Brand Yourself: The Psychology of Consistency and Keywords

Brand YourselfThe process of creating your professional reputation takes time, but not necessarily effort. Regardless of whether you approach it mindfully, eventually your colleagues and managers will have a specific idea of who you represent as a working professional. Your performance and actions will certainly inform that image to a large extent. You can also consciously decide to shape your reputation through self-branding exercises. One specific tactic to use is a consistent set of personal brand keywords.

Using personal brand keywords is a little different from making others explicitly aware of your interests. This is more about associating yourself with certain words or concepts in a less obvious way. This means being thoughtful about the words you use to describe yourself and your work in emails, performance reviews, and corporate bios, not to mention meetings and office conversations.

A first step is to think about the professional reputation you want to cultivate. How would you describe your ideal work self? Come up with a list of words that either describe you or the type of work you can do. Some options might include:

  • Strategic
  • Thoughtful
  • Behavior change (one I use, as a psychologist working in a non-traditional environment)
  • Holistic
  • Diligence
  • Analytical
  • Creative

Once you’ve determined the keywords related to your personal brand, start using them! Some examples include:

  • Describing work you’ve already done: “Attached find a quick strategic analysis document . . .”
  • Characterizing tasks you will do: “I’ll work on a strategy for how to handle the content and get that back to the team.”
  • Introducing yourself in client meetings: “I work on strategic initiatives around . . . “
  • Asking questions: “I’m interested in the strategy here. What factors influenced your recommendation on slide 11?”

One Forbes article on self-promotion at work calls this tactic “drop ins.” The idea is that you pick a set of personal branding keywords to “drop in” to conversation as frequently as you can. Once people hear you use a word like “strategic” or “design” or “integration” often enough, they begin to associate the term with you and your skills.

The nice thing about this particular branding tactic is that it doesn’t feel braggy or uncomfortable if you are not used to self-promotion. It’s easy to use, and while subtle, can gradually shift people’s perceptions of your professional image.