Three Personal Branding Lessons From Princess Diana

May 31, 2010 by  Filed under: Branding 

In unearthing your authentic personal brand, one of the steps is to explore your own purpose and mission. By viewing your career on a larger scale in this way, you gain a new perspective that gives you the guidance needed to be more authentic from the inside-out. That, in turn, ensures that you will be more personally fulfilled by your day-to-day work. For that reason, many careerists and entrepreneurs really think deeply about their mission in life.

Of course we all tend to think in that way when some big crisis happens or when we lose our jobs and are forced to reevaluate our goals. But I don’t believe for a minute that the majority of professionals ponder this important component during the important process of defining their images and creating their personal brands.

But unless and until you delve into your own personal goals in life and understand what your mission is for the world, it is difficult to generate a truly authentic brand image that really resonates with who you are. While this kind of exercise can require a little bit of soul-searching – and is a challenge for some of my clients – it is one of the most valuable processes for mapping your career based on the bigger picture. Those who successfully engage in this kind of process of self-discovery and professional branding reap the benefits far into the future, and they are usually the people we remember for what they did for others and gave to the world.

I recently attended the Atlanta exhibition “Princess Diana: A Celebration,” and while there it became very clear to me that Princess Di knew exactly what her mission in life was. She intentionally and authentically leveraged her power and celebrity status to influence others in a positive way and really help the causes that were meaningful to her. Despite the fact that many people with fame and fortune squander the opportunity because they lack direction or purpose, Diana was passionate about her mission and as a result she left behind a remarkable legacy.

I was especially moved by photos of her holding the hands of people living with diseases like leprosy and AIDS – at a time when those patients were shunned by others. When those photos were first published it shocked the international media. There she was, for all the world to see, a princess who knew the power of touch and used it to convey to the world that those diseases were not contagious.

At the same time she set an example that demonstrated that human compassion and empathy could be contagious -in a positive and healing way. Visiting the sick was one of her humanitarian duties. Her personal missions to help others were often difficult and unfashionable, but she was nonetheless passionate about them. Despite being a highly visible member of the royal family, she still understood how to give and care on an international platform – and she used her time, her wealth, and her other resources to further her mission.

Here are three personal branding concepts we can all learn from Diana:

Know Thy Purpose

To start discovering your personal brand, first take a look at the bigger vision of your life. Why are you here, and what would you like to see possible for the world? How can you leverage the “power of one” to influence a philanthropic cause? Both careerists and entrepreneurs can be involved in something they feel passionate about. If you are a professional and you want to feed the hungry around the world, then getting behind a world hunger project would be great. If you work in a corporate setting, you could volunteer to organize the quarterly food drive and make a donation on an even larger platform by involving your colleagues. An entrepreneur could donate a percent of product revenues, book sales, or event bookings to the world hunger mission and let people know they support that cause. Leverage your sales while letting people know that you have a heart and want to be a part of something special and charitable. This gives people a glimpse of your philanthropic side. We all like to know that people are giving back to their communities, especially in this difficult time when our fellow man may be worst off than we are. Diana truly knew her purpose and took risks that could damage her reputation among the royal family – but it was her authentic calling.

Understand Your Cause to Chart Your Path

When you have a difficult decision to make or suffer a career setback, having a bigger picture view helps. If you lose your job, for example, but are mindful of what you would like to see happen in the world, then you are more likely to seek out and find another type of work that really fulfills you to help you realize this larger dream. You may decide to go into non-profit work or to work for an organization that values philanthropic involvement. When I worked at Macy’s, for example, we could volunteer through the “Partners in Time” events to work on a Habitat for Humanity house or make valentine cards for the elderly in nursing homes. While we all live such busy lives we also know that once we help our fellow man we better appreciate all that we have. We know that just one single person does have the power to change the life of another. Diana leveraged her celebrity platform to achieve her goals of raising money and awareness for philanthropic causes and being a supportive voice for people in need.

Keep Your Vision Alive

Yes, we are all so very busy today and sometimes finding that balance of work and pleasure or career and personal life can be difficult. But it’s important to keep your vision for the world alive. You don’t have to donate millions of dollars to an organization to feel that your purpose is evolving – you just need to do a little here and there. We will leave the enormous gifts to well-known and well-heeled philanthropists like Oprah or Bill Gates – those with the really deep pockets. That’s part of their personal brand and mission. They are taking a stand to back causes that they are passionate about and to market those efforts every chance they get. If you can think of ways to involve others in giving of their time through a project at church, donating an hour a month on a charitable board, or finding a way to give through your business – you will feel more authentic in your brand messaging. Tell people why these causes are important to you. Ask them what causes they love and want to support. This allows you to respect and contribute to their personal mission while you give back in an authentic way that says volumes about your image. If you have a great client and know their larger vision for this world, then that is a great opportunity to make a contribution to their cause – versus sending them a holiday gift or a referral fee. It conveys to them that you think beyond the office walls and support their mission and purpose in a personal way.

Diana’s brother Spencer is keeping her memory alive by supporting this current exhibition, so that we don’t forget that while Diana was the Princess of Wales – she was most of all a passionate humanitarian with a generous heart.

I hope that all of you will think of your larger purpose in life. That’s why we are all here. None of us wants to look back over our life or career and realize that we never really discovered our personal brand mission. Seek and discover yours and leverage it for your career or business in an authentic way that conveys an image that you give back to a larger community – beyond your professional and personal life.

Sarah Hathorn is a professional image consultant, certified personal brand strategist, speaker, and author.
Her company, Illustra Image Consulting, works with high-achieving future leaders and large businesses by enhancing their corporate and personal brand image to take their businesses and careers to the next level.
Blog, Ezine & Website: http://www.illustraimageconsulting.com
Phone: 678-528-1239 Email: sarah@illustraimageconsulting.com
Copyright 2009, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS
This article may be reproduced only in its entirety, including the above bio.

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