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How important is the image you project?

Most of us remember reading Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper while growing up.

Just a recap in case you didn’t: the novel is about how Tom Canty, an impoverished boy living with his abusive family in London, one day meets and, as a jest, switches clothes with Prince Edward (King Henry VIII’s son) and they find themselves living the other one’s life.

To cut a long story short, despite the real Prince’s constant proclamation as the true Prince of Wales, and Tom’s repeated denial of his birth right, they eventually switch back to the rightful positions in life when Edward interrupts Tom’s coronation, after the death of Henry VIII, and the boys explain how they switched places. Edward is crowned King of England.

So why share this story you might ask. Since the internet and the entire implosion of social media, most of us no longer have a private life. Just recently we saw way too much of Prince Harry in the media after his ‘fun time’ in Vegas. I am not going to debate right or wrong about his rights to be a young man, instead I am going to offer a reminder that, for every action there is an equal an opposition reaction, to our projected image.

Or what about this recent headline “TV host Charlotte Dawson is in hospital after hundreds of social media trolls viciously targeted her on Twitter overnight” ?

Do you stop and think about how you present yourself to the world every day in business and/or your personal life? Every encounter you have with people either adds or subtracts from your brand’s bank account. Having said that, how much value do you place on protecting your brand?

The internet has created a new virtual stage, where people of all walks of life in this global village can perform and/or have a say about anything, regardless of whether they know what they are talking about or not.

This transparency can potentially create chaos in our personal life, exactly what Charlotte Dawson experienced with Twitter. We also hear stories about how work colleagues and our children are being bullied or ostracised on Facebook.

I recently read a blog by Seth Godin called the “The soapbox and the city”. Godin likens the web to a digital city and describes the soapbox as an ‘amplified voice of a single speaker’, “Everyone deserves their own soapbox. The web has handed everyone a microphone and said, here, speak up. But everyone doesn’t deserve their own audience”.  Godin goes on to say ”For the first time in the history of media, those that are able to consume the media are also able to create it. That’s a powerful (and thus frightening) choice”.

I have to say it is frightening, but true. This means we need to defend the honour of our brand like a warrior. However, to do that we need to know what we are defending – what is our brand?

Stephen Covey suggested to ‘Begin with the End in Mind’ (Habit 2), in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This habit can easily be applied in the context of personal branding. Covey suggests that we should envision the outcome that we want to achieve, prior to taking any action.

To do this we need to have a clear mental picture and then translate that picture to physical creation or in this case your personal brand. Your personal brand is not only defined by your values and beliefs, but the way you walk, talk and interact with people in everyday life. So you need to identify areas in your life (physical and mental) that you need to transform. Once you have created your plan, then you need to enlist people who can help with your transformation and hold you accountable until it has become the new you.

A great tip I find is to find a role model (or models), and analyse what it is that he or she is doing that you admire. Once you have done that copy them until it has become natural and part of your new brand.

So how influential is your brand? Not influential enough? Then what are you going to start to do to define, create and start living your brand every day?