‘Getting to great means knowing who you are, what you stand for and why…then communicating your brand across everything you do visually, verbally and behaviourally’.
Dan Ratner, CEO of uberbrand, a leading Australian brand agency, provided the above insight at ProductCamp Sydney in 2013, when we were discussing the importance of Brand to drive product success. He was referring to the company and product’s brand but this insight can apply to Product Managers managing their own personal brands.
In Part 1 of this series, we shared 8 reasons why it is important for Product Managers to manage their personal brand. This article, Part 2, stresses the consequences of not managing your personal brand, and the 6 steps to creating your own brand, to ensure that you can align your stellar professional performance with people’s positive perceptions of you.
Whilst developing your personal brand may not seem an urgent matter, amongst product launch activities and dealing with customer problems, there are much wider ramifications for Product Managers who do not consciously build their personal brand within their organisation.
Many Product Managers I’ve worked with are great at what their do – they are smart, professional, committed, understand both their market and their organisation’s goals – on the surface, they appear to be performing their roles as one would expect.
However there is a fundamental problem that keeps cropping up – some of these Product Managers’ biggest gripe is that no matter how hard they try, they don’t command the high levels of respect from their senior stakeholders that one would expect them to have.
From time to time, we come across the unfortunate scenario where diligent Product Management Teams are poorly misunderstood by their peers as there is confusion over what their role is and how they can add strategic value. This is both an individual and team issue, as the lack of stakeholder support hampers their ability to getting products out to market faster, and it potentially jeopardises their prospects to be promoted internally.
One of the sad underlying issues of Product Management is that its role and true strategic value is not always well understood by other parts of the organisation, including the Chief Executive level. So if an individual is identified as being part of a functional group that is perceived poorly, even those stellar performing Product Managers who may be quietly exceeding their Product KPIs, still appear to have poor personal brands. When it comes down to it, it’s not that these Product Managers are lacking in the attributes, skills and experience. They may well be creating exceptional customer experiences that are also commercial viable. Their brand challenge stems from not realising that the crucial element to their personal success is the alignment of the delivery of their job outcomes against other people’s perception. It is important to clearly set expectations of what their role as a Product Manager is on the outset, and ultimately perform against the promise that have intrinsically made.
Here’s a step by step guide as to how you may build your personal brand as a Product Manager:
Step 1 – Paint a Self-Portrait of Who You Are
The obvious starting point to building your personal brand strategy is to understand your personal makeup of what makes you a good Product Manager. Consider what your personal brand attributes may be, including your abilities, past achievements, traits as a Product Manager, industry experience, values, as well as other things that drive your passions and interests outside of work.
Step 2 – Peel Back The Layers Of Paint On Your Self-Portrait: What Drives You?
The next thing to understand is what you stand for and why? It is more than understanding your role in your organisation. It goes beyond activities you carry out on a daily basis. It is about the motivational reasons that drive what you do. Ask yourself if it is about creating customer experiences that your customers LOVE. Is it about loving technology and focusing on building the best technical features in your product?
Step 3 – Do a Gallery Walk-through of Your Product Management Peers’ Portraits
As we all know, developing a brand is also about understanding the competitive environment. Visualise all the Product Professionals you know and identify what makes you outstanding amongst the crowd, and also what could make you even more attractive in the eyes of your manager and stakeholders.
Step 4 – How Do You Want To Be Seen By Your Network?
Identify the gaps between what you are known for now, and how you want to be perceived in the near term and further down the track. Consider your Product Management Career Plan.
There may be actual, or just perceived experience/skills gaps that need to be filled. You may well have the attributes, experience or skills, but do you have anything to show that others can visible see and acknowledge you for?
Step 5 – Who Is Your Target Market?
Consider who is your target audience for communicating your personal brand to. Are they people within your existing company or perhaps in a different industry that you would like to enter? Are they in Product Management? Are there gaps between what you currently have to offer and what those in your target audience admire? Research what they value.
People within your network and just outside are the ones who have the power to direct and amplify your message to your key stakeholders. Map out who already supports you in your network and also scope out your secondary network. These are people who are once or twice removed from you in your network, who could be readily turned into your supporters and advocates if they learned more about your contributions and achievements.
Step 6 – Schedule Your Personal Brand Activities
Like any Communications Plan, the frequency of your brand activities is also important in building your personal brand in the eyes of your target audience. Try to schedule activities to build your brand throughout the year. You may schedule in specific networking events, set deadlines as to when you will publish that next blog or when you will deliver a presentation, so that there is a regular flow of booked activity with outcomes that ultimately help amplify your personal brand.
Step 7 – Revisit Your Brand Plan On A Regular Basis
As you progress with your Brand Plan, gauge your work and industry environment, as well as your career aspirations. As the environment will continue to change its landscape with new methodologies, skills requirements and expectations of your role, you need to ensure that you stay relevant and on track with how you are perceived by your network.
Along with building great products that both your customers and stakeholders love, make it a priority this year, to build your personal brand. If you are going to put the hard work into building great products, put that little extra work into ensuring that you are known and acknowledged for all your great product work and industry knowledge.