Home » Why A Strong Brand Goes Beyond Branding Agencies With Connie Steele 

Capitol Communicator reports that Beyond Definition had a discussion with Connie Steele on why a strong brand goes beyond branding agencies.

Why A Strong Brand Goes Beyond Branding Agencies With Connie Steele 

by | Feb 24, 2021

The single most valuable asset an employee can have today is a personal brand. It communicates who you are, what you stand for, and how you’re positioned in a specific market or industry. More importantly, personal branding helps individuals create a dream situation instead of hopelessly searching to find a dream job. As Connie Steele, marketing and strategy executive calls it: “Building the Business of You.” 

For decades, people built personal brands through their career. Now, with access to the internet and millions of different ways to establish thought equity, personal branding has grown. But where do you start? How do you build a personal brand to align with your career? What do leadership teams need to consider when an individual has a strong personal brand? 

As a brand and marketing agency, we have worked with many clients building out brand and visual identities. What I’ve noticed over the years is that the makeup of a great brand can directly relate to an individual’s personal brand. Core pillars like curiosity, identity, and the pursuit of multiple disciplines are foundational across people and organizations. 

Connie Steele recently joined Beyond Definition for a conversation about personal and professional branding, providing us with several strategies and tactics from her new book Building the Business of You. Connie’s passion for “building the business of you” started with a reimagining of what her career could be. When she started out, the ideal career path was linear. But after working hard to move up the corporate ladder, she craved more creatively and professionally. As the world shifted to a gig economy, and people had the chance to work remotely, Connie embarked on a journey to live life on her terms. 

Here are a few of the top takeaways from our conversation. Enjoy!

– Millennials Want More From Their Career Than Previous Generations

Following an interview with a millennial generation expert, Connie realized how millennials’ attitudes and behaviors are structured. Unlike older generations growing up in a hierarchical structure, millennials grew up with a “choice and voice.” As a result of this freedom, their first corporate experience may not live up to expectations. 

So they started thinking differently by leveraging technology and the growing opportunity to monetize many different skills. Structured education used to be the only path to success in a certain industry. Now, younger generations are able to leverage the web and monetize themselves beyond a formal career or degree. 

“You can be anything that you want to be if you take time to build the business of you.”

You can easily learn to be a digital marketer, coder, writer, designer, vlogger, and artist with technology. Connie explained this concept in a recent blog: “Technology has removed the limitations that previously hampered an employee skill-levels. Any person can now learn almost any skill imaginable through platforms like Youtube, Coursera or Udemy. With technology enablement, anyone can now become an expert, almost overnight.”

Leading us to the next point… 

– The Future of Work is a “Career Mashup”

As the gig economy continues to evolve, individual goals are shifting. Previously, workers were defined by their “umbrella” company. As Connie explained to us, we used to think “Oh, you work for Google? That’s a great brand!”. This association could be worn like a badge of honor.

Today, millennials don’t necessarily want to be defined by their corporate gig. Sure it can be part of a digital identity – but a lot of people have multiplicative inspirations. They want to be a full-time marketer and a part-time writer or photographer or chef. 

“We were born to thrive, not struggle to survive. You can be anything that you want to be if you take time to build the business of you.”

Connie points out how something basic like employee titles have shifted. If you go on LinkedIn, no one is just a “digital marketing specialist.” They’re also a “brand visionary,” “contributing writer,” and “social media strategist.” The umbrella isn’t a company anymore – it’s a career mashup of everything you do. 

– Managing Personal Brands as a Leader

A central component to the modern workforce is a newfound confidence in self stemming from social media. One prominent thing Connie has noticed about younger generations is that they are unafraid to put themselves out there. Everything they publish online––photos, articles, Tweets, status updates––are working toward a digital identity. It peeled back the curtain in a way previous generations couldn’t. And this exposure of self is carrying over into professional work. Now you’ve got a conglomerate of unique personal brands intersecting in a professional work environment. 

This raises an interesting challenge for leadership teams: how do you think about and manage these individuals as part of your brand system? 

Connie recommends starting with strategic planning. It’s important to recognize what your brand’s goals are, the individual skills you need to accomplish those goals, and a plan to bring those goals to life.  

The missing link for many CEOs is that they don’t really know their people. A member of your team who is a freelance photographer might bring a different lens to the way you think about a brand. They may have a unique perspective on how to tell a visually compelling story. 

Another key component of modern leadership Connie discussed is the lack of communication about objectives. Beyond strategic brand planning, it can be helpful to make strategic plans for employees. Think of it as your research phase, a key component to any brand project. If you understand an employee’s individual goals and link it to the company’s goals, everyone will be happier. 

Maybe they only want to stay for a year to get agency experience before going back to school. Finding this alignment early on will prevent friction from happening down the line. 

– The Long-Running Debate: To Position Yourself as a Specialist or a Generalist? 

This is a complex, often debated topic. Is it better to be known for one thing or to have many different talents across a broader spectrum? Connie believes the answer is somewhere in the middle: “You can’t just be a brand strategist without really understanding design, without really understanding web demand. Not really understanding social without really understanding PR or market research. The way we work now is integrated so that you have to think very holistically and broadly.”

In other words, it’s all about how you position yourself. Not what do you want to be known for but what differentiates you? We see the same thing in the brand and marketing world. Organizations want to be the expert for a niche subject matter. While this can be a beneficial mindset to an extent, we try and get them to think beyond these basic parameters.

What value do you bring to the table when combining all of your unique differentiators? Brands and people with the answer to this question have limitless potential. 

Top Takeaways for Brands 

There are core similarities between personal branding and organizational branding. Something like merging diverse perspectives under one umbrella directly relates to our recent work with AMPP: The Association for Materials Protection and Performance. We had to execute a single brand identity representing over 54,000 active members in 130 countries. 

The same holds true for exploring your personal differentiators. Our agency begins every project with a deep dive into research and discovery. We want to know who our client is, how they are perceived by others, and where the missing links are between brand and audience. 

Let’s look at George Mason University. Despite a strong academic and cultural reputation, George Mason’s external perception was outdated. We conducted several customized workshops to help George Mason better understand how they could evolve their perception to match the progression of the university. Without a deep dive into perception data, George Mason would have continued to struggle with its public-facing identity. 

Ultimately, many of Connie’s themes in Building the Business of you run linearly to the foundational brand strategies we recommend. A career mashup is the ideal representation of a sound brand strategy- figuring out how to get your marketing, digital, and creative to work together. 

That’s how we take clients beyond expectations: by connecting it all under a single, impactful identity. 

Interested in Building the Business of You?

In Building the Business of You, readers will learn how they can achieve this same level of personal fulfillment by leveraging a personal brand.  Connie shares the trends of tomorrow so you can form your own career mashup. Because the dream job is no longer something you get; it’s something you create. And Building the Business of You provides all the practical tools you need for yours.

This post provided by Beyond Definition, a Capitol Communicator sponsor.



About the Author

This post is authored by a Capitol Communicator native advertising sponsor.


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