When your personal brand no longer works for you

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Judith was an outstanding Communications Manager at the ACME Energy Company. She effectively prepared all of the company’s written collateral, media releases and advice to the external market, and had developed very strong relationships with managers throughout the business because of her ability to deliver quality documents on time in a brand consistent manner, even in crises situations.

Judith was recognised for her outstanding performance by being promoted to Head of Communications. In this role she became a key member of the executive leadership team and was responsible for planning, implementing and delivering of the company’s media and communications strategy, providing strategic advice to the leadership team and managing all external stakeholder relationships. She also managed a small team.

Within the first month of this exciting new role, Judith was feeling the strain. Two issues were concerning her. First, the leadership team kept asking Judith to perform fairly straightforward tasks that she had gladly and effectively performed in her previous support role. They felt comfortable with Judith, and as she had always accommodated their needs in the past, expected that she would continue to do so. Secondly, she found it difficult to find her voice in meetings. As the “can do” person in the past, she had played a role as expediter of requests. This past history and relationship meant she found it difficult for her options to be heard or taken seriously.

What to do? Judith confided in her career coach and pretty soon the “aha” moment arose. From a personal branding perspective, Judith realised her challenges were to shift the assumptions others had about her contribution to the business and to learn to influence differently. Her reputation as the person who always delivered quality outcomes in tough situations had worked effectively for her in the past, but was now holding her back from becoming a genuine contributor to the strategic thinking and decision-making of the business.  Judith began to shift her own beliefs and assumptions about her contribution to the business. She ceased relying on others to set the direction and became an advocate of her own views. Judith started changing phrases she used from “How can I support you” and “have you thought about…” to “I believe you should do this…”.

Does your own brand need a make-over?  Then try this simple exercise. Write down your current brand attributes – how people would describe you, how you differentiate yourself from others, and your signature strengths. Then visualise how you would like to be seen and described. Ask yourself: what is holding you back from realising this vision? In particular, what are the assumptions you hold about yourself, and how does the way you communicate reinforce stereotypes about you? Before long you will begin to purposefully shift your brand and reputation in a positive way that is authentic and sustainable.


Norah Breekveldt, Director – Ampersand Advisory

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