The Ultimate 8 Step Guide to Personal Branding

We all know just how much businesses rely on their branding for success. Take a child past two burger restaurants and watch their reaction. Will they clamor for you to stop at Joe’s No-Name Burgers or McDonald’s? Of course, they will go for the brand they know – McDonald’s. Well, things are no different with people. Personal branding works in the same way. People take more interest in the names they recognize than the names of total strangers.

For some people, this does not matter. They happily get up, go to work in an anonymous business, and then head home every day. As long as their friends and family recognize them, they do not care. However, to many people, personal branding is vital. Moreover, this is no more so than when you run your own business, and you live or die by your personal attraction.

We have looked briefly at this in What is Personal Branding – an Influencer’s Guide. As we saw then your personal brand is the way you promote yourself. It is your unique combination of skills, experience, and personality, what you want the world to see. It is how you tell your story.

Your personal brand can be a combination of how people look at you in real life, how the media portrays you, and the impression that people glean from any references to you online. So how do create a personal brand that will get you noticed? Here are some of the steps you should work through to build a brand that could ultimately rival the masters of your niche.

Depending on your current stage in life, you might need to follow all of these steps. You might already have a solid vision and know your niche, for instance. However, it makes sense to review even the basics, if you want to take your brand to another level.

An In-Depth Look at Personal Branding:

Stage 1: Determine Your Personal Brand Vision

You may already know the direction that you want your life to take. Indeed, you may already be well seasoned and wanting merely to improve your existing personal brand. If that describes you, then feel free to jump to a later stage in this post. However, it will still be a worthwhile exercise to review your personal brand vision, to ensure that you are heading in the right direction for your success.

Before you get down to any actionable tasks toward improving your personal brand, you first need to decide what you want your personal brand to look like. What is your vision for it?

You will want to consider how you want people to look at you. What type of image do you wish to portray?

Just as companies produce vision statements outlining what they want to achieve, you should create a personal vision statement.

According to The Highlands Company, “A clear personal vision is an integration of your abilities, interests, personality, values, goals, skills/experience, family of origin, and stage of adult development.” Now, that sounds enormous, but in reality, you can encapsulate all that is important about you in two or three paragraphs.

Of course, the focus here is really on your brand vision, so the primary emphasis is on how you want the outside world to see you.

Align Your Brand Vision with Your Core Values

You cannot build a successful personal brand if it does not align with their core values. You need to come across as being authentic and genuine to yourself.

You develop core values as you progress through life. They are deeply personal and are the heart of who you are. You may not consciously realize it, but your fundamental values influence most of your life decisions.

If you have not already discovered your core values, you should sit back and analyze yourself now. Scott Jeffrey provides seven steps you can go through to discover your personal core values. As Scott says, “Values guide our behavior, providing us with a personal code of conduct.”

Surprisingly, most people do not know their core values. They muddle their way through life, not really understanding the decisions they make. If you do not understand yourself, how can you expect others to understand you?

You should determine the five to ten values you consider most important. Remember, these will differ for all of us. While your friends and family will have influenced your values, your combination of values is personal to you.

Keep these at the forefront of your mind throughout this entire personal branding exercise. Everything you do needs to align with your core values.

It is also important to remember why you are creating a personal brand. It is not just to help you get a better job or grow your business. Your personal brand is just as much about helping you find happiness in your professional life. You are unlikely to feel fulfilled if you create a “fake” brand that is not you. Do not ignore the things you truly value – even if that means that the “you” in your brand, is not perfect.

Work Out Your Passions, Traits, and Skills

The next things you have to determine to help you find your personal brand vision are your passions and traits.

Your passions are those things you like doing with your time. The more you love doing an activity, the greater a passion you have for it.

Of course, many of your passions will have little impact on your brand. Nevertheless, they may still have an indirect effect on it. If you are a proud parent, who loves spending time with your children, you could consider that a passion. It probably will not have too much of an impact on your professional life, though.

However, you are also likely to have professional passions – work-related activities that you particularly enjoy. If you do not currently have any, that suggests that you are probably in the wrong line of work. Britain’s’ The Telegraph suggests eight ways to find the true passion in life that has eluded you.

You will probably find that your passion fits in nicely with the core values you previously determined. However, you cannot ignore your personality traits, either.

We are all born with an individualized combination of personality traits, positive, neutral, and negative. According to D.P. Farrington and D. Joliffe, “Personality traits are persisting underlying tendencies to behave in particular ways in particular situations.”

Our personality traits are innate. There are hundreds of possible traits we could possess. Here is a list of 638 Primary Personality Traits.

If you are to create a compelling, authentic personal brand vision, it needs to reflect your personality traits – perhaps focusing on your more positive traits while deemphasizing your inevitable negative traits.

As we got through life, we acquired a combination of skills. Some are basic and essential to a good life – our life skills. Others are more specific to a particular task, job, or industry. As you age, you build up a repertoire of employability, transferable, and specialist / job-related skills.

You are more likely to want to focus on your skill strength areas when you create your personal brand vision. Sure, you can acquire skills in new areas in the future, but you would not usually focus on these until you have learned them.

Stage 2: Decide Your Niche and Target Audience

You could look at all the factors you analyzed in Stage 1 – your passions, values, traits, and skills – as supply factors when you create your personal brand. Knowing these, you could probably design a brand that emphasizes everything good about you and your areas of strength. It would highlight everything that you have to offer people.

However, you are unlikely to want to highlight everything at which you are proficient. Indeed, many things in which you excel will be of little value to your personal brand. You might be an excellent knitter, but there is probably little demand for hand-knitted garments nowadays. You might have a vast collection of English comics, and can easily distinguish a Lion from a Tiger from a Beano - but you are unlikely to be able to make money from this knowledge.

The second area to consider is demand factors. For your personal band to succeed, you need to emphasize your ability to offer something about which people care. Your personal brand is irrelevant if nobody is interested in what you have to offer.

Just as a business needs to define its audience, so does a person creating a brand. You need to ask yourself, why you are doing this. Whom are you trying to impress? There is little point in trying to be generic and impressing everybody.

Go back to your vision. If you are to meet your vision, what goals do you need to set? What steps do you need to follow to reach your goals, and whom do you need to impress to turn these goals into reality?

Ideally, you will want to focus on a niche where can demonstrate skill. However, for this to be of use, there has to be a clear target audience that cares about the subject. You want to become the go-to person in that niche – the person who people have faith to come to for advice.

Sometimes your niche may appear very general. While that will mean that there is a huge target audience, it will also suggest that you will have stiff competition. In that case, you could consider narrowing your focus, while still making sure that there is still a sizeable enough target audience to warrant your expertise.

For instance, you may have discovered that you have expertise as a novelist. Even in this internet-dominated age, many people still read books. However, there are also many novelists. Most top authors focus on one genre. Stephen King could probably write successful novels in a wide range of genres, but he found it easier to focus solely on establishing a reputation as a horror writer.

Stage 3: Determine Your Point of Difference

Once you have found your niche, you need to determine how you will come across as being different from everybody else fighting for top position in your area. Assuming that you are perfectly capable at what you do, and can provide genuine help to your target audience, what is your point of difference?

In some ways, this comes back to those traits you examined earlier. What makes you distinctly you? There is little point in fighting against your own personality. It is far better to work with your traits.

For instance, two successful bloggers in the self-improvement niche are Michael Hyatt and Mark Manson. Both target people who are looking to find ways to improve their life directions, and possibly develop leadership skills.

Michael Hyatt is a devout Christiana and a spiritual leader. While he does not force his religious views on his followers, he does not shy away from them either. This means that his posts tend to emphasize moral choices and follow a Christian ethos. A typical Michael Hyatt book title is Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want.

Mark Manson also provides self-help and writes about how you can improve your life. He comes across a being much worldlier. He speaks plainly and is straight and to the point. To quote the home page of his website, “I write about big ideas and give life advice that doesn’t suck. Some people say I’m an idiot. Other people say I saved their life. Read and decide for yourself.” His bestselling title on Amazon is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – a book name that you could never imagine Michael Hyatt using.

The two men operate in a similar niche, but have followed their individual traits, and developed a clear point of difference.

Stage 4: Build Your Online Assets

One common feature of virtually everyone with a strong personal brand is that he or she has a definite, consistent online presence.

Look back at our article, 12 people who have demonstrated expertise with their personal branding. You will notice that everybody profiled operates professional, well-designed websites. The websites all follow a clear color scheme and are pleasing to the eye.

Logo and Graphics

Each site has an eye-catching logo, which appears on every page, and this is often echoed in the site’s favicon. They all have decided on a clear set of fonts, and each follows a designer-picked color palette.

While some have chosen a simplistic, minimalist look, others have gone for a more luxurious, detailed look. Largely the appearance of each site reflects the tastes of the target audience who visit on a regular basis.

If you were to follow one of these people across the Net, you would notice that he or she has created a consistent look everywhere they have an online footprint. They have generally replicated their color scheme and fonts across their social pages. You will even notice that they typically use the same profile picture on each of their social sites, as well as their blog.

A huge part of building a personal brand is looking the part. Your websites and social sites are like your home. You are inviting your target audience in, and you want to look like you belong there.

You do not want to skimp on having a personalized logo. It does not have to be sophisticated, but it does have to represent you. You could find a designer to make one for you, possibly on a site like Fiverr. You could set up a project at a crowdsourcing site, like 99designs.

Short-term you could produce a reasonable one yourself by using a template in an app like Canva. However, you will eventually want a professionally designed one.

Website / Blog

You will want your own website. While social sites like a Facebook page have their place, ultimately they are not yours. Facebook only has to change their rules or close down, and your page is gone.

One of the secrets to a successful online brand is dominating Google. To do this, you need your own website, preferable named after yourself. You need to produce content regularly under your name to dominate Google.

If you are going to meet your personal branding objectives, however, you will need to ensure that your website features the kinds of topics that will interest your target audience. Sure, a personal blog where you write about what you did today and what you ate may gain traction in Google for a search on your name. But it will not interest the type of people you are targeting.

If your objective, for instance, was to be an expert on leadership, you need to ensure that your website provides valuable content about being a leader. The aforementioned Michael Hyatt has done this well. His site attracts people looking for advice and assistance on leadership. It helps connect the name, “Michael Hyatt” with the topic, “leadership.”

A recent change to Google’s algorithm does mean that it is no longer possible to dominate a topic search with your own site, however. Google prefers to select just one page from a particular web domain for each search. Therefore, you will want the search engine rankings to show a mix of the best work on your personal blog/webpage mixed in with other relevant web pages where your name appears.

Guest Blogging

Once you have built your own site and created quality content that is visible for anybody to see, you could then consider guest posting on other relevant blogs. If you are successful here, your guest blog posts will also appear in searches for your name – and hopefully also in searches for appropriate topic keyword terms. The idea behind guest blogging is that you “borrow” the audience of a popular blog in your niche.

Effectively, a blog that accepts your request for a guest post is saying to you, “if you can write a post my audience will love, I’ll let you put a small advertisement at the bottom of the post.” Your “ad” will actually be a link in your guest post author bio to a relevant page on your own website.

However, you do need to be strategic when hunting for guest blogging opportunities. There is little point writing for a blog that does not attract the same target audience as your own. You should only consider guest blogging on the right blog for your audience.

There are three main requirements for a good site for guest blogging:

  1. The site is popular and attracts a large enough audience to warrant your time. The easiest way to know this is by whether the posts on the site generally receive many comments and/or social media engagements.
  2. The blog accepts guest posts. There is little point pitching to a site that only uses a single writer or somebody on its staff
  3. The blog gives credit to its writers and allows a link in the author bio. You will gain nothing if nobody knows that you wrote the post.

Social Media

The other component of dominating the search listings for your name is to operate social media accounts. It is more important that you do this well than it is to cover your bases everywhere. Therefore, take time to research your target audience. On which social media sites do they spend time?

It is crucial that you have a social media presence even if you intend to work with other influencers in your niche. Ultimately, you want people to see you as a go-to person in your niche, at which point you will become an influencer yourself.

Stage 5: Create Your Blog and Content Strategy

The easiest way to build a positive personal brand involves a mixture of blogging regularly and keeping an active social media presence. It is easy to become discouraged in your early days of blogging when Google Analytics can make depressing reading. However, online success really comes down to two steps:

  1. Create high-quality content
  2. Promote your content as actively as possible

If you consistently repeat these two steps, you build up your online reputation, along with your personal brand.

The type of content will depend on your niche. We have found at the Influencer Marketing Hub that long-form content works best in our sector. Most of the people in our 12 Incredible Personal Branding Examples article report the same. Oprah Winfrey is an exception, but that is probably because she made her name in an offline setting.

There is on other exception on this list, who made his name with short-form content. That is Seth Godin. He established himself as the master of short blog posts. Indeed, his target audience would be stunned if Seth was to write the 2000-word plus pieces, favored by the likes of Neil Patel or Jon Morrow. His readers would probably skim read such a post, rather than taking in any nuances.

Every audience is different, and it is essential that you try out various types of content to match your audience’s tastes. That includes non-written content, such as podcasts, videos, and slide share presentations.

Stage 6: Create Your Social Media Strategy

If you are going to produce a successful personal brand, you need to spread a consistent message across every social channel where your audience hangs out.

While each channel does have its own rules and practices, you will still want to keep your presence on each as similar as possible.

Every social account that your target audience may find needs to look professional. Of course, the definition of “professional” does depend on your target audience and the persona you deliberately portray. Mark Manson’s social pages are, as you would expect, far less formal than Michael Hyatt’s are. However, you need to ensure that you never post anything that would appear inappropriate to your target audience.

Use that same professional profile photo on every social channel (and preferably on your website as well). If you really feel the need to have a Facebook or Instagram profile just for friends and family, set up one in a name that is different from the one you use in your public persona – and only accept friend requests from people you genuinely know in real life.

You will want to keep that consistency going, with the imagery you use on your social sites. Use the same color scheme on each of your social sites, along with the same types of images. You want to speak in the same “voice” on each of your social sites, using the same tone and forms of language.

Although each of your social sites should follow the same tone, that does not mean you should post identical content to each site. There are clear differences between each of the social networks, and you should focus on their strengths.

For instance, just because you have a limitation of 280 characters on Twitter, does not mean that you should restrict yourself to the same number of characters on your Facebook or LinkedIn posts.

As we saw in The Ultimate Guide to Using Instagram Hashtags to grow your Followers, hashtags are vital for Instagram success. Indeed, you can use up to 30 hashtags there. But in reality, you should probably limit yourself to no more than nine.

If you were to try nine hashtags on other platforms, you would have problems, however. The ideal tweet includes one or two hashtags. It is debatable whether hashtags have any value on Facebook at all.

Therefore, you should customize your posts for each of your social accounts. Your posts should be similar – sharing the same type of content and using the same tone – but adapted to use the strengths of each network.

It is important to remember that users of social networks expect you to be social. You should share a variety of posts, both of yours and those of other people. Let your personality flow through at times. Whatever you do, do not just use your account for sales. That is the kiss of death on social networks.

Best Time Scheduling

CoSchedule has combined 14 studies to determine the optimal sharing schedule across each of the leading social networks.

Stage 7: Outreach and Make Your Name Known

Your website and blog should be the hub of your online presence. Your social media sites help build your name and can be excellent at directing traffic to your website. However, you will need to do more if you want to become a household name. You need to engage in outreach.

Outreach involves providing value to influencers in your niche – the people who already have established audiences who you hope to ‘borrow”.

You should consider outreaching both online and offline.

Do not forget the value of good old-fashioned networking. As well as your online assets like your website and social pages, you will still want to have a pile of business cards ready to share with relevant people you meet. These should follow the same branding as all of the rest of your assets. The colors, fonts, and imagery should be consistent with those you use online.

Go to local events and chat with leading people in your niche. Hand out your business cards to anybody who you think would make a valuable connection.

It is well worth perfecting an elevator pitch. Your elevator pitch should be a brief, persuasive speech you can make to people about what you do. It should be engaging and exciting. You do not want to bore people, so your elevator pitch should only take the time it takes to ride in an elevator – 20 to 30 seconds.

You can use your elevator pitch whenever you meet anybody new who you feel could widen the spread of your personal brand.

Consider becoming a member of your local Chamber of Commerce or equivalent. Attend their meetings and events and talk to relevant people. Keep your eye out for relevant conferences related to your niche. They provide an excellent opportunity to meet people and engage them in conversation.

We have already discussed the benefits of having a coordinated social media strategy. You can use social media for outreach, too. Both Facebook and LinkedIn provide niche-based groups that may be of interest to you. Indeed, if you are particularly confident you could start your own groups on either of these platforms.

Just remember, though, these groups are for the benefit of all members. People quickly grow sick of anyone who merely wants to sell his products or talk solely about himself. You have to provide value to the group’s members. If you do that often enough, nobody will begrudge you the occasional personal promotion.

Another way you can widen the reach of your name is to subscribe to HARO – Help a Reporter Out. Three times a day, HARO sends you requests by reporters for information or quotes relating to particular topics. Make an effort to reply to questions relating to your niche. You may well find that the reporter quotes you in his or her news article, maybe even linking to your blog.

Another successful way to spread your name is to search Quora for questions connected to your subject area. If you feel you can help, write an informative article. It will need to be of a high standard and helpful, if you want people to take notice, so do not make it appear like advertising. You can link to your blog in your answer if you have a post that will be of interest to the person who asked the question on Quora.

Stage 8: Find Yourself Mentors

Remember that you do not have to go through this process alone. All successful people have had others help them. It is much easier to test your ideas on somebody else than it is to move ahead in a vacuum.

A “personal brand” may suggest that it is all about you. No. To be successful, you will need to take any help you can get.

As you become better known, you will begin to gain access to successful players in your field. Many of these people will be happy to help and guide you.

Find mentors, to help you. Most successful people do. A mentor acts as a confidant who gives you direction and options. Of course, ultimately, you make your own choices. Your mentor is not here to tell you what to do. He or she is there to give you guidance as you make your decision, however.

Conclusion – Create Your Personal Brand

Personal branding can take considerable time and energy. You are not going to be able to do it quickly – it could take a significant time for you to become the “go to” person in your niche.

But people do succeed in building a recognized personal brand. And the ROI on that investment can be incredibly high.

Ultimately, the secret is to be yourself. You can’t be anybody else, because they have already been taken.

This means that your personal brand needs to be very authentic and true to the real you. You cannot manufacture a persona and expect people to recognize you as the go-to person. If you try, it will not be long before people realize that you are as fictional as Harry Potter is, without his boyish charm or the ability to perform magic.

You can take inspiration from others, take on board your mentors’ ideas, and take note of your followers’ problems. Ultimately, you have to be you. You have to embrace your differences, and build the personal brand that matches your personality.

About the Author
With over 15 years in content marketing, Werner founded Influencer Marketing Hub in 2016. He successfully grew the platform to attract 5 million monthly visitors, making it a key site for brand marketers globally. His efforts led to the company's acquisition in 2020. Additionally, Werner's expertise has been recognized by major marketing and tech publications, including Forbes, TechCrunch, BBC and Wired.