March 14, 2016

Author: Jerry Brennan & James Butler  

Red Origami Bird in Front of Many Blue Origami Birds

The importance of one’s personal brand is of utmost consideration when seeking a new security management position. Stand out from the competition and be recognized by utilizing these strategies...

Personal branding is a consideration frequently overlooked by those who are seeking a career change or wanting to improve their upward mobility within their security organizations. Too often, it is misunderstood and seen as being self-aggrandising, egotistical or just shameless self-promotion. While there are ample examples of this, these reflect potentially poorly thought out and executed strategies when conducting a career search for new security job.

To start, branding is generally regarded as creating an image in someone’s view that involves the characteristics of a product or service. Ideally, structuring an impression of perceived value being better than competitors and/or associates creates an expectation as to what the product is. Examples could include Tesco – “Every little helps”, Starbucks, Costa or Nero – quality specialty coffee, the Apple logo – you immediate relate to iPhones, iPads or a Mac and leading edge technologies …there are many more we could add.

This also applies to people. Think about the way these people have branded themselves: Steve Jobs, Colin Powell, Mark Zuckerberg or numerous other corporate and political leaders. Branding yourself helps to define who you are, what you are about, and your reputation. It is a great way to associate great value with a product (that product being you!). Branding is not just about winning a job or promotion, it is being seen as a solution to a problem and being recognized as someone who can add value. Trust is essential, especially in the security industry. People want to work with, do business with, hire or promote people they know and feel good about.

Creating a brand allows you to associate value with your product (you!) There are many competing brands; you must position yourself so employers choose you by branding yourself – you’ll stand out, can be found and be recognized someone with expertise in your field. If you don’t brand yourself, someone else will do it for you.

As a starting point, we'd like to suggest nine steps to building your personal brand:

  1. Self-Reflection: Self-reflection will help you identify the tools you have and the areas you need to improve in order to acquire that new security management position. It is something that it is an ongoing, life long process and not something that you do only when you start out - then put on the shelf.

  2. Continuous Learning: It is imperative that you regularly benchmark your skills against others in the risk and security management field, and develop a plan to keep your skills on the cutting edge - lifelong learning is essential to building your brand. Add a Degree (majors/minors), participate in continuing education programs, attend security industry conferences and workshops and consider spending time with a mentor – this is a subject in itself.

  3. Prepare a Marketing Strategy: Prepare a mission statement that will set the direction of where you want your brand to go. Keep this to no more than two or three sentences, or about 30 words. Create a vision statement stating how and what specific tactics and methods you will use. Develop a marketing plan on how you will communicate your value. Volunteer, speak, write and help people.

  4. Build a Relationships Network: Defined in the dictionary as: a group of people who exchange
    information, connections and experiences for professional or social purposes. This is an extremely powerful tool. Keep in touch with your network. Make sure your network knows of any recent successes, without coming across as being pretentious and egotistical. Find opportunities to weave your personal mission/vision statements into conversation with your network.

  5. Prepare Marketing Pieces & Message: This refers to the letters, resumes and inquires that you prepare in response to a position. This also includes: cover letters, articles, research topics and your biography. Consider how you will incorporate your mission/vision into your promotional pieces and how and where you will distribute these.

  6. Deliver your Message: Opportunities to deliver your message vary from informal settings, emails, conversations, formal presentations, interviews, meetings, comments on blogs and interest groups. Remember to dress appropriately and professionally as appearance is a key part of your packaging and sets a tone. How you present yourself, speak, respond to blogs & emails all have an impact, as do the photos you post or share online.

  7. Follow up: Good follow-up communication assists in creating a positive association with your brand. It conveys the impression that you are consistent, reliable and that you get back to people. Return calls as soon as possible (this establishes trust); Respond to all requests (shows responsibility); Write a thank you note after an interview (associates courtesy with your work) or in appreciation for something someone has done for you; Write acceptance/decline letters upon being offered a job. Keep in touch with your network.

  8. Technology: Create a presence, build a website and get your name out there. When setting up your public profiles, remember this is setting the tone, look and feel of your brand.  Other ideas include commenting on other people's blogs, write some articles, go to industry meetings, conventions and events, and make contacts in your field. This ties in with your message strategy. Be sure that all your endeavors are focused and relevant to both your skills and your career goals.

  9. Metrics: Don’t shy away from looking yourself up online via search engines, LinkedIn profile stats, Google alerts or using any of a variety of tools available. Like any product launch, you need to see if it can be found and the perceptions of potential customers.

Creating a brand allows you to associate value with your product (you!) There are many competing brands…you must position yourself so employers choose you by branding yourself – you’ll stand out, can be found and be recognized someone with expertise in your field. If you don’t brand yourself, someone else will do it for you.

NOTE:  A earlier version of this article appeared in "City Security Magazine", Issue 58 - Winter 2015/16.