Research Paper By Raluca Paun
(Executive Coaching, ROMANIA)
Coaching and personal branding
I am working in marketing and communication since more than 13 years, and I love this profession as it is never boring, you have the opportunity to create and grow brands which people love and use every day, you have the power to build the company strategy and see it come true. I started to study and to practice coaching in the last two years and I find it as fascinating as branding is, even more complex, because we are working with people, not products. Coaching and branding have some similarities mostly when it comes to building the personal brand and self-confidence.
It is incredible how consumers always say that they do not believe anymore in marketing and advertising and that they buy products based only on their own rational judgment and not on advertising. But when you do interviews with consumers you realize that they talk in the same language the brand talks with them. It is quite similar with people, we judge the others mostly by what they show outside and just rarely we have the time and the will to look inside. Positioning and branding is important for everything we do, from products to people, it is what you show outside and how you are perceived.
A lot of our uncertainties, worries and “down” moments are coming from the way people perceive us, and react to our work, conversations, interactions, from the way we position ourselves in front of others. Feeling peaceful and fulfilled with you is about being confident enough to show outside what it is inside, but how many of us can reach this? How is coaching connected with branding and what can we bring from branding and marketing into coaching? Quite a lot I would say, of course, considering that coaching is about people and their own will to grow, it is not about something you, as coach, can build; it is about accompany them to grow.
Having a brand that defines your values and differentiates you from others is the key, first of all for yourself as you develop your personality and leadership and also plays a critical role for achieving your career and personal goals and aspirations.
We all know that companies spend millions of dollars branding themselves because their brand — and people’s perception of that brand — is their livelihood. They will build their brand, nurture it, protect it, and defend it. And when necessary, the company will re-brand itself to respond to changing times and the need to change perceptions. The powerful companies are the ones who have a powerful brands and a powerful brand is a brand its consumers love and respect, it is a brand which is true and consistent to its values. Just like in branding, if you are not true to yourself and to your beliefs your brand can not grow and become powerful.
In the same way, our personal livelihoods depend on our own brand. The perception that our colleagues, boss, customers, family, friends are having of us plays a large role in the opportunities that come our way and it plays a huge role on the way we build our life.
In marketing, when we create a brand we start by building its “house” and like every house you start from the foundation and try to reach the top, the “essence”. Isn’t it coaching a journey you have with your client in finding the “essence” and accompany him/her to grow?
In order to reach “the essence/your truth” you have to go through a process of self-discovery, by clarifying and agreeing on your values & beliefs; on your unique qualities that differentiate you from others and also be aware of the similarities with others.
Here are some similarities in the process of building brand and the coaching process for building a personal brand:
1) Define the playing field/current reality First, you need to start from the current reality, understand it and accept it, define your playing field, define how is your life now, how do you see it and how do others see you. Get feedback from others. It’s helpful to learn how others perceive you; to see if their perception is in alignment with what you ideally want to be. Reach out to several people that you respect and you know will give you honest feedback. Consider this feedback as a gift to broaden your personal brand awareness so that you can change how you are showing up if others don’t view you as what you want your brand to be.
2) Agree on your goal try to define what is your goal when it comes to personal branding; why do you want to build a personal brand? What do you want to achieve? How do you want to be perceived by others? What do you want to feel or/and think about yourself?
3) Define and Own Your Values. Values represent what is most meaningful to us. They drive our intrinsic motivations, help shape our priorities, and provide us with focus. Knowing and living your values not only helps to shape our personal brand but also provides us with a keen sense of self-empowerment. Our values help shape our authentic self, which is essential when we are creating and living our brand. What do you believe best defines you? What do you believe in? Try listing your values? How do you use them in your current life? How do you show them in the day to day life? What do you want people to think and say about you and how do you need to show up to achieve that impression?
4) Identify Your Unique Strengths. It’s important to incorporate your unique strengths in your personal brand. These strengths are things that you are really good at and that you love doing. Ideally, they positively differentiate you. It’s important to identify ways to leverage these strengths to capitalize on potential opportunities in your life and career. This may call for getting out of your comfort zone and discover new opportunities. We all have strengths that differentiate us. The key is taking the time to identify them and then intentionally building them into your personal “brand campaign”. It is important to be true to yourself and discover your strengths and try to improve your weaknesses.
5) Be Consistent with Your Brand. Consistency, consistency, consistency this is one of the main difference between big brands and small brands. Your brand shows up in many different kinds of situations, such as: at work, in meetings, on the phone, in emails, during your business presentations, or in personal life in one-on-one conversation, family and friends gatherings etc.! The more consistent and authentic you are when you show up, the better able people will be to recognize and describe your strengths and your unique value.
6) Find Opportunities to Leverage Your Brand. You can’t operate in a vacuum and then expect that people will know who you are and recognize your unique qualities. Look for opportunities where you can show who you really are and where you can be appreciated for who you really are. Find people who can help you become recognized as your brand. Ask for their assistance in getting to know others in your organization. Circle of friends and in having others know more about you as your brand.
Although there are a lot of similarities in building brands and the coaching process, still we need to remember that in coaching we are working with people and people are unpredictable. People are not black or white, people are about colors and shadows and lights. Us, as coaches, we need to accompany our clients in the difficult, yet wonderful journey of building their own personal brand and into discovering their “essence”.
We should remember that we can create the conversation people have about us! What will those conversations be and when do we need to create that brand for us? This we need to answer once we decide to create our personal branding.
Branding the coaching business
From another perspective using branding and marketing skills into coaching is about promoting yourself and your coaching business. Coaching, just like other business, needs to be branded and promoted. There are a lot of discussions if we as coaches should be focused on a certain coaching type, on a niche, or it is better to be just a ”general” coach and adapt to the client’s agenda.
Of course the answer is not black or white, I believe it has a lot to do with building the coaching experience, the more experience you have, the better coach you become and the more you understand where you are good at and how are you different from others. After few years of experience you can choose a niche or a target group you would like to focus in coaching. And this is the moment when you need to start building your brand as coach and as coaching business.
Here are few of the learnings I have from marketing and which could be used very well in promoting and branding the coaching business and yourself as coach.
1) Start with positioning. Define a niche you can own and you are best at. Instead of being a generic coach for anybody, you can start building your brand on your strengths and where you know you can differentiate from others. This comes with experience, you need to focus to limit the competition and to send the right message to the right target. Be a big fish in a small pond.
2) Develop clear and compelling messages. Put yourself in the shoes of your clients. Ensure that you back up your positioning claims with messages that resonate with a target audience. Provide the context of what is driving the need for your services. Then, lay out the reasons why clients should choose you. The best way to talk about your evidence is to demonstrate it in a story. Stories are a memorable way to get across and make it easier for the potential clients to understand what is coaching about and where, you, as coach, can you make the difference. We are now in the era of online and available information, videos are increasing in usage and viewers, so make sure you can reach your target by using the channels they use. Remember that there is so much information out there and the day has only 24h, so how can you reach effectively your potential clients?
3) Articulate your brand strategy. Put your rational value and emotional value together in a brand strategy platform. Brand from the inside out, starting with your core values and passions. Combine these with your strengths, personality and image to drive towards your brand promise–or what others expect to experience every time they engage with you. Aligning your brand with your values will help ensure that you have an authentic brand in thought, word, behavior and image.
4) Define your ecosystem of influencers. For every market segment, there is a set of influencers who are important to your credibility and recognition as a leader. Determine who the influencers are in the coaching industry and make sure they could help you with an introduction or endorsement. It’s what others say about you that determine your reputation.
5) Create your action plan. You should have a brand improvement plan and a brand communication plan. Your brand communication plan should include how you represent and message your brand. Consistency across all communication–both words and visuals–is key to branding well.
As an entrepreneur, you probably rely on word-of-mouth references for business development. This can be face-to-face or via the Internet (communities, social networks, blogs, online press etc.). Help your clients and others to find you online by consolidating your online footprint under your name.
Marketing & branding knowledge can help a lot when starting a coaching business and also helps in the process of coaching. The image we create outside defines sometimes our path in life and can make the difference between being successful or not.