personalbrandingkeepcalmThere is no denying that Pope Francis’ recent trip to the United States was successful on many fronts. He addressed the US Congress and members of the United Nations, met President Obama, and spoke to thousands on the same steps as Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia. He addressed a myriad of issues including immigration, global warming, and a more equitable distribution of wealth, but, perhaps, his visit will be remembered more than one with religious overtones. Perhaps, though, it will be remembered as the trip when Francis rebranded the role of pope.

Instead of a fancy limousine, Pope Francis appeared in a black Fiat hatchback: a 1.4-liter model 500L starting at $19,345 with 33 miles per gallon on the highway. Or, in what may become the next advertisement for Fiat, “An Everyman’s Car.”

To quote Alan Zarembo from the Los Angeles Times: “As Francis scooted around Washington and Philadelphia in the back seat, eschewing the gas-guzzling Mercedes SUV of his predecessor, the symbolism resonated as powerfully as any of his speeches: An everyman’s pope…Close observers say that 78-year-old Francis is simply being himself, with values forged in a Jesuit tradition that emphasizes humility and service to the downtrodden. He doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. Unlike his predecessors, he never served in the Vatican administration before becoming pope. In his native Argentina, where he spent most of his career, he often rode the public bus… The message, from the church, is that its appeal is simple and authentic. Francis, in essence, is a rebranding of Catholicism.”

According to Richard Miller, a professor of theology at Creighton University in Nebraska: “The Fiat is an attempt to live more simply and authentically despite his position.”

Pope Francis clearly understands his personal brand. He knows how important genuineness is for the Catholic Church to remain relevant to its 1.2 billion followers worldwide.

Here are five personal branding tips we can learn from Pope Francis:
[1] Know what sets you apart from everyone else. Develop a mission statement or brand promise that clarifies your strengths – so that everyone around you immediately knows what you excel at and can offer to the team.
[2] Develop your digital footprint. Create a profile on the social networks that make sense and update them regularly – daily if possible.
[3] Continue to learn. Attend conferences with your peers – and travel whenever possible.
[4] Volunteer for new projects outside of your comfort zone.
[5] Enthusiastically share your expertise with others.

According to David McNally and Karl D. Speak: “Everyone has a brand, and anyone can be a strong brand. It doesn’t involve changing your personality – you can be an introvert or extrovert. And it’s definitely not about trying to be something you’re not. The difference between one personal brand and another is that the person with a strong brand utilizes his or her special qualities to make a difference in the lives of others.”

There’s a classic branding article by business expert Tom Peters called “The Brand Called You” that appeared in Fast Company magazine in 1997. In the words of Tom Peters, “Big companies understand the importance of brands. Today, in the Age of the Individual, you have to be your own brand. [You have] to be the CEO of Me Inc. You’re every bit as much a brand as Nike or Coke…Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors – or your colleagues. What have you done lately – this week – to make yourself stand out?”

What other branding tips did you learn from Pope Francis? Please chime in.