Founder and President of Reach Personal Branding, a global leader providing personal branding certification programs and branding for companies, organizations and teams, William Arruda is an accomplished entrepreneur, author and executive coach. But first and foremost, he’s a public speaker, sought-after to deliver keynotes across the globe on personal branding, social media and employee motivation.
His client list reads like the pages of Fortune Magazine. Adobe, British Telecom, IBM, JPMorgan, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley and Starwood Hotels are just a few in a long list of clients.
Working through the Reach program myself to earn the Certified Personal Branding Strategist credential, I learned firsthand how powerful and affirming defining your brand can be. The personal/executive branding process I’ve developed for my clients is adapted from the Reach process.
His book Career Distinction: Stand Out By Building Your Brand, co-authored with Kirsten Dixson and published by John Wiley & Sons, is a definitive step-by-step guide enabling you to determine how others perceive you, reshape those perceptions to achieve your goals, and communicate your message about your personal brand clearly and consistently.
Ask William about personal branding and you’ll get a mile-wide grin, crackling energy, and a lively discussion of how personal branding can make every facet of career and life more engaging, fun, and successful.
When and how did you learn about personal branding and decide it would be beneficial to you?
In July of 1997, I read Tom Peter’s article the Brand Called You in Fast Company magazine. When I read it, I was working for IBM in Boston and decided I was going to leave and start the first personal branding company. Of course, then IBM offered me a role in London and then in Paris – and I couldn’t turn down those opportunities, so I didn’t actually leave until 2001!
Tell me about the genesis of Reach and what differentiates Reach assessment and personal branding programs from others.
When I founded Reach, I built a structured personal branding methodology that is based on corporate branding theory. It has been proven with hundreds of thousands of careerists and entrepreneurs around the world. It has been refined over the last eight years.
Our assessment, 360Reach, is the only assessment focused exclusively on professional reputation – and it has been refined with feedback from some of the nearly one million people who have used it.
I’m struck by your contagious enthusiasm and by how passionate you are about your work. What do you most love doing in your professional life?
I love helping people get what they want from life. I love giving people permission to be themselves. I love working with Reach-certified Personal Branding Strategists all over the world. There is so much I love about what I do. Perhaps my favorite thing is delivering keynotes. I really enjoy public speaking and I get to talk to so many different people all over the world! My work has taken over my life because it is so rewarding and fun!
Digging deep to uncover one’s personal brand can be challenging and sometimes painful. When you first did your own branding work, how did you feel about the introspective process? What did you learn about yourself that was surprising?
You are right. That first piece – the ‘who are you’ can be challenging and frustrating. That is why a lot of people go directly to expressing their brand without uncovering it. Of course, that’s a recipe for failure.
In going through the branding process, perhaps the most profound thing I learned about myself is my need for collaboration and community. When I launched Reach, I was lonely. That’s one of the main reasons I started the Reach personal branding certification programs. Now, I have over 500 colleagues in 21 countries! It helps me be my best.
How often do you revisit and refocus your personal brand?
Every day. I always ask myself questions like – “Is this on-brand for me?” “Is my brand still relevant to my target audience?” “What have I done today to build my brand?”
What misconceptions and misinformation about personal branding bother you the most? Do you think that some people will never get what personal branding is all about?
There are two:
1. Personal branding is about creating an image. I think personal branding is based in authenticity – that means knowing who you are. Many people are not willing to ‘unearth’ their brands.
2. The do-it-yourself approach is effective branding. There are lots of people out there calling themselves personal branding experts who are advising people to ‘be visible.’ They suggest creating home videos, joining every social media site, etc. This will actually detract from brand value. You aren’t going to impress someone with a poor-quality video you posted to YouTube that you created in your bedroom or a conference room in your office. If your career is important, you should work with professionals.
In your keynotes on personal branding, are audiences at first resistant to the concept? Do you see lightbulb moments in them when it all comes together?
Some people jump on the brandwagon right away. Others are incredulous. Once people realize it is about authenticity and they understand that it is essential to career success, most embrace the idea. I use a lot of real-world examples in my presentations – so I think people ‘get it.’
How has people’s estimation of personal branding changed since you first started Reach?
When I started there were five of us in the world offering personal branding services. Now, there are thousands. Also, when I started, personal branding was mostly a real-world activity. Web 2.0 provides a lot more opportunities for personal branding – but the process has remained the same.
Why do you feel personal branding is essential to career advancement, especially in today’s economy?
Because there are lots of other people who want the same job. Branding allows you to differentiate yourself by highlighting what makes you exceptional – so you stand out and attract the attention of hiring managers and executive recruiters. In the future, jobs won’t be advertised. Ideal employees will be found through real and social networks and Google searches.
I work with C-level and senior executives, mostly 45+ years old, who often are resistant to embracing social media for job search and healthy career management. As someone who takes full advantage of social media, what words of wisdom do you have for them to encourage them to do the same?
It’s not an option. C-level executives need to be visible internally and externally. They need to attract employees to work for them, demonstrate their leadership, be visible to clients and business partners, etc. You can’t be an effective senior executive by hiding from the people who need to know you. Social media is the best tool to help you connect with your brand community.
What is your absolute favorite online branding tool or strategy – something you couldn’t live without?
Blogging. It is the best tool for demonstrating your thought-leadership and building community. And you can express your personality and highlight your strengths with what you write and how you write it.
Blogging is my favorite, too. I urge my clients to get involved with blogging in some way, even if it’s only a blog commenting strategy, to steadily build a branded online presence. What impact has blogging had on your professional success?
It has been huge. I thank blogging for a lot of press I have received, people joining the Reach certification programs, partnerships that I have established for Reach. I have a whole community of people I connect with regularly, thanks to blogging.
I recommend that executive job seekers use their resume and bio together as the foundation for all online and offline career branding. You’ve talked about the career biography replacing the executive resume as a better representation of people’s promise of value. Do you think resumes are obsolete?
I think resumes are still necessary – companies require them, but bios will become even more important in the future. Resumes are limited in their ability to demonstrate what makes you exceptional and they are typically void of personality. The Human part of Human Resources is becoming more important in the new world of work. Bios allow you to paint a portrait of who you are.
William Arruda’s keynotes and professional development solutions are inspiring, unique and steadfastly focused on results. He uses his highly energetic and enthusiastic style to pump adrenaline into meetings or conferences. For more information and to contact William, visit his website.
Visit the Reach website to find out about their personal branding certification programs and personal branding for companies, organizations and teams.