While branding is often described by marketers and career experts in progressive terms, the branding effect can work in reverse, proving harmful to one’s career and professional reputation. This is particularly true for English as a Second language (ESL) speakers when language and cultural stereotypes are perpetuated through professional communication.
By popular definition, branding, and most notoriously personal branding, is described as “the process whereby people and their careers are marked as brands. The personal branding concept suggests that success comes from self-packaging.” (Wikipedia) But the opposite is also true—success can be hindered by stereotypes evident in packaging that is grammatically inaccurate, lacking in persuasion, or culturally inappropriate.
Since packaging includes your business cards, e-mail stationery, writing content and style, voicemail, and a number of other verbal and written forms that identify your professional self, it is of the utmost importance that this information be: accurate, intelligible, polished, and communicated persuasively.
How we package ourselves to the outside world is especially significant in a global business communication context. There are several reasons why this is so.
1. With less communication face to face, people have less information from which to make inferences. Subtle details, such as a signature, writing style, phone communication style, or social media profile, may be the only “pieces of you” your audience has. So, these pieces should be arranged with care.
2. Social media IS communication and identity, regardless of how involved your company may be. You are an individual contributor with an identity within the company AND outside. It’s important to guard and develop both. This means having a well developed Linked In profile, Google page, and the like.
3. While English remains the global language of business, it’s important to keep your English packaging error free and culturally appropriate. Try getting pointers from a trusted colleague—we advised an approach here a few posts back.
Thankfully, you can largely control these outcomes. Don’t settle for less than excellent—your professional reputation may be on the line.
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