Last updated: February 13

JUMP the chain of command using your personal brand (aka your reputation)

This article is written for executives, politicians, and business leaders who need to tell their story to plan for a career transition and who are:

  • Time poor
  • Leaving public office
  • Selling their business
  • Need an exit strategy
  • High-performers who want to raise their visibility in the market
  • Inventors and founders who want to tell their story to promote their product

A note from Robin Dreeke...

"It comes down to transparency because that kind of transparency becomes part of your brand. And people talk reputations everywhere you go in life, I mean I experienced that. Can you imagine what kind of things the FBI has been through and in the way of brand killing in the last four or five years?"

Robin Dreeke Interview

"It doesn't matter what side of politics you're on, you know, the FBI brand took a massive hit, but did it impact me? No, because I have my own personal brand inside an organization, and that brand preceded me, before every interview I did, before every recruitment attempt I did."

- From an interview with Robin Dreeke on our podcast.

Your brand speaks for you when you aren’t in the room. So, how strong is your brand? How does your brand support your value proposition? Value proposition in the career context refers to answering the board of director’s, investor’s, or CEO’s question:

“What will you do to help my company (1) make money (2) save money (3) solve a problem?” Your brand must answer this question both directly and indirectly through your brand.

What is your story?

As human beings, we consume information more easily when it is in a story format. You might not remember the name, place of origin, or any other details of someone until you have heard a story or two of them.

It’s an emotional journey.

Storytelling brings us in close proximity with who or what the story is about. We get close enough to analyze thoughts and opinions and from there, we ultimately decide if that person or product is worth further time and investment.

Storytelling and marketing have presented a perfect marriage in more recent years. That is partly due to the fact that “humans are predisposed to organize their experiences through stories”. It’s as the saying goes—Facts tell and stories sell.

*“Stories inculcate values, frame collective identities, and mold cultures. Marketers have long appreciated the power of storytelling. Stories fill brands with meaning. Marketers traditionally have engaged professional storytellers, people who understand how to convey ideas through narratives and visual imagery, to help with creating brand stories.”

Similar to a company using a brand story to help market a product, stories are important for a person’s personal brand.

We tell our clients when positioning yourself in front of a decision-maker, ask yourself this question. What can I do for the company? Solve a problem, save money, or make money?

But the fact is, this is just a piece of the puzzle. You need to also ask, who am I? What got me to this point? What motivates me? What goals do I have?

The more personal information that you can accumulate, the more a brand strategist can help bring out those details, weaving them in with the facts and figures of your performance.

It’s important to note that your brand doesn’t start or end with a resume. The way you carry yourself online and offline is all part of your brand. The posts your share, the stories you like, the books you recommend, etc. It is all part of your brand and story. When we view a professional LinkedIn profile, the more fields that are filled out (with attention to detail), the better; Our attention is grabbed.

Your best shot at having an effective brand is through authenticity. You should want to share your brand with others and that only works if it is YOUR true brand.

Branding

Why should someone be interested in you?

“The intense emotional engagement of narrative transportation triggers the brain to produce cortisol, dopamine, and oxytocin, all helpful for persuasion. As audiences encounter a story’s conflict, levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) rise, which enhances attention. Dopamine (a neurotransmitter) sharpens focus, learning, and memory, while oxytocin (a social bonding hormone) creates an empathetic link between the audience and the storyteller.

Stories are more engaging than facts and more easily processed, so they are generally better liked, leading to affect transfer, where positive feelings toward the story are transferred to the brand as the storyteller, who is seen as credible and therefore more persuasive than someone trying to communicate in other ways. People become less suspicious when information is presented in story form, and this reduces their tendency to question or argue against the facts.”

books

A note from Laura Elliott (ghostwriter for global thought leaders)...

"...and so that's one of the classical techniques that I use with my clients, and with people in general. To get to the heart of their story I always ask them well what's the day everything changed for you. And it's funny because sometimes people have one moment in time. Some people say “well you know there's three or four things that come to my mind when you say that”, and that's the beauty of this process—it is a process. You know of just unfolding and pulling the layers back on our own stories and getting a little bit clear and it's beautiful because the best part about writing a book is that it doesn't have to be finished to begin to feel the effects of the book. You, you get an energy in your insights personally and also professionally. When you're in the process of writing a book it's a great time to write around the book or podcast around your book. That way you already have a market of readers wanting to buy your book, hire you for services, and writing your book just helps you hone your message and have a clarity of focus and purpose."

"...I really think that, you know, think of your book, like a golden ticket. Okay, and it provides you entry into like incredible coverage you wouldn't get otherwise. Like you receive book endorsements that fuel sales and connections, which can take your business to the next level. The more you and your message are out there, the more people find you. And the more people find you the more in demand you are. I think really at its essence, a book really makes it easy to talk about, it's physical. It's that thing."

"...But I do think that to your question about raising your visibility…if you have like an important authentic message that is told in a way that places you as an expert in your field, you can see dramatic increases in income and platform. You can kind of reap the benefits of the newer increased revenue streams through like royalties, or paid speaking engagements, bookings on radio, TV shows, podcasts that potentially have millions of listeners who can become your clients or customers and it can even crazily propel you into your brand… you or your brand into celebrity status."

Laura Elliott on Get Hired Up Podcast

- From an interview with Laura Elliott that will air on our podcast February 17th, 2021.

Building your personal brand can be done by following the guidelines of building a storybook.

The moral of the message or VALUE PROPOSITION

“A strong ideological message or moral lesson often permeates the most memorable stories. As the guideposts of learning, these essential truths or deeper meanings motivate reflection and action.”

“The message defines the central premise of the story, and the successful resolution of the story proves its veracity.”

Similar to the moral of the story, your value proposition is the main piece that employers, colleagues, and other influential people should be able to recognize. This is the key message to be consumed, while the rest of your story and brand helps support it.

Characters (hero) or YOU

“In marketing, identification, with a story’s characters produces a sense of ‘self-brand connection’ and helps consumers imagine how their life might be different if they used the brand.”

“One of the central characters in any marketing communication is the band. Brand managers are often tempted to make the brand the hero of the story, as the provider of a magical solution to the story’s conflict.”

“A critical part of any brand story is clearly communicating the value of the brand and what it enables in the life of a hero, this is, how the brand can help heroes overcome challenges and transform into better versions of themselves.”

In the case of a personal brand, you are the hero. You provide the “magical solution” and you are there to have an impact on a company, team, organization, etc.

Conflict or PROBLEM SOLVING

“Conflict is the driving force in good stories; it provides energy and forward movement."

“Villains—problems and hurtles the hero must overcome.”

“Villains serve as important counterpoints to heroes and deliver the conflict heroes must overcome.”

“The stakes are high, the challenges seemingly undefeatable, and the rewards exceptionally valuable.”

“Cognitively, humans crave harmony and feel disjointed when it is disrupted. When conflict arises, we try to regain balance by restoring harmony. Stories that allow heroes to overcome conflict provide important closure for audiences; we feel fulfilled knowing that chaos has been conquered and order restored.”

What problems have you solved for companies? What villains have challenged you? Why were they considered the villain in your story? What do you do to maintain harmony in your work and personal life?

In a resume, this of course will be part of the structure for your roles and responsibilities in the experience section. I saved the company x amount of dollars after they faced xyz and abc.

However, as mentioned earlier, your resume isn’t the only part of your brand story. Overcoming challenges are part of the resilience you have built and that interest’s people.

The villains you have faced will also help shape your ideal company culture in the future. If you have experienced terrible bosses or a toxic work environment, then you understand the importance of this part in your story.

Let your brand help guide you. A personal brand gives you confidence and clarity.

Hero at home and at work

Plot or PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCES (jobs, achievements, memberships, etc.)

“Good stories are dynamic and progress along an evolutionary path. Often, a well-orchestrated plot first draws the audience in with an exciting opening that sets the scene.”

Otherwise known as your value proposition.

“The opening scene makes the audience a promise, and if that promise is compelling, the audience tunes in. If it isn’t people will tune out. This is what happens with many marketing communications: they are ignored by consumers.”

“Brand stories that feature entertaining plots capture consumers attention and maintain their interest.”

Your personal brand is the differentiator. Tell people how you got to where you are now. Give people the details of your wildest encounters along the way. Maureen often asks our clients, “what surprised you the most in your career so far?” 

Dan Kennedy wrote in his book, Marketing to The Affluent, They [successful and wealthy people] are also deeply suspicious of anyone or anything not symbolic of hard work and methodical development. If you set out to sell them, as example, an exotic safari or fishing trip, the story of your background and how you made yourself into the reigning expert on such travel and the extent of research, planning, and preparation invested in designing and delivering the experience is essential and carries more influence than the most persuasive description of the trip and its amenities.

Storytelling Devices

It is important to find a balance with all storytelling devices. Too much of any one thing can be destructive.

Humor—people want to be in a good mood. Humor puts people at ease while also grabbing their attention. Appropriate humor of course.

People are interested in hiring someone that can have a laugh and enjoy life. Don’t hold back on your sense of humor.

Fear—evoking low levels of fear can increase the audience’s attention to the message and serve as a compelling call to action.

Sharing stories where a company was in danger or at risk and then explaining how you were able to help solve that problem is a part of your story that many would want to hear—especially the decision-maker.

Transparency and Authenticity—"consumers are searching for authentic brands and stories. Consumer researchers Al Rise and Jack Trout said, ‘candor is very disarming. Every negative statement you make about yourself is instantly accepted as truth. Positive statements, on the other hand, are looked at as dubious at best.’”

This is KEY. You have to practice authenticity for the sake of yourself and the employer. It’s a win win scenario. If you are honest and your authentic self and you land the job…there is a mutual respect and a newfound trust.

Transparency is the key to a trustworthy relationship. If you brand is built upon authenticity (and all that might include), the transparency shouldn’t be too difficult.

This is why interviewers ask interviewees, “what challenges do you currently experience and want to overcome”? Be transparent. They will believe you. MOST importantly, they will be more keen to take your word for the positive qualities after you have shared your short-comings honestly.

There is power in vulnerability.

Westgate storytelling

Telling authentic stories:

Founding stories and personal milestones. Share a personal narrative, a biography that chronicles origin stories, life experiences, and evolution.

Testimonials. We work with our clients to complete a Network 7 and 360 Reach. Both of which require outreach to your most prestigious network and your friends and family. From here, we are able to build a portfolio of testimonials and endorsements. These drive brand value and increase the credibility of the story, building trust.

Mission, Vision, and Values. Share these with the decision maker. If this is the company you want to work for and the respected person you want to report to, they SHOULD be interested in your personal goals. I.e. Family.

Discovering stories that differentiate

Research and investigate the stories of your competitors. Research similar job descriptions to the one that interests you most. This isn’t to falsely fall in line with the descriptions you come across, but to hopefully inspire some stories in your own archive that you hadn’t thought of before.

For example, perhaps you’ve never thought to discuss your family when an ideal moment arises in an interview. Yet, the company is founded on loyal principles and a team-oriented culture. It would be most beneficial for you to discuss your family.

Branding

Case Study

Richard Broston was a senior technical manager in charge of heating, ventilation and air conditioning for a national organization. I was his résumé writer for years—I wrote probably a dozen resumes for him during his career. This was long before personal branding had a name. Back then we called it reptuation management and keeping bread on the table.

A smart person with equally polished technical and people skills, Richard had a skill at managing major distasters. The guy is unflappable—and super humble. Over the years I had interviewed him dozens of times and learned in his early days, he was a dish washer in a high end hotel restaurant.

Every time the manager needed to leave the kitchen for an hour, day or week, Richard was left in charge of the crew. Quiet, with a heads-down approach, he tackled his work without fanfare. And he was able to get his crew to do the same.

Two decades later, the guy is in charge of millions in HVAC equipment for an organization responsible for the safe  transportation of data across the country…banks, hospitals, retail operations all depend on this equipment for their customers.

Although Richard’s job description says nothing about managing disasters, he does it with grace and without drama. I convinced him to include “disaster management” on his résumé more than a decade ago. He reluctantly agreed and since that time, Richard has never been without a job offer.

His reputation (brand) for managing effectively become known across the industry as the conversation rippled amongst the higher echelon.

Understanding what is important to the industry and then capturing it in a simple and effective way is how brands perform for you. This is what we did:

Old headline: “Technical Engineering Manager”

New headline: “Technical Engineering Manager with expertise in disaster and crisis management saving millions in avoided costs.”

The new headline is a branded statement that speaks for Richard when he is not in the room.

This headline causes his phone to ring non-stop.


So, we ask you again:

What is your brand?

Question

*Brand Storytelling—Jill Avery. 2019, 2020. Harvard Business School Publishing. President and Fellows of Harvard College.


Maureen Farmer

About executive resume writing author 

Westgate - Maureen Farmer

Maureen Farmer is the Founder & CEO of Westgate Executive Branding & Career Consulting Inc., an international personal branding and career consulting firm delivering premier executive branding and career consulting services for high-profile leaders. Author of The CEO Script Vault: Job Search Scripts for Busy Executives, Maureen believes that when we’re doing work aligned with our values, everyone wins. Using the law of attraction to identify quality employers utilizing the hidden job market is a cornerstone of her career management strategy.

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