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Its All About Trust When Building a Brand for People of Color

By Susan Hodgkinson

Jul. 23, 2009

When it comes to building a breakthrough personal brand as a person of color, trust is the name of the game, and although it may sound straightforward, creating a brand centered around trust requires being proactive and having extra attention and consistent focus.


Most companies already have a reputation—a personal brand—and they must control it. That brand is a key to recruiting, and the reputation built by that brand goes a long way in attracting quality candidates.


When managing a brand holistically, remember the five P’s of leadership branding:


Persona: The emotional connection and reaction in others as a result of a person’s personal attitude, energy, vision, values, worldview and behavioral style.


Product: Skills and intellect and how the two are brought forward to make a leadership impact in your organization.


Packaging: Wrapping your product (yourself and your ideas).


Promotion: Creating your strategic market position by determining who needs to know about you and what it is you choose for them to know.


Permission: Your own sense of self-legitimacy and self-confidence.


Among the most important things to build brand and establish job security is generating and sustaining trust. This idea has a number of important dimensions and is particularly challenging for people of color, who often already face the challenge of “distance due to difference” from traditional core power structures in organizations.


That trust is made up of four critical components:


      • Deliver on what was promised and deliver it well. Create a brand that is distinctive based on others’ complete confidence in your ability to deliver. While it sounds obvious, delivering on stated commitments isn’t something everyone does on time and as promised. Today’s high-risk environment means that if you don’t deliver, even on mundane matters, questions revolve around the brand.
      • Those who are prone to gossip or fail to stand up for others when the moment counts are a liability and therefore a potential threat to others who are already anxious in this job environment.
      • Be honest. Trust is all about integrity, and integrity is about being honest and making and carrying out decisions that are consistent with core values. It’s one thing to make difficult decisions—even painful ones—that are part of doing business in difficult times, but it’s quite another to act in ways that are in violation with core values. Senior leaders look to others on their teams to level with them and give them the truth, even when the news is not good.
      • Work to connect, personally, so others would say they genuinely know you. When a manager has to hire from among multiple people for one slot, the odds are they will make the selection based on which individual they know better. The number of professionals of color in many organizations has diminished significantly because of downsizing. Proactively reaching out, whether you feel comfortable doing so or not, is completely in your control.

      Today’s work environment is fraught with peril and challenges, but creating and sustaining a brand of trust is a crucial, controllable commitment.

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