Developing my personal brand

At Posse, we’re launching a major branding exercise.  I’ve led the development process of many brands before, and when we merged with Beat the Q we agreed that the new super-app would launch with a new brand.

We’ve re-branded Posse twice, and in my music management life I helped create brands for all of our artists.  George, Evermore, Lisa Mitchell, Operator Please and all the others went through the same process of defining their brand values and guidelines as a company does.

Taking time to think through and create a brand is an important exercise.  The end result produces a detailed ‘brand book’ that defines the product, what it stands for, its core values, mission and guidelines for how it should be presented.

In music, every song, stage show, tour poster, interview or Facebook page would reflect the brand guidelines.  In business, the brand book is vital because it ensures the whole team stays true to the mission, values and personality of the brand.

Each new-year and summer, I like to reflect on personal stuff.  Where am I going in life?  What will I focus on this year?  All the stuff everyone thinks about when they get some time away from the office.

The title of this post is ‘Developing my personal brand’.  You may have been expecting that I’d dish out advice on how to build your Twitter Followers or line-up speaking engagements.  There’s a million books on that stuff.

To me, a personal brand is much more than that.

I often write blog posts about the mistakes I make.  So, one format runs like, “Last week I messed up this or that, and here’s what I learned.”  This time I’m sharing something I got right and how it’s helped shape me.

Seven years ago I decided to create a brand book for myself.   I was 29 years old staring down the scary tunnel of adulthood.  I took myself on a hiking holiday alone in Indonesia for two weeks to work out what the next 30 years were going to be about.

I’d been thinking a lot about religion at that time.  I was brought up as a Christian and went to Sunday School each week.  I still called myself Christian – not because I actually believed in heaven and hell and all the stories.  More because saying I was Christian told people that I believed in something bigger than me and signaled I adhered to a set of values – most of which appealed to me.  By subscribing to their ‘brand’, I didn’t have to explain myself.

I figured that now I was about to turn 30, it was time to give my beliefs more consideration.  I attended a range of Sydney churches, read-up on Eastern religions and went to a Buddhist retreat.  I met with some Sikhs as I liked some of their ideas.  There were aspects of each religion that resonated with me – including Christianity – but none that I could fully subscribe to.

It occurred to me that I wasn’t looking to religion because I wanted to be part of a group.  I was looking to religion because they’d already written brand books that defined who they were and how they should live.  I thought I could take on someone else’s mission and guidelines and adopt them as my own.

But I couldn’t.  I am unique and no-one can simply borrow another’s brand book — just like a company couldn’t.   I’d have to write my own.  I’d been through the process in business many times before: it seemed crazy that I’d invested a fortune in time and energy creating brand values and guidelines for every product I’d developed but never done it for myself.

For the next six months I wrote in my brand book every night, filling a moleskin notebook from start to finish.  I started by thinking about ‘Who am I really?’  What are my values?  What is important?  What are my beliefs?  How do I want to live?

It’s important to note that the book was not a set of goals.  There’s nothing about securing financial independence or reaching a career target.  It’s much deeper than that.  As with the brand book we created for our companies, I defined my mission, core values and guidelines.

I spent many hours contemplating all aspects of the book.  I wrote about what I believe is within my control (levers for acceleration and integrity) and what’s not.  The book became my personal version of a ‘bible’ that I’d read everyday as a handbook for life.  And unlike a religious scripture, I agree with every word because I wrote it.

At first, I’d refer to my brand book every time I made a decision.  Career choices like, should I take this opportunity?  Should I work with that person?  And personal conduct featured as well: how should I handle myself in this dispute?  Prioritize health and exercise?  How do I present myself – speak, what should I wear?  The answers were all in the book.

I no longer read my brand book every day because I know the content well, but I refer to it from time to time.  If I ever wonder off brand it’s obvious to me and everyone around me.  My brand book is particularly useful at Christmas time when I reflect on the year past and plan for the future.  As I think about my priorities for the year, it helps ground me in my values and mission.

If you haven’t thought about creating a personal brand book before, then I’d recommend it as a powerful exercise.  Before writing it, I felt as if I floated without a fixed guide.  The process of reflecting deeply on who I was, what I stood for and how I presented to the world helped me solidify a bunch of ideas in my head.  It gave me clear direction and, much like religion, a sense of security in always having a reference to go to.