Whether you realize it or not, you’re a brand. Your brand is your persona, and if yours isn’t great, it could be costing you opportunities, says Charles Koppelman, CEO of CAK Entertainment, a brand management agency with clients that include Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Adam Levine, Nicki Minaj, and Wendy Williams.
“In business, it’s vital to have a positive personal brand that speaks to who you are,” says Koppelman, who is the former chairman and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. “Your brand is what you want people to think about you when you leave them.”
A personal brand should be authentic and natural: “Someone should be able to spend five minutes talking to you, and after that conversation, have an impression of what your personal brand is,” Koppelman says. “They should walk away thinking, ‘This guy is friendly’ or ‘This woman is a lot of fun.’ They should know who you are, and if they want to speak to you again.”
While your brand is built over time, it can become difficult to change, making it important to identify and align your brand with your goals. While building a positive personal brand comes easily to some people, others will have to work at it. Here are seven traits that contribute to your personal brand, and what you should know about each:
Develop a persona that is reachable, says Koppelman. “Always answer the phone–it’s an unusual trait,” he says. “If you don’t, you may never know what the person wants.”
When people know you always answer your emails and phone calls, opportunities will come more frequently, he says.
Always put your best self forward, says Koppelman, even if you don’t feel like it.
“This is important in good times and in bad,” he says. “The truth is, no one else cares about your problems, they care about a solution to whatever they need. Always present your best self.”
The truth comes out at the end of the day, and Koppelman believes it’s important to be honest, even when it’s easier not to. “A lot of people don’t stick to the truth; they say what the other person wants to hear,” he says.
Loyalty is another element of integrity. “Being honest and loyal helps you build a trustworthy and credible brand,” he says.
“One of my favorite expressions is, ‘Luck comes to visit but it doesn’t come to stay,’” says Koppelman. “If you’re fortunate to get a lucky opportunity, work very hard to keep it. If people know you work hard, they’ll be more likely to work with you again.”
Koppelman says there are two types of people in the world: those who keep their arms wide open, and those who keep their arms held tight against their chest.
“Who would you want to do business with or have as a friend?” he asks. “People like people who are open to ideas and relationships. Your personal brand should be someone who is open to new ideas, experiences, and business.”
People judge you on the way you look, so pay attention to the details, says Koppelman. “If you’re ultra-causal or sloppy, that’s going to be your brand,” he says.
But you don’t have to wear a uniform. Early in his career, Koppelman was a manager in the music industry, and says he would wear a suit and tie when he was going to sign an artist or a band, and jeans and a jacket when he was meeting with a banker.
“First impressions are important, so pay attention to the details,” he says. “The banker knows I’m in the music business and has an impression of who I am. Artists are used to interfacing with other artists, and if they’re going to sign with executive or agent, they don’t want to perceive that person to be someone who has their everyday life. Depending on your industry, your attire could be right for every occasion, or it could be something you change based on the situation.”
How you interact with others is another important part of your brand.
“There’s a saying, ‘Empty barrels make the most noise,’” says Koppelman. “If you never stop talking, you’ll build a negative personal brand. Always think about what you want to say, and how you want to present yourself before you open your mouth.”