You might think “branding” is something that should be left to the marketing department.
But whether you like it or not, you’re already creating a personal brand for yourself in; your leadership style, your communication with your colleagues, the work you produce and even your social media posts.
There are probably many GCs who you’ve never met but you know of because they’ve featured in publications, spoken at seminars, or are just very active on LinkedIn. Having this reputation opens doors in your career and will give you the leverage you need to achieve your goals, whatever they may be.
But how do you find and shape your personal brand?
Why you need your own personal brand
Your brand is what sets you apart from the crowd. By being professionally recognisable, you’ll be respected both within your team and outside of it. It will help your reputation within the business, but also build connection and confidence with your C-suite and fellow professionals.
As those around you realise that you are not just a lawyer but have interests and abilities that can help drive the business forward, they will start to think of wider possibilities for you.
In fact, by working on your personal branding, you may find possibilities that you hadn’t considered before, such as moving into a more managerial role or helping to shape your company’s strategy.
How to work out what your brand should be
Generally speaking, your brand should demonstrate your personal skills, expertise and willingness to be involved in all aspects of the business (and not just the legal side of things).
Put simply, it’s how people think of you. Ask yourself, ‘How do I want to be seen?’
Take some time to understand your strengths. You might be great at thought leadership or explaining legal issues simply. Or maybe you have a business brain that lets you see the long-term potential of a deal or strategy.
Concentrate on characteristics that will position you as someone who moves business forward. Innovation and an aptitude for the financial and marketing aspects of the industry are particularly valuable.
If you can demonstrate that you have a much wider knowledge base than just the legal angle, you will be positioning yourself as someone who can give valuable input on broader growth strategy and management issues.
You should also look at how you can align your own brand with that of your company. For example, if you work for a leading tech company and you have an interest in that area, then positioning yourself as a legal tech thought leader serves both you and your company.
How to build your General Counsel brand
Once you’ve decided what you want to be known for, you need to start building your reputation in those areas. This involves making yourself visible to colleagues and those outside your firm who are either in a similar field or who are potential clients or possible future colleagues.
- Speaking at conferences is a great way to establish your authority and get yourself in front of people with the same interests. It also offers the opportunity to network afterwards and increase your personal connections. Events like LegalGeek are a great way to out yourself out there and network.
- Writing articles will give you a good reach. Focus on topics that you want to be seen as a thought-leader in; your area of legal expertise, LegalTech, working with the C-Suite. Look for well-respected platforms where you can publish and don’t forget to share them via your social media networks.
- Develop your business acumen as well as your legal know-how. This is particularly important for your career progression from legal professional to someone who can offer helpful advice to the company’s direction. This could include some training on anything from interpreting financial data to understanding basic marketing strategies - just whatever you’re interested in!
- Develop close ties with all of the major departments, in particular marketing and communications, finance, tech and human resources. Listen and learn and offer insightful input when you can. Let everyone know that you’re willing to take on a challenge and use your legal expertise combined with an understanding of the wider business to propel the business forward.
A final word
If you’re looking to make a move to a C-suite position or onto the board, then a positive personal brand is essential.
Companies need their general counsel to have a wider understanding of the business world and be able to support and guide the leadership team. By carefully tuning your brand to show your best assets and your positive approach to business strategy, you will position yourself as a valuable member of your business and as a potential future leader.
Have you worked on your personal branding? We’d love to know what you think is the most effective way of shaping your image. Let us know in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.