Branding, according to Scott Bedbury, is the sum total of everything a company does, including the good, the bad and even the off strategy, that creates a context or an identity in a consumer’s mind. Personal branding is therefore the creation of an asset that pertains to a particular person or individual, including but not limited to the body, clothing, appearance and knowledge contained within, leading to an indelible impression that is uniquely distinguishable. This ultimately means that a brand is not a product but a promise and mark of trust
The most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart; if people believe they share values with a company, they stay loyal to its brand. Brands tell us or make us imagine how good or bad products are even if we have never used them before! Why do you prefer British Airways, KLM, Air France, etc. to any other airline when travelling? If you were to buy a car, why would you go for a Mercedes Benz, Volvo, Toyota or Honda, even when you have never driven one? Have you ever thought of why you seem to prefer a particular product or service to any other? As a customer, once you like a brand, you are bound to come back for repeated services or products because the quality of the service or product is part of your mental image of the brand. Branding allows you to make purchases in confidence while wasting less time on product selection.
As a Secretary, Legal Secretary, Legal PA, Legal Assistant, Executive Assistant or whatever your title, what is your personal brand? Each time your boss looks at you, what is it that goes on in his or her mind? What does he or she see? Do you project excellence, confidence and distinction? This is the reason some Secretaries are being tempted to look for substitute titles, but don’t you ever make the mistake of ignoring the fact that you are neither defined by your job title nor confined by your job description. Strong brands are not built in a day. It takes conscious effort, self-discipline and painstaking discharge of your duties for positioning, communication and operations to take place – these are the three key brand management principles. Positioning means determining what you really want your promise to be, communication is creating expectation in the customer’s mind of what your promise is and operations is delivering on the promise. As Secretaries, the organisations we work for are our consumers. What promise are you making to your organisation in terms of contributing to its growth within the scope of your job functions? How well are you doing your job? How is the organisation or employer taking your contribution? What impression have you been giving your employer about yourself and your noble profession? When observing you as a young Secretary, is your boss already seeing you as a potential PA? Is he already seeing some excellent qualities in you that qualify you for higher responsibilities? What impressions are you creating in the minds of the people you come in touch with on a daily basis?
I know our recent article “The Perfect Name” has put some of us on our mettle to strive for excellence. I also believe it will spark criticism in some quarters. However, I have come to discover that one of the reasons some Secretaries are not comfortable with the title is because they have not painstakingly built a personal brand for themselves. They don’t seem to understand that just as branding is a very powerful and integral component of business, so personal branding is inevitable for successes in all our endeavours.
I wish to correct the possible misconception some people may have had upon reading “The Perfect Name”. I am not saying that anyone is not free to go by whatever title he or she feels comfortable with or what obtains in the company where he or she works. We all work in organisations which have policies, job titles and hierarchies; hence we have no choice but to abide by these policies. However, the point therein is this: irrespective of your title, you should focus your attention on training and retraining yourself for greater responsibilities. The title you are called by today does not really matter compared with the one you will be called by tomorrow! What you will be called tomorrow is a function of what you are doing and can do today. Therefore, don’t ever feel inferior to anyone because you are a Secretary, because we have evidence of great achievers who began as Secretaries, and you are no exception. But it all depends on what you are doing now, what you can do and how you are going about it – definitely not on your job title. Consequently, despite the challenges you might be facing, consciously build a good brand for yourself and you will marvel at how far you can go in the near future.
Regardless of age or the position or business we might be in, we all need to appreciate the importance of branding, since we all have the chance to learn, improve and build up our skills to become a brand worthy of remark.
Just recently, a colleague of mine had issues with his boss that almost led to his sacking. When a senior member of staff intervened on his behalf, his boss was screaming at the top of his voice, “I am frustrated because my Secretary is not like the Efolis of this world!” I wasn’t there to witness the scenario, but a third party later made reference to it. Frankly speaking, I don’t really know what the Executive in question saw in me! But, one thing I know is this: if you are a trained Secretary, your life sparkles with something that makes you think! It might even be common sense, but quite unfortunately, common sense is not common.
I want to challenge Secretaries from all walks of life to see this as a clarion call to a personal rebranding process that will usher professional excellence, confidence and distinction into our noble profession. Once we get it right, not only will we be admired, but our noble profession will also be deservedly respected.
See you at the top!