I don’t think that having a personal brand is a “big lie” to quote @ScottGreenfield’s recent post, The Brand War. He was responding to this statement of mine from Earn your reputation; build your personal brand:

“Your personal brand is what you stand for. It’s based on your reputation. It’s what you’re known for in the marketplace. It’s what differentiates you from your competition. It’s what comes to mind when someone says your name.”

A brand cannot be built on fabrications. If the insides of a can of Coca-Cola are 7-Up, then it’s not a Coke, no matter what the can or bottle says. Same thing goes with an attorney. I don’t care how many directories you are listed in, how many quotes in the WSJ. I don’t care about your cover story in American Lawyer … if you cannot deliver on the promise of your reputation; if you’re a crappy attorney; if you’re really a corporate M&A attorney, but trying to “rebrand” yourself as a bankruptcy attorney in the down market, then your personal “brand” is not valid. I like this definition from Persuasive Brands:

Any brand is a set of perceptions and images that represent a company, product or service. While many people refer to a brand as a logo, tag line or audio jingle, a brand is actually much larger. A brand is the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced. Importantly, brands enable a buyer to easily identify the offerings of a particular company [OR LAWYER]. Brands are generally developed over time through:

  • Advertisements containing consistent messaging
  • Recommendations from friends, family members or colleagues
  • Interactions with a company and its representatives
  • Real-life experiences using a product or service (generally considered the most important element of establishing a brand)

Once developed, brands provide an umbrella under which many different products [AND SERVICES] can be offered–providing a company [OR LAWYER/LAW FIRM] tremendous economic leverage and strategic advantage in generating awareness of their offerings in the marketplace.

In other words: A lawyer’s personal brand is the assurance to the client that the legal services that they are purchasing (the “bull dog” trial lawyer, the “bet the farm” litigation team, the go-to “hotel lawyer”) are actually what, and who, they say they are. Now, how can a lawyer “build” this brand … it starts with what you already know, and then you add in what you want to be known for, and then the work that you want, and what people think and know about you, and THEN you focus your actions behind this, and this is HOW you BUILD your personal brand.

  • If you want to be know as an the “green attorney,” then don’t waste your time writing articles on constitutional nuances of the death penalty.
  • Don’t speak before bar associations if you’re clients, potential clients, referrals sources and influencers (oh, my) are all attending industry-based conferences.
  • Don’t show up in a pin-stripe suit when your clients are “dressed up” in jeans (not saying don’t dress professionally, just nix the tie and formal suit, jacket and open collar shirt are fine).
  • Your web bio, blog, events you speak at, articles you write, should all point towards the clients, and work, that you want, based on your experiences and what you already know.

You get the idea. Begin with WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU DO, and build from there. But how do you get “there”?? We marketers will come in and ask probing questions (here’s a decent list of 20 questions to begin with … ). We’ll read what clients say about you in response to client service interviews and conference evaluations. We will “listen” to the conversations about you that are taking place on-line … or around the water cooler. We’ll evaluate your stats to see how people are finding you on Google, or what they’re reading on your blog. We will then bring these things together to FOCUS and BUILD your brand. A brand is not an illusion, fabrication or lie. Branding is not a tag line (which are all pretty much the same and stupid). And branding is most definitely NOT a logo. Branding is, however, the “packaging” around what is already true. If you don’t like the term “branding” because that is too “marketing speak,” then don’t use the term. However, to dismiss branding as the “big lie” is to give your competition the edge.