Personal branding is the process by which we market ourselves to others. You already have a personal brand whether you know it or not, so you might as well manage it. Positive branding requires an active effort. As a legal professional, you want to be regarded as an expert in the legal field. Branding can dramatically increase your influence, your credibility, your ability to secure clients and other benefits. To brand yourself you merely have to amplify the strong characteristics you already have.
I know an attorney that is an avid cyclist and also loves to wear novelty socks. On his law firm social media account, he not only posts his firm’s achievements, but every now and then, he will post a photo from one of his rides or a photo of the playful socks he is wearing that day. These lighthearted postings make him stand out from the crowd. Most law firms post all the wonderful work their attorneys have done, but many of those posts are not memorable. I am, however, entertained by the novelty socks and look forward to seeing what whacky pattern he will wear next. People will remember this attorney, not only because of all the superb legal work he does, but also because he shares part of who he is, allowing his personality to shine through. Those postings put him at the top of people’s minds and they are more likely to hire him when they need an attorney. His personal brand is creating opportunities for him.
Personal branding is more than having a good reputation; it is about distinguishing yourself from others. You must actively promote yourself so that you are uppermost in potential clients’ minds when they need an attorney. Your goal is to leave a memorable mark after every interaction. Everyone has their own story to tell, so you need to determine what will make you stand out.
For a personal brand to be effective, it must be authentic. We cannot all post about our zany socks. Imitating someone else weakens your brand. A great way to be authentic is to tell your unique story. As law students we are all taught in school how we should tell a story when we write briefs and try cases because people connect with them. Carry that lesson over into your branding.
Work on your personal branding so when people ask what you do for a living, you answer with a compelling story, not just merely your job title. For example, when someone asks what you do, you might say, “I am a personal injury attorney.” Or, you could say, “I am a personal injury attorney and an avid cyclist. Because of my passion for cycling, I represent many bicyclists that are injured in accidents. I also give bicycle safety lectures throughout California.” The second introduction is more compelling because it tells a story and piques one’s curiosity. From client pitches, to bios, to social media postings, expressing your brand as a story will help build something people care about, can relate to and want to associate with.
Additionally, consider the various messages you are sending and how you can showcase your brand to your advantage. You only have a few seconds when you meet someone before they form an opinion of you. What visual components does the other person see? Consider your facial expressions, your clothing style, your personal grooming, and your colors. Should you wear a power color today, like black or dark blue? Some people might decide they need an image consultant to help them out. One thing you should definitely do, and it doesn’t cost a thing, is to smile. Smiles attract people and they impact your attitude. Best of all, a smile is contagious, so you get good vibes sent back your way.
Also, do not forget the auditory components such as your speaking style and word choice. Do you always use big words when more common words might do? Do you end sentences as a question so you sound unsure about yourself? If you have a speech pattern that needs changing, consider hiring a voice coach, or join Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills and build up your confidence for your next client presentations. Maybe you could progressively build up your courage to offer CLE presentations and thus enhance your name and your personal brand.
Whatever you do, you are your best advocate. Be polished, be professional, and project an image synonymous with success.