How to Build Your Personal Brand
Many people find it difficult wrapping their heads around the idea of a personal brand. There’s kind of existential struggle for identity that has brand atheists screaming ‘I am not a brand; I am a human being ‘The problem with this fractured line of argument is it’s locked into a specific definition, currency and expectation of branding.
Great branding is far from that. Great branding is human.
To Brand or Not to Brand?
“All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
– Tom Peters, Fast Company
Tom Peters is correct about branding for business success. But business success is not necessarily synonymous with personal success. Should personal brands obey Al and Laura Ries’ “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” to ensure success in the Game of Life, or are personal brands different?
Before jumping on the personal branding bandwagon, it might be helpful to understand the nature of branding as a prelude to understanding the importance of branding. The definition of a brand bounces all over the place, depending on who’s doing the defining. A useful definition for this discussion comes from the global branding consultancy, Millward Brown. Millward Brown says a “brand resides in the minds of consumers.”
“What a brand really consists of is the sum total of the perceptions of that brand in the minds of consumers. And while every individual will have some unique memories and experiences related to a brand, the perceptions of that brand that are broadly shared across a population ultimately define it and influence its destiny.”
In essence, a brand is the totality of interactions a consumer has with a product or a service. In this regard branding is the process of creating and sustaining powerful affirmative relationships/experiences in the minds of consumers. In context of personal branding, it’s people showcasing their knowledge, skills and attitude for personal & career development.
Critics have latched on to this and view it as nothing but a politically correct form of selective, self-censorship. Clearly, when personal branding promotes self-censorship, it’s personal branding chicanery which throttles self-actualisation and is exceedingly unhealthy to one’s self. Perhaps the biggest point is, it rarely delivers results. So why go through the hassle of being a fake?
The concept of a “brand” being the sum of consumer perceptions remains true in social, non-transactional, non-commercial situations. People generally have like/dislike/indifferent perception of people in all interactions. In this regard, we are all brands. Hence, personal brand is quite relevant as a career builder as in commerce.
This gets to the crux why some brands are winners while other brands are losers. Brands have value to businesses only because consumers trust brands. Brands simplify life by short cutting the due diligence decision process. Winning brands win because consumers trust winning brands. Brands that do not enjoy the trust of consumers, struggle. Likewise, a personal brand that is not trusted by other people means inferior reputation leading to inferior results.
Components of the Personal Brand
Brands that enjoy strong relationships with consumer’s brand loyalty generate more revenue. The same applies to personal brands. Don’t get caught up with the definition of revenue (or remuneration) as brand currency. Feel free to define revenue/currency any way you want. There’s enormous currency in knowledge, skills, and core values when they’re underpinned by trust.
There’s six broad drivers of brand loyalty:
- Rational benefits: Consumers believe the brand is the best choice.
- Emotional benefits: The brand makes consumers feel good.
- Popularity: Consumers believe the brand is a safe choice.
- Difference: Provides the reason to choose over alternative choices.
- Dynamism: The brand is a trendsetter, shaking up the status quo.
- Value: The value proposition encapsulates the reasons why the brand adds more value or solves a problem better than alternative choices.
The common theme in all these drivers is trust.
In context of personal branding, trust is an inherent attribute of character. Trust always precedes the personal branding process. And, nothing validates and signals trust better and faster than authenticity. What you see is what you get! More on authenticity later.
Brand Your Trust
It’s hard not to see how and why personal branding often falls way short of expectations. Trust is the essential product or ingredient of personal branding that you. Trust is what you bring to the table.Sadly, many personal branding gurus often diminish the importance of the trust while blathering far too much about brand messaging. Brand messages can be very important. But, they must clearly signal and amplify the trustworthiness of authenticity.
What’s Your Story?
Your story is the personal branding narrative that affirms your authenticity, which in turn affirms your trustworthiness. Stories have always been the most powerful communication tool in the history of man simply because mankind loves stories. Much if not most of human history is passed on to succeeding generations by way of great, riveting stories.
The idea that epic stories generate powerful emotions of regard and affection is confirmed by an ever growing body of research on brain response to descriptive stories. In his Harvard Business Review article, neuroscientist, Paul Zak, reported that character driven stories charged with emotional content communicates a better comprehension of key points than any other
This is not a treatise on writing great stories. But, most guidelines on the elements of a great story that highlight the common themes of trust, honesty, emotion, and authenticity.
- Powerful stories resonate and evoke emotion
- They take an honest, authentic view on human condition
- They signal purpose that’s greater than self, which aligns with a common good
- They teach in a way that inspires reciprocal candor and honesty
- They create opportunities to continue the conversation
The power of words
Few of us have a natural talent for writing. Writing is an ability that’s acquired through practice. But, writing is a necessary evil that personal branding demands simply because written content is the dominant tool for personal branding. And, nobody can execute the personal branding story better than you.
When telling your story, you want your target audience to savour the flavours of your personal branding journey. Do this by dishing up your story in small portions. This keeps them coming back for more. Share what you know in small increments like chapters in a book. Keep your story chapters consistent and focused so your value proposition consistently rings loud and clear in each chapter.
Don’t be afraid to hold something back.
Don’t be afraid to turn people away.
You are not for everyone
Personal branding for the everyman would be exceedingly difficult without the Internet and social media. To activate the personal branding process, you must join the conversation by embracing the Internet and of course, social media.
Regardless of who you are or what you do, there’s a strong likelihood a social media platform and/or forum exists that fits the profile of your target audience the social communities you want to engage with your personal branding communications. LinkedIn, Twitter Facebook, Instagram, each has its own value proposition. Do your research to find the platforms that best match you target audience criteria style of communication.
Twitter taps into the real time serendipitous stream of consciousness. Its 140 character microblogging style allows you to easily project story pulses, interact with others and get on the attention of influencers, thought leaders, CEO’s, recruiters, bloggers and peers. Granted, it has low signal to noise ratio, but a carefully curated follower lists and use of #’s will definitely amplify signal.
LinkedIn is your powerful partner in long term branding and career strategy. It consolidates a number of functions to become your publicist, agent, recruiter, mentor, referee, teacher, and publisher. LinkedIn allows you showcase your expertise and express your opinions view in long form within a professional network.
On any platform, what you post, your comments, the groups you join, and the conversations you have, you bolster your brand, sharing your thoughts in a personal way with connections and those who visit your profile. Don’t be shy with your likes, shares, and follows, especially with true thought leaders who engage the community in constructive conversations and share valuable information. Let the law of reciprocity rule and engage your community with constructive, authoritative, and useful conversation, and sharing your unique voice.
Most successful people sing the praises of mentors. A mentor will provide the needed guidance to help you avoid needless missteps and avoid reinventing stuff that’s readily available. Neil Patel has a useful free guide that explains why your personal brand can benefit from a mentor. The guide also offers useful tips on finding the ideal mentor for your unique situation.
Personal branding rules
You’ll be perfectly qualified to start your personal branding process when you follow these simple rules.
- Know yourself
- Be yourself
- Believe in yourself
- Learn to write
- Be consistent in your message
- Show, don’t tell
- Be visible & engage
- Communicate with focussed authority
- Practice empathy
- Never give up
The process of defining your personal brand requires time and many, many iterations to ensure you stand out from the pack. In fact, since most of us are changing personally and professionally all the time, your personal brand should be organic and evolve with you. In the end, a personal brand is not a sprint, it’s a never ending journey of reflection, discovery and calibration. And the sooner you take control of it, the sooner you can get on with achieving the most important goals in your life
“Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand.”
– Seth Godin