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Create Your Brand

Specialization, ethics are some ways clients professionally brand you
Written by Catherine D’Aversa, President, LEGAL RESOURCE CONSULTING

(click on link to view this article published in The Lawyers Weekly July 13, 2012 issue http://www.lawyersweekly.ca/index.php?section=article&articleid=1704)

People are branded by a perception. If you think of it, everyone is branded. You are branded by your parents, siblings, friends, peers, employers and teachers as intelligent, kind, ambitious, loving, humorous, etc. In turn, you have branded most people you know. For example, you may think of the practice chair of your group as being “intelligent, charismatic and hardworking.” You have branded them.

Then there’s professional branding — the planned, deliberate and systematic process where successful professionals market themselves as brands by leveraging key abilities, skills, business successes and personality.

Are you satisfied with the way you are branded in your professional and personal life, or do you want to change it? Let’s talk about what you may want to change or improve your professional work brand as you know it.

First, let’s define “professional work.” According to definitions, the main criteria for professional include the following:

  • Expert and specialized knowledge in the field.
  • Excellent manual/practical and literary skills in relation to the profession.
  • High quality work in creations, products, services, presentations, consultancy, primary/other research, administrative, marketing, photography or other work endeavours.
  • A high standard of professional ethics, behaviour and work activities while carrying out one’s profession (as an employee, self-employed person, career, enterprise, business, company or partnership/associate/colleague, etc.). The professional owes a higher duty to a client, often a privilege of confidentiality, as well as a duty not to abandon the client just because he or she may not be able to pay or remunerate the professional. Often the professional is required to put the interest of the client ahead of their own interests.
  • Reasonable work morale and motivation. Having interest and desire to do a job well and holding positive attitude towards the profession are important elements in attaining a high level of professionalism.
  • Participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavour often engaged in by amateurs; having a particular profession as a permanent career; engaged in by persons receiving financial return.
  • Appropriate treatment of relationships with colleagues. Consideration should be shown to elderly, junior or inexperienced colleagues, as well as those with special needs. An example must be set to perpetuate the attitude of one’s business without doing it harm.
  • A professional is an expert who is master in a specific field.

What do you have to do to ensure your brand embodies the professional work you want your employer, peers, the industry to think of when they think of you? How do you get there?

First and foremost, you need to decide how you want others to identify with you and how it relates to key constituencies, for example: clients, staff, partners, investors etc. Keep in mind that some people link professionals to the psychological side of brand associations like thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, experiences, beliefs and attitudes.

Think about how you perceive yourself, and how others perceive you. Ask family, friends, peers, people you report to and staff, with whom you feel comfortable with, how they perceive or brand you both personally and professionally. You may be surprised. Do they brand you in the same way you want others to identify with you?

Your special skills and knowledge, vision and values should make it absolutely clear what your professional work represents. Why not consider exposing your employer, peers, the industry, family, friends and clients to these? Your “uniqueness” should become the standard by which you are judged.

Remember, your personal brand will be the image and the emotional bond with which you connect with these people.

Here are some strategies to help you create your professional brand in your organization.

What do you bring to the table? What are your goals? Ask yourself these questions: What are your knowledge, skills and strengths? Are you an expert in your area? Are there new professional opportunities are there? Is there competition in your area of expertise? What differentiates you from others in your professional work? Are you well known in the firm/company for your expertise? Are you well known in the industry for your expertise? Are you receiving referrals from clients and others in the industry? Have you developed strong relationships in the industry?

Become an expert. Find an area that you are interested in, or passionate about. Identify opportunities in your company. What committees or groups in your company should you belong to? What industry associations should you belong to? Research the industry. Get to know what is important in the industry. Attend industry events. Research the applicable law. Become knowledgeable. Communicate your professional successes and accomplishments. Show initiative. Find ways to be included in the next project — you need to be in the game to succeed. Ask to be included in client meetings and volunteer for part of the project — don’t wait to be asked. Become knowledgeable with your firm/company’s clients so you can contribute at client meetings.

Build professional credibility by authoring or co-authoring a paper, article or book. Become a speaker at industry events, seminars and company events. Be responsive — you cannot always be available, but ensure that you are known for always responding to a call or request within a reasonable amount of time. The cardinal rule: excellent service is the minimum standard. News spreads of both good and bad. Investigate opportunities to obtain formal recommendations and further credentials.

To build your branding plan, consider the following:

  • The plan must be in writing. It makes it real and easy to follow.
  • Allocate time to building your plan.
  • Establish or maintain your expertise — in other words, attending industry meetings, writing an article or a blog.
  • Identify opportunities in your company to promote your brand.
  • Develop or deepen relationships.
  • Build on your strengths. If you like to speak in front of a crowd, find a meeting of clients or industry group and do so. If instead you are more comfortable one-on-one, then plan coffee or lunch meetings where you can talk.
  • Use your outside activities, hobbies, club memberships and events you enjoy to brand yourself and build relationships.

To grow your career, be open to unexpected opportunities; expect to be accepted; go where you can learn; and follow your passion.

An awesome professional brand will establish a memorable face for your business. By making the effort, you have already succeeded. The key is to let everyone know your brand. The more people you know and the more activities you undertake, the stronger your brand.

Get out there and brand yourself — don’t let others do it for you!

I would like to hear your ideas on branding.  Try some of these tips and let me know how they worked for you.

About Catherine D'Aversa

As President of Legal Resource Consulting Inc. (“LRC”) Catherine D’Aversa is engaged by law firms, government legal departments and corporate in-house law departments to improve paraprofessional skills and services using extensive skills developed over more than 32 years in the legal industry. LRC analyses and assesses paraprofessional services within its clients’ organization and provides recommendations on structure, technology, systems, processes and management to improve services standards, productivity and profitability. LRC acts as Project Manager to implement recommendations to enhance paraprofessional skills and services to better meet lawyer and client needs while increasing revenue. LRC delivers professional development workshops on topics such as Docketing Strategies, Practice Management, Practice Development, Project Management, Strategies for Productivity & Profitability, Working as a Legal Professional and Legal Writing and Reporting. Catherine is a contributing author of several legal books and a regular speaker and commentator at business seminars and conferences.