Me.Brand – Step 2: Talking The Walk

(Part 2 in a series on Personal Branding – catch Part 1 Here)

What's that? YOU'RE from IT? Say, you don't look or sound like those other IT folk! You dress sharp. You seem to actually know a lot about the business. I see you walking the halls all the time – what do you do anyway?
Moments like this happen all the time. They can happen in the office, at a party or function, at a conference – really anywhere. I call them your M&M – your Marketing Moments. These are your chances to both build on and extend the reach of your personal brand. The problem is all too often we fail to recognize these opportunities when they happen to us. In some cases, we may even avoid the opportunity to engage, rather than embrace it. Here's a question for you. You are attending a tech conference of some kind. You arrive early, register, pick up your badge and head for some coffee and see what goodies they might be serving. The room is full of tech folk, just like you. You look around. Do you try to find someone you recognize, and if not successful, just take a seat and keep to yourself? Or do you have a plan? Let's say you're an IT Project Manager at your day job. If roles are included on the name tags do you seek out peers, perhaps at companies you are interested in and do some networking? Do you look for IT Directors and Managers and try to make a good impression? Do you have business cards handy to give out? What's that? You're not working right now? Even better – do you have networking cards to hand out? Are you making sure your name tag hasn't flipped itself around to hide your name and title? Are you working the floor or just thumbing your blackberry trying to look busy.
I know what you're thinking. You've got a pre-conceived notion in your mind of “those people” who work the floor in ways which I just described. That slimy salesman metaphor – one that trolls around pretending to be something they are not, wanting to be your friend – maybe smelling like they took a bath in cheap cologne. Speaking louder than they have to – throwing business cards to everyone they see. Clearly not whom they appear to be. That is not what I are talking about.
Be Yourself – Passion Drives Brand!
After completing the exercise we talked about in Step 1: Who Are You?, you've done some thinking about what it is that truly distinguishes you from the competition. You have always had a sense of where you want to go next from a career perspective, and you are confident you have all the required skills and competencies to get you there. And, most important – you love what you do. In my case, I am passionate about Making IT Work. Whether it's leading a project team, supporting a change management campaign or rolling out a new organization structure that better meets the needs of the business – the central theme is always one of Making IT Work.
Now, having long moved from individual contributor to senior leader, I rarely get anything done alone. I work with great people – some who report directly to me, and many others who do not. My stories evolve over time – the things I choose to say, to whom I say them also change. What doesn't change is the importance to always be true to yourself, true to your brand – and then make sure everyone around you understand what that brand is. The only way you can make sure that message is crisp and consistent is to practice it. What's that? You mean memorize? Quite frankly, yes. Won't that sound rehearsed? In the beginning, sure. But that's where the practicing comes in.
Elevator Speech
In my series covering change management and the Kotter change model, I touched on the topic of theelevator speech. Regardless of size of team or project I lead, one of the “must have” outputs when planning our project is an elevator speech. In the context of teams and projects, it serves as a communication vehicle so that everyone “outside” of the team knows some specific key facts about the project in question:
– The reason Why this project or team exists
Where in the project life cycle is the project now
Who is on the team
What is the project delivering and/or has delivered
– When will the project be ending, or the next key milestone delivered
Similarly when it comes to your personal brand elevator speech, you will want to make sure you tailor your messaging accordingly to reflect what it is about you that is important to communicate. A guideline might consist of:
Who you are, what you do
What is unique about you, your product or your skills that creates value
What are you currently working towards – i.e next role, next certification, next project
Where have you worked, or been successful – e.g. industries, verticals, company types
I don't suggest you walk down the street practicing your elevator speech, but there are many opportunities that you can leverage that offer some privacy – that could be in the shower (on those days off where you aren't singing), in the car on the way to the office or back – the trick is you need to say it out loud. It's important to hear your voice and get comfortable with the delivery of your ME.Brand. Over time you will find yourself drawing on your elevator speech pitch effortlessly.
Your Online ME.Brand
Self-Googling. We've all done it. This activity has moved beyond being merely a habit of the vain and techo-nerd. Everyone is doing it, and prospective employers and recruiters are at the top of the list. What comes up on Google, your LinkedIn page – what you might be saying on Twitter. This all contributes to providing a sense of what is your buzz– prior to the online element of reputation management being so pervasive, MBA students were well trained on the importance of managing their buzz– think of buzz as being that which is left in your wake. When you're not around, and people mention your name, what comes to their mind? What box do they put you in? Strategist or Detail oriented? Leader or follower? Deep Thinker or hyper-active techie? I'll devote a future post on the topic of online branding, and focus on LinkedIn as where you should build your ME.Brand online “mission control”.
So, “Joe IT”, Who Are You
Right now, from this moment, you will start thinking of yourself differently. No longer will you introduce yourself as “Project Manager at GE” or “IT Director at XYZ”. Are you a job title? Does your job or company define who YOU are? Is that what you want people to remember first about you?? Where you work and your title?
YOU are as much a brand as Starbucks, Apple, Nike or GE. Your first or two sentences from your elevator speech should define exactly what you want your brand to represent. Leave job title, place of work and anything that isn't YOU out of if. That is not to say you shouldn't be proud of who you work for – I've worked for some great companies where everything from the corporate mission statement to their culture and talent they would attract were great motivators and engagement levers for me. The point is, where you work doesn't define you – so don't lead with that. If people forget where you work or your job title, that's one thing. If they can't recall what it is you do best, and how you create value, that's an issue. It will be YOU and yourME.Brand that strikes a spark in someone's memory when they hear about an opportunity or are asked if they “know anybody”. That's the lasting memory you want to make sure is left in the absence of your presence.
Who Is Pedro Cardoso?
You might ask what my ME.Brand is. One thing to keep in mind is that, just like the Project Charter, your ME.Brand is a living document, constantly evolving…

“…I'm a senior IT business leader with a proven track record of aligning people, process and technology to drive growth and support innovation….Making IT Work isn't just what I do, it's my passion.”
“…I'm a senior IT business leader specializing in Making IT Work – with a proven track record of aligning people, process and technology to drive growth and support innovation….”
“…I'm a senior IT business leader specializing in Project, Change and Talent Management. Making IT Work is what I do best, with a proven track record of aligning people, process and technology to drive growth and support innovation….”
“…I'm an IT professional who excels at solving business problems by Making IT Work…”
Above are four variations on my ME.Brand marketing statement. Which I would use would depend on the audience, setting and goal of my engagement. In an interview setting, or formal introductory setting you want to be more formal and specific with your branding statement. In a more casual or less formal setting, you may not want to lead with a “fully loaded” statement of self-definition branding power.
So what's your ME.Brand statement? Share with us here or drop me an email at pedrocardoso[email protected] If I get enough submissions, and with permission, I'll post them up in a future blog post. In my next post, I'll talk about Walking The Talk – looking for those opportunities and situations to consider communicating your ME.Brand so it doesn't become “another thing to do”, but simply something you do as you go about Making IT Work….Join me next post and follow me on twitter now. Your IT career will benefit from the experience, I guarantee it!
Pedro (drop me a line on LinkedIn)

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