There’s a lot out there about the importance of personal branding.
But what happens when you’ve created an entire brand that’s off-brand?
It can happen all too easily. You can tell it's happening if you or your business are consistently being approached to do work you don't want to do, or work that is not related to the kind of work you do.
Here's a fictitious example. Sonja is an independent consultant who advises businesses on how to make their HR processes more efficient. Yet she’s become known for her business tips for independent consultants, things like which invoicing apps to use, how to efficiently track time, and how to write great client proposals.
It’s gotten to the point where when she meets people, they ask her questions like whether she prefers invoicing with FreshBooks or Wave Apps, and nothing about HR.
This is a problem for Sonja, because it is her expertise on HR that offers real value to clients.
Before yanking the brand back to where it belongs, it’s important to ask: why is my brand off-brand?
There are many possible reasons a brand can wander, including:
• imposter syndrome. Sonja is nervous that publicly speaking about HR processes will reveal she's not truly an expert. She feels like a fraud, and is more comfortable talking about topics where she doesn’t have to prove she knows it well enough to be be worth paying for her expertise.
• concerns about intellectual property. Sonja doesn't want to give her HR know-how for free because she’s concerned others, including competitors, will use it without hiring her.
• unreflectively jumping on an opportunity that arose. Sonja wrote one popular blog post comparing FreshBooks and WaveApps, and it was easy to build an entire community around these kinds of topics.
• strong association with another brand. Sonja once worked in HR at FreshBooks, and now that association with FreshBooks is overshadowing her HR expertise.
It is crucial to identify the reasons a brand has gone off-brand, so the root causes can be properly addressed.
If imposter syndrome is the problem, perhaps business or life coaching can offer the solution. Yet coaching won’t be any help if the real problem is Sonja is so concerned about intellectual property theft she doesn’t provide any proof to prospective clients that she has the HR expertise they need.
Sometimes, asking "why?" can identify a market need that you are uniquely positioned to fill. Perhaps there are many HR consultants, but no one offering consulting to consultants. (Though the idea of a "consulting consultant" seems a bit beyond the pale, doesn't it?)
If you or your business are consistently approached to do work that doesn’t interest you, or is not even related to the type of work you do, your brand may have gone off-brand.
Take a moment to ask yourself why before you begin the process of getting your brand back on track. It will point you in the right direction so your brand doesn’t run off on you again.