Are You a Monster or a Resource? Transform your brand from company cop into valuable resource.
Have you ever wondered why you get perceived as the “bad guy” when you’re in human resources to help people? Have you ever wondered why some employees view you with doubt and skepticism? Have you ever walked into the break room to find conversations ending and nervous glances coming from the corners of your coworkers’ eyes?
The title of “office cop” has become an unfortunate brand identity for the vast majority of human resources professionals. Unfortunately, the preconceived notions and stereotypes rampant in the industry don’t help you accomplish your job. No one goes to college to be a PC policeman – I mean PC policeperson.
Creating a Better Workplace
The brand you’ve been handed doesn’t improve your job satisfaction and may ironically create an uncomfortable work environment. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Instead of accepting the negative identity you’ve been handed, you can take your personal strengths and create a new, unique identity that will make you more effective professionally and make you happier in your job.
It’s called Personal Branding. Dynamic human resources professionals are working to break out of the mold and revolutionize their career field. By communicating their roles as facilitators and helpers, they provide better services to clients and improve their work environments. The process requires some work, and occasionally some deprogramming – but in the end the brand you develop is a better fit for your professional objectives, and will make each day more rewarding.
Put You First
Because the very letters “HR” can immediately turn off fellow professionals, the first step to improving your career requires that you stand on your own. You must think about your personal strengths, weaknesses and character traits. You have to look at yourself and see how you break the stereotypes that people might associate with your field. Knowing your audience empowers you to draw commonalities and promote your personality before your job title.
Then, at orientations, briefs, training sessions, and other events, you can promote yourself and the agenda that are the foundation of your brand. Daily, you can look for ways where you can stand out as a unique, valuable asset to members of your organization. You then work to present a consistent Personal Brand that fights stereotypes and fills a beneficial position in the hearts and minds of your fellow employees.
There’s nothing stopping you from building a Personal Brand identity that’s as effective as Charles Schwab, Oprah Winfrey, or Michael Jordan, on a smaller scale. You can be an in-house celebrity. The fundamental principles that you must follow in building your Personal Brand are:
• Differentiate yourself. Schwab and others started out by hanging their marketing hats on an attribute or characteristic that made them different from their competitors. As a HR professional, you can highlight your drive to help people succeed, your personable approach, the level of service you wish to provide, or your expertise in a certain facet. Pick something that sets you apart from others and begin there.
• Create a position. Your position is the place you occupy in the minds of your prospects. Decide what position suits your background, abilities and audience, then focus on building your brand identity around driving that position home.
• Consistent and persistent. Once you’ve determined your position and your differentiator, create your brand by advertising yourself—over and over. Newsletters, memos, speaking engagements, meetings, office functions, company websites—use any medium available to communicate your name, your identity and your message to the target audience.
• Customize your services. Once you’ve built your brand, begin changing – evolving – your service style, attitude and approach to fit your identity. If you preach personalized services, you need to qualify your identity by promising to offer a specified amount of one-on-one time with coworkers. If you talk about your commitment to improving employees, start a program that helps them.
Branding in Action
The stereotype of “company cop” isn’t career specific to Human Resources. James McDonald, a security guard company owner in California’s Inland Empire, had been having a difficult time developing a positive reputation at the businesses where he had posted security guards. The employees at the businesses he represented regarded his guards as “wannabe cops.” “They thought protection services was a joke,” said McDonald. “Our accounts were shrinking and we were constantly turning over our guards.”
McDonald needed to change the way he was doing business. One of his guards suggested he change the way he does business. People didn’t respect the guards because they didn’t know them and they didn’t understand their capabilities. Because the guards weren’t respected, their morale was low and their performance suffered. It was a vicious circle. McDonald had read a column in an entrepreneur publication about Personal Branding. He started introducing his guards to company executives. He improved their uniforms and encouraged them to learn the first names of the people who came and went during their shifts. In direct contrast to industry standards, McDonald increased his guards’ salaries and spent more on training.
“It seemed so basic, but once the guards had turned a corner in their behavior and interacted more with our clients, their value to company owners, performance, and morale soared,” said McDonald. “They weren’t faceless, unwanted ‘rent-a-cops.’ They were valuable members of the team who greeted people on their way into work.” As a result of Personal Branding training, McDonald had improved his workforce and positioned his company as a resource for quality security professionals. Over the course of 12 months, the company was awarded four new contracts – increasing their business by 25%. The company was able to increase the amount they charged clients because they stood above the competition.
A Single, Powerful Idea
Combine a personal connection with a memorable slogan and you’ve got something. A slogan is a single, powerful phrase that captures the essence of your position, your personality, and your services. Slogans like “Just Do It,” “Don’t Leave Home Without It,” and “The Ultimate Driving Machine” have become part of popular culture, showing the power of a memorable slogan.
In creating a slogan for your profession, focus on a simple, concise statement that captures you as a person. You don’t have to necessarily use your personal slogan on your resume, but you should use it to focus your behavior and to maintain a consistent identity. You could think of your slogan as a positioning statement – a sentence or two that sets you apart from other people in your field and makes you a valuable asset to your boss and the people around you. One of the core principles of Personal Branding is making your message unique to you, and for that you need a unique slogan and approach to promoting your identity.
The Master Plan
A thorough personal marketing plan is the first step in any successful marketing program. Sadly, it’s a step a lot of professionals ignore. A marketing plan takes time to create and revise, and that’s time that many busy professionals simply won’t invest. If you want to brand yourself properly and focus your Personal Branding efforts wisely, invest the time as carefully as you invest in any other important facet of your business.
Some elements of a useful marketing plan:
• Budget. How much are you going to spend on your Personal Branding campaign? It’s shocking how many people create a plan without any coherent idea of what they’ll be spending. Look at your marketing budget as a percentage of your total income, and plan on spending a healthy amount to improve, maintain and promote your Personal Brand. Everything you do or say communicates your Personal Brand – for better or worse. The way you dress, walk, talk, react, interact – everything you do sends a message to your coworkers and employer. Develop a budget to adequately handle direct and indirect Personal Branding.
• Strategy. What are your goals? What is your time frame? Who are your competitors, and where are they failing to meet the needs of your target audience? The answers will help you determine a strategy. The broad plans you have for your business; the growth goals, where you’d like to be in five years, and so on. List them as specifically as possible and then outline how you’ll get there. If you’re sick of being seen as Corporate Gestapo, you’re going to have to have a strategy to change your identity.
• Tactics. Would a personal website help people get to know you better as a person? What about a brochure? It might sound crazy at first, but imagine what influence you could have if you actually developed a Personal Branding campaign. If that seems over the top, think about the resources you have available – company wide e-mails, newsletters, employee websites … know what tools you have that can help you promote your Personal Brand. Evaluate each marketing channel at your disposal and focus your efforts to make a difference.
Some people think that a marketing plan is for those who are already successful. In reality, it’s what people do to become successful.
Marketing Always Has an Effect
The trouble you’ll take in creating a marketing plan, developing your position and promoting your Personal Brand is well worth it for one big reason: marketing is never without effect. It either enhances your image or makes you look ridiculous. Proper Personal Branding, given a year to work its magic, will turn you into a brand that endures even when you have to make the tough decisions that can make you unpopular amongst your coworkers.
For more about how personal branding can help your career prospects, be sure to check out one of my career books!