I recently had the pleasure of listening to Paul Rand, President and CEO of the Zocalo Group, one of the nation’s largest word-of-mouth and social media marketing agencies talk about the growing importance of making the brands we represent as agencies brands that are “recommendable.”  He went on to talk about the power of recommendations, citing a Nielsen study that found 92% of people said that a positive recommendation from a friend, family member or another trusted person is the biggest influence on whether they buy a product or service.

In a convocation speech to Northwestern University’s Integrated Marketing Communications program students, Mr. Rand used his expertise to create a simple list for incorporating much of what he espouses to clients about making their brands recommendable to provide advice for how to live a successful life.

We are after all, brands all our own.  Our actions, words, peer groups, social status—even our personal style—defines our brand.  This idea that you are the place you hold in another’s is a compelling reason to be thoughtful and strategic about communicating our personal brand.   Because, very simply, it’s not who you think you are; but who “they” think you are.

Mr. Rand’s list is great metaphor for the old-fashioned do-right rules; this time, presented in a social context.

Here are Paul’s 5 key takeaways for living a recommendable life:

  1. Develop a clear and purposeful story of how you want to be talked about and recommended. How do you want to be talked about–as a person, a son or daughter, a parent, a grandchild, a business leader? Live that way. The same thing applies to brands.
  2. Live your brand. Think of yourself as a brand, one that’s worthy of a passionate recommendation by friends, family and coworkers.  If you want to be recommended as a great friend, for example, make sure you’re always a thoughtful and caring one.
  3. Be human. When you make mistakes, own it, fix what you can and ask forgiveness if necessary.
  4. Stay engaging and interesting. Both on a personal level and when representing a brand, spend 90% of the time listening and engaging, and 10% of the time talking about yourself.
  5. Evaluate and evolve, but stay true to your core. Lives and markets change. Take time to be introspective. Take ownership of your life and your brands.

Have you done a personal brand audit?  What would your recommendable number be?