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CSO Leadership Series

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4 Stages to Plot Your Personal Branding Pathway

Lida Citroen.jpgIn today’s information age, how another person perceives you can sway how he or she interacts with you—for better or worse. “Perception, actually, is a very efficient way that our brain has of taking in a ton of information,” says Lida Citroën, executive branding and reputation managing expert, in a CSO Center Leadership Series session, “You Must Stand for Something: Do You Want to Stand Out in the Crowd?”.

A person’s brand helps form others’ perception of that person, making this a crucial element of future interactions and business dealings.

“If I believe you to be a leader, somebody I care about, somebody I’m interested in working with, that perception is going to drive how much opportunity I afford you,” says Citroën, who is CEO and founder of LIDA360. However, if a potential client has a poor, skewed, or misinformed perception of a person or his or her organization, it can also impact the value placed on that person or organization.

Starting to build a brand begins with a heavy lift, but Citroën breaks down the process into four steps, some of which may dovetail with professional goals current and aspiring CSOs are already pursuing.

Build Credibility

Credibility boils down to a simple equation of values plus action. Do you state your values clearly, and do your actions reflect your values?

Citroën recommends starting with identifying your own values—figure out what is most important to you. Another way to think about it is: which core values make you quintessentially you, to the point that if someone were to scoop them out then you would no longer be you?

With those values in mind, identify evidence of those values in action. To build your credibility, you must tell people how your actions are tied to one of your core values.

“Otherwise, the story can get out of control,” Citroën cautions. “So, to control the narrative and earn credibility, we must attach the value to the action. A simple formula, but not easy to unpack.”

And if you do not have proof of your values in action, it’s time to either re-evaluate your values or start consciously linking your present and future actions to your values.

To control the narrative and earn credibility, we must attach the value to the action.

“We cannot leave it to hope that people are going to figure out why we’re doing the things we’re doing. And we can’t leave it to someone else to define what our values are,” Citroën says.

Your Current Brand

With your credibility established, it’s time to build upon your reputation and highlight what makes you unique.

It’s also time to assess your baseline, because, as Citroën says, “what we know about perception is that it drives our feeling of value.”

Do you know how others perceive you? If five of your associates were to describe you in three words, what do you think those words would be?

It may help to reach out to people—whether they are clients or colleagues—and ask them for feedback on your brand. It can be as simple as asking those five people you initially thought of which three words they would use to describe your brand or emailing a more formal survey request with more pointed questions.

The point of this step is to determine your brand’s starting point to get you closer to your goal—what you want your brand to stand for.

Plan Your Legacy

Now that you have a clearer idea of your credibility and the current standing of your brand, you can chart a path for how you want to be remembered.

To kick things off, think about how you want people to remember you. Then reverse-engineer from that goal to where you are today.

Keeping this goal in mind will help in both creating a strategy and simplifying your decision-making. You will have a clearer idea of the types of people you want in your network—people who reflect the same attributes you want to be remembered for. When confronted with a choice, the decision can be boiled down to whether an action, relationship, or behavior will bring you nearer to your goal reputation or brand. If it does not, then simply do not add it to your life—you choose what to say yes to and what to set aside.

“You get to work towards that legacy today and that’s where you get control,” she says.

The Audience

So, you are honing your brand, but do you know who your brand needs to resonate with? For security professionals, trust is a significant component of the person’s brand. And when it comes to clients, colleagues, and peers, it is crucial to identify what they need to feel that they trust a security practitioner.

Humans have functional and emotional needs, and although people will act on logic, they will buy based on emotion, Citroën says. This distinction means that if your target audience does not have a favorable perception of your brand, this will turn them away from your product—which, for a security professional, could mean refusing to ask for help, report suspicious activity promptly, or include the professional in key business discussions.

You get to work towards that legacy today and that's where you get control.

But even if you find a gap between your brand and your audience, there are strategies that can help close that divide. Understanding how your current brand is perceived can tell you how far you are from your desired reputation, which can illustrate how far your brand lies from your audience.

Although asking for feedback can make you feel uncomfortable, Citroën sees it as a gift. Feedback on your current brand can tell you what your current strengths are or how others perceive you.

“You’re giving yourself a gift to be able to move closer to that desired brand that you want,” Citroën says. 

If you missed the second session of the 2022 CSO Center Leadership Series on 10 May, members of the CSO Center can watch it on-demand here. For more information on this year’s series and the CSO Center, visit the website here.