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Building Your Brand And Influence

Contributed by : Dilip Saraf

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At the Annual GITPRO Global conference in Palo Alto, CA today, I am asked to speak about building your brand and influence. I plan to speak extemporaneously after exploring the needs of those in attendance. As participants gather in the auditorium I plan to catch a few of them randomly and ask them what they struggle with when building their brand and extending their influence. Based on their insights and needs I plan to frame my talk, which will be followed by Q & As. In preparation for that talk I decided to publish this blog so that those who want to come back to what I might say they can refer to its contents. If really interesting questions come up following my talk at GITPRO I plan to publish an addendum to this blog.

In a professional"s career building a brand is important. It is equally important for a company providing a service or product. In the former case, a brand is a promise of value that people come to expect from a professional"s value proposition, how they practice delivering that value, and their reputation. It is an experience delivered by deliberately positioning oneself as an expert in a given area of professional endeavor, carefully verbalizing it so that people understand what that experience is, and then relentlessly working to protect and enhance that experience, so that those at the receiving end get something beyond the expected; they get the exceptional. This requires creating a "Wow factor."

This "wow factor" flows from one"s unique value proposition. It is not enough merely to have a strong value proposition; it must also be unique to generate high brand equity. Brand equity is the ranking of impact a brand creates by virtue of its uniqueness and power. Metaphorically, if your value proposition is like a tree, then the brand that flows from it is like its shadow. Of course, that shadow and its size depend on the light that shines on the tree and how it is used to create that shadow. What this means is that how one shines light on their value proposition by using the right verbal message greatly decides the nature of the shadow""your brand.

Verbalizing""putting in words""your brand is called verbal branding. Compared to branding by shapes (a Coke bottle, above), colors, sounds, and other sensory perceptions, verbal branding entails capturing the value you provide and its impact in terms of verbal messages. In professional endeavors such as design, engineering, and architecture, your creation stands for your inspiration, but how you verbally capture that and consistently project that language define your verbal brand.

For most professionals in our line of work""engineering and design""our verbal brand flows from our bio, LinkedIn Profile, rsum, and our written work. So, to develop this branding I use the following process to capture my clients" brand and to help them establish it:

1 I have a process of building what I have called an Inductive rsum. An Inductive rsum is a forward-looking message ("tomorrow") that captures your value proposition in two different ways: First, its defines more clearly who you are more than what you have done in the past, as most traditional rsums do; second, it narrates your leadership stories of success that spotlight the Aha! or the Wow factor we mentioned before.

2 To communicate who you are the narrative must shift from writing transactional statements of your work or tasks to your accomplishments. Most do not make a distinction between tasks, responsibilities, roles, experience, and their accomplishments. Focusing only on accomplishments with a wow factor can significantly change your narrative. The rest of the factors can be presented to show the context in which you created these accomplishments.

3 Your leadership stories of success stem from your ability to clearly narrate the context in which you framed your challenge and how you mobilized your leadership to conquer the challenge. I have developed a structure for narrating this and I call it the SIMPLE (Situation, Impediment, Measurement, Plan, Leverage, and Effect) approach. Breaking down your story into these elements gives you the richness you need to capture the pith of your leadership story. Finally, reducing this story into 2-3 lines creates a bullet that reads very differently than if you just wrote what the task was.

An example here may be useful: So, instead of stating that as the Regional Sales Manager you managed a team of 12 and achieved quota, if you say, instead, Upon taking charge as RSM quickly discovered that the sales team of 15 was demoralized due to tanking economy and poorly supported products. Established new regime of building account relationships and worked out three poorly performing employees. Trained staff to provide the missing support and rebuilt account trust. Within just three months sales picked up, ending the year on target with a surplus budget.

4 Once you have converged on your message it is a good idea to create a tagline consistent with your value proposition. In the case of your LinkedIn Profile this now becomes your Headline. Using the same tagline consistently (business card, email, LinkedIn) communicate your verbal brand.

5 Seeking feedback from those who come in contact with your work is a good idea to check the alignment between what you intend to convey Vs. what its impact is. Adjusting the message and rechecking can further cement your verbal brand.

Brand building is an arduous process and takes time, effort, and focus. But if you understand the basics of verbal branding it is achievable.

Good luck!

About Author
Dilip has distinguished himself as LinkedIn’s #1 career coach from among a global pool of over 1,000 peers ever since LinkedIn started ranking them professionally (LinkedIn selected 23 categories of professionals for this ranking and published this ranking from 2006 until 2012). Having worked with over 6,000 clients from all walks of professions and having worked with nearly the entire spectrum of age groups—from high-school graduates about to enter college to those in their 70s, not knowing what to do with their retirement—Dilip has developed a unique approach to bringing meaning to their professional and personal lives. Dilip’s professional success lies in his ability to codify what he has learned in his own varied life (he has changed careers four times and is currently in his fifth) and from those of his clients, and to apply the essence of that learning to each coaching situation.

After getting his B.Tech. (Honors) from IIT-Bombay and Master’s in electrical engineering(MSEE) from Stanford University, Dilip worked at various organizations, starting as an individual contributor and then progressing to head an engineering organization of a division of a high-tech company, with $2B in sales, in California’s Silicon Valley. His current interest in coaching resulted from his career experiences spanning nearly four decades, at four very diverse organizations–and industries, including a major conglomerate in India, and from what it takes to re-invent oneself time and again, especially after a lay-off and with constraints that are beyond your control.

During the 45-plus years since his graduation, Dilip has reinvented himself time and again to explore new career horizons. When he left the corporate world, as head of engineering of a technology company, he started his own technology consulting business, helping high-tech and biotech companies streamline their product development processes. Dilip’s third career was working as a marketing consultant helping Fortune-500 companies dramatically improve their sales, based on a novel concept. It is during this work that Dilip realized that the greatest challenge most corporations face is available leadership resources and effectiveness; too many followers looking up to rudderless leadership.

Dilip then decided to work with corporations helping them understand the leadership process and how to increase leadership effectiveness at every level. Soon afterwards, when the job-market tanked in Silicon Valley in 2001, Dilip changed his career track yet again and decided to work initially with many high-tech refugees, who wanted expert guidance in their reinvention and reemployment. Quickly, Dilip expanded his practice to help professionals from all walks of life.

Now in his fifth career, Dilip works with professionals in the Silicon Valley and around the world helping with reinvention to get their dream jobs or vocations. As a career counselor and life coach, Dilip’s focus has been career transitions for professionals at all levels and engaging them in a purposeful pursuit. Working with them, he has developed many groundbreaking approaches to career transition that are now published in five books, his weekly blogs, and hundreds of articles. He has worked with those looking for a change in their careers–re-invention–and jobs at levels ranging from CEOs to hospital orderlies. He has developed numerous seminars and workshops to complement his individual coaching for helping others with making career and life transitions.

Dilip’s central theme in his practice is to help clients discover their latent genius and then build a value proposition around it to articulate a strong verbal brand.

Throughout this journey, Dilip has come up with many groundbreaking practices such as an Inductive Résumé and the Genius Extraction Tool. Dilip owns two patents, has two publications in the Harvard Business Review and has led a CEO roundtable for Chief Executive on Customer Loyalty. Both Amazon and B&N list numerous reviews on his five books. Dilip is also listed in Who’s Who, has appeared several times on CNN Headline News/Comcast Local Edition, as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle in its career columns. Dilip is a contributing writer to several publications. Dilip is a sought-after speaker at public and private forums on jobs, careers, leadership challenges, and how to be an effective leader.



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