to convey; and
  • Eye contact. Aim to maintain eye contact for 60-70% of the time you’re speaking with people. Too little and they’ll think you’re unengaged or possibly less than honest. Too much and people may feel glared-at and intimidated.

Our voice. We can project much about ourselves by the way we use our voice in meetings and conversations. For example:

  • Volume. Strike the balance between sounding too timid and too aggressive. Speak loudly enough to come across as confident but not pushy. Also, when people struggle to hear others, research shows they’re only comfortable asking the speaker to repeat themselves once. Volume is important for making yourself understood, but also for putting people at ease; 
  • Pace. This can be another tricky balance to strike. People who speak too fast can come across either as nervous (they’re not enjoying the conversation), or arrogant (they begrudge having the conversation). Slow speakers on the other hand can come across as undynamic and disinterested;
  • Enunciation. With more and more meetings talking place on Zoom and Teams, etc and involving people with a wide range of accents, enunciation matters more than ever. Yet in recent years, clarity of speech has been in decline. The trick to enhance your enunciation is to speak with your whole mouth, not just the lips. You’ll struggle to bring your brand to life if people can’t follow what you’re saying; and
  • Inflection. Inflection in our speech shows that we’re enthusiastic about the conversation we’re having. A lively inflection gets others excited, while a flat monotone bores people. Use inflection to breathe life into your communication and make others remember your personal brand positively.

You’ll find more personal branding tips and insights from Joanna in her book, Getting On: Making work work, which is currently discounted to £12.50 for CLL delegates using code CLL231. Offer expires June 12 2023.

The second webinar in this series titled  'The 'magic' workplace ingredient of emotional intelligence' is on 17 July. Register here.

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