Companies have brands, products have brands – and so should you. But to build one, you’ll need to focus on personal branding.
Personal branding is ‘the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual.’ Everyone has a unique personal brand – it’s just about figuring out how to shape it and use it to your advantage.
Sit back and brainstorm some big-name brands, can you also name the well-known and reputable person behind them? If you can, it’s because these success stories have personal brands – duos like Steve Jobs and Apple, Richard Branson and Virgin or Bill Gates and Microsoft. These entrepreneurs are now synonymous with their empires – all because they knew how to work their PB. But you don’t have to build a global empire to see the benefit in building your brand. You’ll find there are strong influencers within niches big and small that use their personal brand to drive their business forward.
Now just because Steve Jobs has an unreal personal brand doesn’t mean you should start wearing turtlenecks to sell phones. You have to use your unique flair to put forward a powerful, desirable and visible message.
Despite its importance, a survey by Glenn Llopis Group showed that less than 15% of people actually have a defined personal brand, and less than 5% use it in their work day-to-day. The reality is that an effective personal brand requires consistency, self-awareness, motivation and a willingness to be honest and transparent about who you are with the rest of the world.
In today’s competitive market you are at a major disadvantage without an innovative and effective personal brand. If you want to be praised by the press, grow your business and connect with the people that matter – it’s time to think about your PB.
What is a personal brand?
What do people think of when they hear your name? What are you putting out to the public that allows them to form opinions on you?
Tom Peters, the founding father of personal branding, said in an article for Fast Company Magazine that ‘regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, 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.”
Today, we’re more visible than ever, so in order to thrive in this sort of environment it’s important to nail the way you present yourself. Here’s some ways to do it –
- Personality: what are you really like? Are you funny? Organised? Eccentric? Play to your strengths.
- Values: connect with others that align with you.
- Passions: what you believe in will attract people to you – passion is motivating.
- Strengths: what are you already good at? Public speaking? Style? Build on this.
- Education and Work Experience: transfer your professional skills to your personal brand.
- Inspirations: who is already doing what you want to do? Don’t copy, but take note.
- Style: present yourself accurately, define your own dress code for your personality that reflects your goals.
- Connections: figure out who you need on your side to portray your personal brand to the world.
Why do you need a personal brand?
In the digital age, you are always being scrutinised. If you’re putting yourself out there, chances are you’re being Googled. Often, potential customers will head to Google and search for information on who runs the show before they commit to anything, same goes for business connections, who will Google you to see if you’re worth their time before you’ve even met for that first coffee. What are they finding when they put your name into the search bar? Is it what you want to portray?
Whether you like it or not, this kind of analysis is here to stay. And as we continue to become more immersed in sending messages on LinkedIn, posting photos on Facebook and Tweeting our thoughts – you better learn how to work it.
Beyond the fact that taking control of your personal brand is basic risk management, there are also some major pluses to nailing your personal brand.
- It’ll help you understand yourself – when you build your brand image around your characteristics, skills, and vision, you’ll have to learn exactly what they are and how to leverage them for the better.
- It’ll define what makes you unique – what makes you unique will set you apart from others and allow you to connect more easily with like-minded people. For business owners, a unique personal brand can be the difference that keeps your ideal customers choosing your brand over everyone else’s.
- It’ll help you connect and find opportunities – by making a deliberate effort to build your personal brand, you’ll take control of your public image. And by presenting a crystal clear vision of who you are and what you stand for others will be able to find and connect with you more easily. You’ll be surprised what opportunities come your way when you put your personal brand out there.
- It’ll help your business grow – having an honest personal brand will make it much easier for consumers to form a stronger relationship with your brand in the long run. At the end of the day, people build relationships with people over companies so a strong personal brand is going to give your business a major edge.
So – how do you develop a strong personal brand?
How do you use your personal brand to get prospects thinking you’re the best person for the job? Here are a couple ways to get it done –
You have to display an overarching commonality in your branding. If your theme is too broad or random, your brand may appear insincere or unprofessional. For example, if you want to be known as an expert in crisp and minimal interior design – you’ll need to share visual diaries, art inspiration and client testimonials that back up your claims.
Celebrate your differences
Once you’ve got your theme down, it’s time to hone in on what makes you special. Your point of difference is all about understanding how your uniqueness is going to help you stand out in a business sense. What makes you different? What is your specialty? What type of work do you love doing the most?
Personal branding statement
Ok – so you’ve got your theme, you know what makes you stand out, now you need to nail your personal branding statement. Your personal branding statement ‘is 1-2 sentences answering what you are the best at (value), who you serve (audience) and how you do it uniquely (unique selling proposition).’ For example, IKEA’s brand vision doesn’t talk about flat-packs or reasonably priced furniture, it is ‘to create a better everyday life’ for many people. It’s all about creating something memorable and effective without straying from what you stand for, what you can do and your uniqueness.
Social media, blogs and websites
What you portray online, needs to be an extension of who you are offline. This includes what and how you post on your social media channels, blogs and self-run websites. Don’t just have these online tools – use them. Create content, whether it’s video, visual or written – show the public what you can do with quality posts every week.
It’s well known by now that visual content works better (particularly video) than plain text. CoSchedule looked at the Facebook Pages of the top 100 brands according to the Interbrand list – in 2016, 80.20% of all their posts were photos and videos. These visual posts were responsible for 92.15% of traffic for these Facebook pages. Images work well because they grab attention, but keep in mind your theme when selecting the pictures you want to use.
Who needs one?
Quite simply, everyone can benefit from developing a personal brand. But there are a group of people in particular who, armed with a personal brand, will be bounds ahead of their competitors.
- Fresh-faced freelancers or creatives who need to get seen in a sea of similar talent.
- Entrepreneurs who want to build their business while making their way to the top of their field.
- Employees or professionals wanting to work their way up and land their dream job.
- Graduates wanting to get a foot in the door with employers.
- Bloggers or content creators who want to grow their audiences and solidify their place in a particular niche.
Take someone like Mia Freedman, who through her Mamamia blog has managed to create a popular personal brand that makes her a trusted voice within her target audience of middle-class Australian women. Look at also someone like Australian journalist Latika Bourke – who in 2010 was recruited from Fairfax to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to become their first social media reporter due to the following and respect she built covering Federal politics on her personal Twitter account. In both of these cases and many others, we see a strong personal brand was the base for their opportunities in business and in their careers.
Essentially, a personal brand helps us define who we are, what we stand for and what we want to achieve. By putting out a clear and strong message we invite like-minded connections to help us grow, learn and succeed.
Now that we know how important personal branding is, and that so little people actually have one nailed, don’t you think it’s time to work on yours? How are you going to get cracking on perfecting all the things we’ve talked about?