Have you ever heard the phrase “perception is everything”? Unfortunately, it couldn’t be truer – you are how people perceive you. The good news, however, is that you are in complete control of how they perceive you. You have the power to decide who you want to be, and display to others what you want them to see. This is the power of personal branding.
So, what is personal branding? Personal Branding is how others view and describe you, it’s what value you bring to a given situation, your expertise on a subject, and what will help you to pave your path in pursuit of your passion. The best part is that anyone and everyone can build a unique personal brand, no matter what industry or niche they are pursuing.
Think of personal branding as you would think of product or corporate branding. How does the Disney brand make you feel? What does the Nike brand inspire you to do or be? It’s the same for people, for personal branding. When you see a link to a post by Chris Brogan, what kind of online marketing credibility does it bring? If you see a headline regarding Linsay Lohan…it will evoke extremely different imagery than a headline involving Michelle Obama. That’s personal branding.
It’s easier than you think to get started. Follow these 7 easy steps to begin building your journey of personal branding:
The first step in the personal branding process is not too difficult, in the sense that you know you better than anyone else! In order to begin building your personal brand you must assess your strengths and weaknesses to decide what it is you know well, what you are an expert in, and what you are passionate about. Think about and write down your skills, experience, knowledge base and what subjects you would consider yourself an “expert” in. Conducting a personal SWOT analysis would be a good exercise to complete during this step.
If you don’t consider yourself an authority figure in any one area, that’s ok – we will talk more about this in step 2.
This one takes a lot of time and consideration. In order to progress in developing a personal brand, decide what you want that brand to be centered on. Who do you aspire to be? How do you want to be perceived? What knowledge or expertise do you want to be sought out for?
You must decide on a direction, then decide which steps to take to get there. Do you want to be a social media guru? Or, perhaps a Hollywood based “fashionista”? Or maybe you want to be an authority figure on “going green” and environmental activism. All of those are great, but you must choose one.
This is where that “lack of authority figure” issue from above comes back into play: If you aren’t comfortable enough with any one subject to consider yourself an expert, start with your goal setting. Once you have decided what direction you want to go in, and how you eventually want to be perceived, determine how far you are away from your goal, and what it will take for you to become that “expert”.
Helpful Personal Branding Tip:
Choose an area of expertise that you can truly make your own. Choose a niche that you can be the official thought leader on. The more broad the subject matter; the more competitors there will be in your area. If your focus lies in executive coaching, you may want to highlight your expertise in “coaching CEOs of technology startups.” Catch my drift? …Be specific.
There are 3 types of research you should be doing in regards to continuing to build your personal branding:
Topical/Subject Matter Research
Whether you know an exorbitant amount regarding a particular subject matter, or just enough to get by (but you know this topic interests you, and it’s the direction you’ve chosen to go in), you should be educating yourself on the ins-and-outs of your niche topic. Immerse yourself in literature, guides, “how-tos”, videos, etc. of the topic you want to be considered an expert. Walk the walk – gain experience putting your expertise into action. Learn from others, and keep learning.
Authority Figure Research
Find out who is already considered an authority figure in the niche you’ve chosen, or the next closest subject. Analyze and repeat any tactics they have used to find success, and any mistakes you could avoid along the way. Consider reaching out to them and building a mutually beneficial relationship.
Once you consider yourself an “expert” in your category, continue researching and learning…and don’t stop. Be at the forefront of creativity, innovation, and knowledge in your niche. Lead the charge!
The next 3 steps involve actually building your personal brand. There are 3 components that work together to create your overall personal brand: Your “in-person” brand, your “on-paper” brand, and your “online” brand.
Your “in-person” brand consists of those things that a person can draw, and therefore perceive about you from meeting you in person.
Yes, this matters. Make sure what you’re wearing remains cohesive with the image you are trying to portray. If you want to be perceived as a prestigious up and coming prosecutor, don’t show up for a meeting in “casual Friday’s” attire. If you’re interviewing for a position at a hip e-commerce clothing website, you should look like their best mannequin come to life.
Yes, this matters too. Same basic premise as above: if you want to be a corporate soldier, keep it clean, simple and neutral. If you want to be in a rock band, throw on some eyeliner.
How you speak to and engage with people is extremely important. After having a conversation with someone, they will be pretty well versed in what you may be capable of based on how you spoke, your chosen vernacular, and how you carried yourself. Be aware of the way you come off.
Your “on-paper” brand consists of those materials that would describe or remind someone about who you are, in writing.
These are pretty standard Items. Clearly, if you are not currently and actively applying for jobs, this won’t be applicable to you. However, you should have handy a resume and cover letter that encompass the imagery you want to evoke in your personal brand, and formatting that allows for customization of each company you are applying to.
Most people overlook the opportunity to brand business cards to make them unique to your personal brand. Get creative, stand out, make them scream “you”. Experiment with different shapes, sizes, colors, fonts, imagery, and thickness until you develop a completely unique item to be remembered by – but, keep it consistent with the image you wish to portray in your personal brand.
Your online brand includes any and all portals that have your name and likeness visible to the public, and therefore represent who you are to them. A great way to audit the platforms you are already being found for and judged on is to type your name into Google, and see what websites and images are returned.
You should be active on the platforms that remain cohesive with your personal brand and where your prospective audience will be looking for you. More creative-based personal brands could have more of a presence on Instagram, or Pinterest; whereas more serious, business oriented personal brands may want to focus their efforts on LinkedIn and Google+.
The most important and effective way to brand yourself, convey your thoughts, knowledge, and expertise, and engage with your audience is through the use of a blog. Content creation is the best way to display your personal brand and your subject matter expertise.
Again, the most important thing to remember with social media in regards to personal branding is to determine which social sites coincide with your personal brand and where your audience is, and to post only content that coincides with your personal branding and what your audience would find value in. The following social media platforms are the most popular, and are considered the “big 4”.
Helpful Personal Branding Tip: Choose the same image across platforms to encourage recognition and awareness of your personal brand.
The 3 most important words to keep in mind for the ongoing management and development of your personal branding are:
Stay up to date, and stay in your niche (or very close to it). Post content that relates to your personal branding, whatever it is you are the “expert on”, and continue learning to make sure you remain the “expert”. Post a mix of your own blog content and third party content that relates to your subject matter.
Make sure your voice is consistent across all platforms. Make sure your audience knows exactly what they are going to get from you. If you decide to write 2 blog posts per week regarding social media marketing, stick to it.
Post often, stay in front of your audience and stay in the game. If you’re too quiet, people will forget about you.
Your personal brand can be anything you want it to be, just choose a direction and align all of your efforts to be consistent with it. Are you Honda or Mercedes? Are you Disneyland or Six Flags? Are you Britney Spears or Celine Dion? Focus on how you want to be perceived, what value you will bring to your audience and why they will want to learn more from you, and continue to learn and hone your expertise to stay on top of your personal branding.
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