With all the buzz about personal branding these days, perceptions and definitions vary greatly … and misconceptions abound.

Tom Peters’ coined the term "personal branding" in his 1997 article “The Brand Called You” (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/10/brandyou.html) at Fast Company, where he said:

"You're every bit as much a brand as Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop. To start thinking like your own favorite brand manager, ask yourself the same question the brand managers at Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop ask themselves: What is it that my product or service does that makes it different?

We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. Create a message and a strategy to promote the brand called You."

Another personal branding pioneer William Arruda, founder of Reach Personal Branding, says “Your brand resides in the hearts and minds of those around you.”

So, you already have a brand. Your brand is your personal DNA ? the combination of personal attributes, values, strengths, and passions that people know you for and that represent the value you offer.

Your job is to identify those qualities and characteristics within you, synthesize all the pieces, and communicate a crystal clear, consistent message across multiple channels – online and offline – that differentiates your unique promise of value and resonates with your target audience.

What’s great about branding is that it generates the kind of chemistry that helps people assess what kind of person you are and whether they should hire you or do business with you.

In a tough economy, with more people competing for fewer jobs, standing out above the crowd is critical. Personal branding is the means to that end.

Before personal branding had a name, I was incorporating what’s now called personal branding into my clients' resumes, career biographies and other personal marketing communications. It's always been my mission to differentiate them from their competition in the job market, breathe life into otherwise flat career marketing materials, and position them to land their next great gig.

But there's always so much more to learn. To enhance my expertise and refine the process I use to develop my clients’ personal brand messaging, I completed the Reach Certified Personal Branding Strategist program.

The process was intense and at first overwhelming. Being introspective and digging deep was somewhat painful, but ultimately eye-opening, affirming, and invigorating.

I developed the following 10 exercises from my training. Uncovering and pulling together these components will arm you with a compelling personal brand message to anchor and weave throughout your resume and all your other online and offline personal marketing:

1. What are your vision and purpose?

Before clearly defining your brand, look externally at the bigger picture of your vision for the world, and then internally at how you might help the world realize your vision.

2. What are your values and passions?

You have to know yourself and what you want and need before you can move forward. Your belief system and operating principles are at the core of determining whether an opportunity in front of you will be a good fit for you. If the passions that drive you aren’t met, you probably won’t be happy.

3. What are your top goals for the next year, 2 years, and 5 years?

Work on projecting what you intend to accomplish so you can put together a strategic action plan to get there.

4. Do a self-assessment of your top brand attributes.

What 3 or 4 adjectives best describe the value you offer? What words do you use to define your personality? Once you pinpoint what feel like the right kinds of words, it’s a good idea to consult a thesaurus to precisely nail the exact words. Here are some possibilities, but don’t limit yourself to these:

Collaborative, resilient, forward-focused, risk-taking, connected, international, visionary, diplomatic, intuitive, precise, enterprising, ethical, genuine, accessible.

5. What are your core strengths or motivated skills?

In what functions and responsibilities do you excel? For what things are you the designated “go-to” person? What gap would your company be faced with if you left suddenly? The possibilities are endless, but here are a few suggestions:

Identifying problems, seeing the details, leading, delegating, performing analysis, fact finding, crunching numbers, anticipating risk, motivating, mentoring, innovating, managing conflict, writing, listening, communicating.

6. Get feedback from those who know you best – at work, at home, anywhere.

The true measure of your brand is the reputation others hold of you in their hearts and minds. Notice how they introduce you to others. Ask them what your top brand attributes and core strengths are. How does your self-assessment jibe with their feedback?

7. Do a SWOT analysis (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats) on yourself.

Don’t dwell on your weak points, but keep them in mind so that you don’t move into a position where that function is the main thrust of the job.

8. Who is your target audience?

Determine where you want to fit in (industry and niche area of expertise). Learn what decision makers in that field are looking for when they’re vetting candidates. Find out where those decision makers hang out and what key words will attract them. Then position yourself in front of them and capture their attention.

9. Who is your competition in the marketplace and what differentiates you from them?

Determine why decision makers should choose whatever you’re offering over all the others offering similar value. What makes you the best choice? What makes you a good investment? What value will you bring that no one else will?

10. Remember the 3 Cs of personal branding:

Clarity – be clear about who you are and who you are not.
Consistency – steadfastly express your brand across all communications channels.
Constancy – strong brands are always visible to their target audience.

Your takeaway:

The work involved in uncovering your brand may seem daunting, but your efforts can benefit you immeasurably. If this all looks too overwhelming to accomplish on your own, consider working with a professional who will guide you through the process.

In job search, developing and communicating your personal brand can pre-qualify you as a good fit, clearly showcase why you’re the best hiring choice, and position you to land your next great gig.

Related posts:

What Personal Branding is NOT (http://executivecareerbrand.com/what-personal-branding-is-not/)

Health Insurance for Your Personal Brand – The 3 Cs (http://executivecareerbrand.com/health-insurance-for-your-personal-brand...)

2010 Top 10 Executive Personal Branding and Job Search Trends (http://executivecareerbrand.com/2010-top-10-executive-personal-branding-...)

© Copyright Meg Guiseppi, 2010. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Author's Bio: 

An Executive Personal Branding, Online Identity and Job Search Strategist, Meg is a 20-year careers industry professional and one of only a handful of people worldwide to hold both the Reach Certified Personal Branding Strategist and Master Resume Writer credentials.

"I love my work collaborating with savvy corporate leaders and entrepreneurs who know where they're going, but need help differentiating their unique promise of value in the new world of work and executive job search, and positioning themselves to work their passion. My clients are typically c-suite, senior-level executives and rising stars."

Find out more about Meg at Executive Career Brand (http://www.executivecareerbrand.com/intro). Follow Meg on Twitter. (http://twitter.com/megguiseppi)