I got a message the other day from someone who told me they had no personal brand.
It wasn't quite true.
We all have a personal brand. They happened to have one that was suffering from neglect. They had been in the same position at the same company for over ten years and did what many of us do.
They forgot to pay attention to it.
We all do it.
Trust me, I've been there.
But when we're in a place where we're not thinking about leaving our position, or we're so caught in getting the current job done, or we think it's a bunch of nonsense to even think of ourselves as a brand, we don't give it the attention it deserves.
Pretty soon it starts to show.
The leaves get brown edges. They start to droop. You notice the plant literally leaning too much in one direction as it strains itself to get the sunlight it deserves.
Just like different plants require different care to thrive, so goes your personal brand.
If you're happy where you are, your personal brand may not need as much care and feeding as someone who is actively looking for the next gig, building their customer base, starting a new business venture or wants to build a tribe of followers.
A philodendron requires a much lesser commitment than an african violet.
Whether we're talking houseplants or personal brands they all need some measure of the following on a consistent basis.
No plant will survive very long with at least one drink of water a week. For your personal brand, mark out time in your weekly schedule to spend with it. How much time you allot depends on what you want your brand to do for you. At the bare minimum you should devote at least one hour a week, daily if you're in active growth mode.
Food is good. For a plant to really thrive you're going to need to add some fertilizer into that water periodically. This is especially important if you're building and maintaining a customer base, trying to impress investors in your new company or actively looking for your next great job. That could mean blogging, podcasting, or engaging in conversations on social networks like LinkedIn or Twitter. Again - how much fertilizing is determined by what you want your personal brand to do for you. Too much of the wrong fertilizer can burn a plant.
Talk to them.
My mother clued me in long ago that the secret to nurturing anything - from people to baking and yes - to plants was to show them a little love and talk to them. Plants have been shown to thrive from verbal communication. Your personal brand will too. In other words, engage with those you want to connect with. Online and offline.
Very few plants will survive kept entirely in the dark. Neither will your personal brand. It's hard to stand in the spotlight for many of us, but if we don't let a little sunshine come our way, we're never going to grow it. Plants will literally start bending toward the light. We might develop back pains and muscle aches.
Check for pests.
Bad stuff happens to the healthiest plants. That's why we need to give them a closer inspection every now and then. Check behind the leaves. Take a look at the soil. If you see something rotten, do something. You might simply need to move the plant to another location or transplant it into a new container. Once a month is optimum to do this for your personal brand. At the very least, once a quarter. Any less and you could put yourself in the danger zone and find yourself like my friend has, thinking they don't have a personal brand.
The good news is even wilted and tired looking plants can thrive again.
You don't have to have a green thumb to make that happen. But you need to be willing to give them a little attention.
I don't claim to have a green thumb when it comes to my plants.
But I do have two houseplants that have traveled with me since the nineties from Philadelphia to DC to New York and are still thriving. All because I gave them the water, food, care and attention they need and crave. Periodically, I talk to them. Your personal brand deserves the same.
Joanne Tombrakos is a Storyteller and Consultant who specializes in personal branding, social media and content marketing. She is also an adjunct professor of digital marketing at NYU. For a complete list of her consulting and personal branding services visit joannetombrakos.com where this article originally appeared.