“Be true to yourself” is the advice often given people who are planning a career. Yet companies are often not true to themselves when they establish their brand. They try imitating other strong brands in their own space. Or, they build brands based upon utopian ideals with no realistic foundation.

So, where do you start? The following are some guidelines to help you establish and grow a believable brand that's consistent with your company's “true self.”

Branding starts with introspection--the identification of your company's core values and competencies. After all, branding is the bridge between your company and its stakeholders.

So why is it that so often a company's corporate values, vision, mission statement and brand promise are all done by different functional groups? All of us have seen it: upper management handles the vision and mission, corporate values are established by HR, and branding is the responsibility of marketing.

The result is confusion. Your company's personality ends up being different depending upon where the first contact is with a company.

The following sections provide a brand development and implementation approach for your company that's similar to the steps to career building.

What Is a Brand?

A brand is the link formed by repeated communications between your company and the outside world. It's the outward projection of who you are. It is how you look, what you say and how you say it. This explanation is why most people link branding only to marketing communications--but it encompasses the entire company and every relationship.

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Jonathan Ward is the President and CEO and Bedrock Strategic Marketing,, www.bdrock.com, a advertising agency located in Wakefield, MA. It numbers among its clients such firms as Microsoft, General Electric, and EMC.