Brand and reputation, are they the same thing? By Mike O’Sullivan

No, they are distinctly different. Brand is what you aim for, reputation is what you get!

I recently posted this on LinkedIn:

Within a very short time the post had received 13,600 views, 59 likes and 9 comments. While not viral it does indicate a lot of interest in the recruitment process. In this case the interviewee would have been establishing their brand and reputation via their social media presence, somewhat unwittingly, with someone who they would end up being interviewed for a position by!

This kind of situation is not uncommon and with the explosive growth in social media personal branding has never been more important!

Even the way that you go about applying for a position can add to, or detract from, your brand and reputation.

We asked Peter French of SSR Personnel for his insights into common pitfalls to avoid when applying for a position:

  • Just referring HR to your LinkedIn profile, forgetting that we can see other social media channels as well, also for most roles a series of previously performed job titles will not suffice
  • Not fully understanding your own career aspirations
  • Understand the firm that is recruiting hence if there is an agent ask them
  • If possible, send to the right contact / consultant for your job function
  • Have a professional / straightforward email address for job applications, i.e. no Fluffy_Dice@hotmail.com
  • Think about whether you would relocate, salary expectations etc

Not to put too fine a point on it if a position is worth applying for, its worth investing the energy into applying for it properly. A lot of otherwise good candidates never get through the door because they lead with a poor CV and expecting the employing company to follow up if they want more information.

Your CV is of course only part of the process, but it can tell a potential employer a lot about you, over and above the words on the page!

My own introduction to person branding happened at the very start of my career so taking it into consideration and working to maintain it is second nature to me.

When I first left the military, I was fortunate enough to be able to join a group of likeminded writers, people who were commercially minded and were, already had or wanted to earn an income from their efforts.

Well before the concept of personal branding became a thing, writers were aware of its importance. After all a writer is defined by their work! Their work becomes their brand. One member of the group wrote short horror stories. When they wanted to write a romance novel, they had to do so under a pen name, because their brand, what was expected of them, was horror shorts!

This is where reputation comes in – it’s different from your brand because it is broadly other people’s opinion of your brand. My writer colleague above had a reputation for writing good horror stories, with unexpected twists!

Whereas a brand is a brand is a brand, your reputation can change, it can be different among different groups. If your brand changes, it’s because you decided to make those changes. If your reputation changes it can be for a whole range of reasons, possibly outside your own control.

The interesting thing about reputation tough, is that you can use your brand to enhance it!

There, clear as mud!

Okay, my personal take on all of this!

What do you need to be considered a suitable person (we are talking about personal branding) to do what you do professionally?

In the security industry we might suggest:

  • Professional
  • Honest
  • Mature
  • Consistent
  • Well informed
  • Open to debate
  • Receptive to constructive criticism
  • Willing to learn
  • Work well with others
  • Share knowledge
  • Good communicator

and so on…

If you exemplify the above you establish your brand, and your reputation will take care of itself!

And in the slightly convoluted style of this article what might your brand be? Read the preceding piece about the importance of Niche first if you have skipped it, it will help put this set of examples in context!

Some recent examples of colleagues in the industry setting out to establish a personal brand spring to mind:

  • Physical security specialist
  • Fire safety expert
  • Journalist
  • Commentator
  • Blogger
  • Author (technical, so manuals reports)

And so on…

Going back to my group of likeminded writers above – my personal mentor in the group told me that your brand was what you worked for, your reputation was what you ended up with.

Her best advice? You can’t approach your professional life half hearted; you must be committed to putting the work in. It was from my mentor that I learned one of the most important lessons:

The only place that success comes before work? In a dictionary!

If most of the bullet point list above describes your personal traits then the chances are that your only challenge with your personal brand is making sure that other people are aware of it…

Mike O’Sullivan