People often talk about wanting to improve their personal brand. You undoubtedly know what a business brand is – we refer to brands regularly whenever we discuss influencer marketing. But you probably don’t think much about having a brand yourself. The idea of “personal branding” is unusual to most people. But in this online era, where things, both good and bad, last forever on the internet, personal branding can be considered more important than ever.
Have you ever Googled your name? Obviously, you may find that other people share your name. But when you do see items that mention you, do they show what you want the world to see? Or should you “massage” your online record to make it more acceptable, and present you in a more favorable light?
For that matter, how do people perceive you offline? Do they connect you and your values with your business and the values it represents?
What is Personal Branding:
What is Your Personal Brand?
Your personal brand is how you promote yourself. It is the unique combination of skills, experience, and personality that you want the world to see you. It is the telling of your story, and how it reflects your conduct, behavior, spoken and unspoken words, and attitudes.
You use your personal branding to differentiate yourself from other people. Done well, you can tie your personal branding in with your business in ways no corporate branding can possibly succeed.
Professionally, your personal brand is the image that people see of you. It can be a combination of how they look at you in real life, how the media portrays you, and the impression that people gain from the information about you available online.
You can either ignore your personal brand, and let it develop organically, possibly chaotically, beyond your control, or you can help massage your personal brand to depict you as the person you want to be.
In the pre-internet days, your personal brand was really just your business card. Unless you were high profile in the media or somebody who featured strongly as the face of advertising, few people would have heard of you. In today’s highly public world, where every little action is discussed at length on social media, you are far less anonymous.
Why Would You Want a Personal Brand?
Your personal brand can be vital to you professionally. It is how you present yourself to current and potential clients. It gives you the opportunity to ensure that people see you in the way you want them to, instead of in some arbitrary, possibly detrimental, way.
It gives you the opportunity to highlight your strengths and your passions. It helps people believe they know you better, and people have much higher trust in those they feel they know; even pubic people they have never met personally.
This is particularly evident at election time. While many people seek out candidates’ views on issues important to them, other voters have less interest in the process. Instead, they vote for a name they recognize. It comes as no surprise that candidates with strong personal brands succeed in politics, regardless of their political views or beliefs. Regardless of your opinion on Donald Trump as a president, for instance, you can’t deny that he has built a strong personal brand, which helped encourage many people to give their vote to him.
Why is Personal Branding Important?
You need to create a strong personal brand if you want to be considered influential. Your personal brand helps you stand out from everybody else. You can use your personal brand to demonstrate your knowledge and skills about your areas of expertise.
In many ways, your personal brand is what makes you memorable. It is your personal brand that helps you stand out from the thousands of other people like you.
Millennials, in particular, have a distrust of advertising. 84% of millennials trust neither the advertisements nor the brands that create them. Yet, they are prepared to believe people they feel they “know”– even the business people behind the brands they detest so much.
This has meant a major rethink about how businesses market themselves. Indeed this is one of the reasons why influencer marketing has become so successful over recent years.
There has been a movement towards personalizing the main people in a business. Obviously, this is easy for a small business – there is little difference between a sole trader and his business. It can be more difficult for large companies. But some people manage it well. Steve Jobs used personal branding well before the phrase was even well known to distinguish himself as the face of Apple. Similarly, Elon Musk’s personal brand is probably better known than Tesla’s corporate brand.
It makes sense that any business owner or manager should bond with potential customers first on an individual basis before he or she tries to deliver the company’s message.
Considerations for Building Your Personal Brand
Creating a personal brand requires extensive self-reflection and introspection. It helps if you know yourself – which surprisingly few people do. Most people find it extremely difficult to describe themselves, although they often find it easier to explain how they want to be.
If your ultimate aim for personal branding is to improve the performance of your business, you first need to ensure that you know who your target customers are. You want your personal branding to match your targeted clientele.
This isn’t new. Business people have been doing this for many years, long before the internet. Think about the image that Hugh Hefner portrayed for virtually all of his adult life. He probably never heard of personal branding, yet he let himself become the face of the Playboy empire and lived the lifestyle that the readers of his magazine envied. He could not have lived his type of lifestyle, however, if he helmed a more conservative company, targeting more politically correct customers.
Ultimately you want to build a reputation as somebody who cares about the types of people that make your potential and existing clients.
A crucial part of your personal branding is to make sure you come across as being human, with the same issues and problems as your target market. The only difference is that you can show that you have found a solution to some of these problems – which you are willing to share with others.
You don’t want to come across as being like a stereotypical used car salesman – even if you are in the automobile sales business. Cynical consumers see businesses as being all about selling. The whole purpose of personal branding is to step back and deemphasize selling.
Nowadays, you can’t ignore the importance of social media. Part of your personal branding should include having social media accounts on all of the social networks where your audience spends their time. And you will want to accept friend requests freely – you won’t want to set your accounts to private. If you really want to run a Facebook account just for your friends and family, you should consider setting up a separate one in a different name for this.
The Importance of a Unified Theme
You want your personal branding to be consistent. At all times you want to stay true to your brand.
This is not just a matter of you consistently behaving in a way that matches your portrayal – although that is important. It also includes factors more reflective of business branding. You will want to decide on a consistent color scheme and fonts. And you will want to use these color and fonts everywhere. They should be the same on your website, social accounts, business cards and anything else you have that is printed. If you represent a business, these should match the colors and fonts of your business.
You will want to look at everything you use publicly here. You should even look at things like the footers in your emails, your stationery, accounts and invoices, and any brochures you hand out. You might even go as far as buying a car that fits your preferred color scheme and wearing appropriately colored ties or other clothing to any public event you attend.
A Few Techniques to Build Your Personal Brand
Don’t forget the offline world. Your personal brand needs to encompass all the places where your customers could encounter you. Old-style business cards are just as crucial to your branding, as your social pages are. Just remember to keep your theme consistent on these.
Carry business cards with you wherever you go. This is as relevant now as it was forty years ago. Take out a card whenever you see the opportunity to network with somebody new who matches your target audience.
Ideally, you will want your personal branding to encompass all of your public life. So this even covers how you dress whenever you are in a public situation. I couldn’t imagine Donald Trump wandering down the street in old jeans and a tee-shirt, any more than I would expect a rock star to go shopping in a fancy suit. You want your whole public image to match the persona of your personal brand.
Your Actions Need to Match Your Personal Branding
The secret of successful personal branding is an underlying consistency. You are trying to establish an external depiction of “you.” This means that you need to act consistently with that depiction.
This is also the reason why the public can react very differently to the news of two people doing the same type of behavior. It is possible that an act that would shock them if done by the first person may be entirely consistent with the expectations of the second.
For instance, imagine the reaction to news that a particular politician took drugs. In most cases that would be the death knell on their political career – it would be completely incongruent with their personal branding and public expectations. On the other hand, suppose you heard that a heavy metal rock star took drugs. It would hardly be news. It would most likely tie in with your expectations, and may even enhance his reputation with his core audience.
The average person representing a small business probably doesn't have such extreme viewpoints about their personal brand. However, you still need to act in ways that match your perceived image. If you portray yourself as being caring and interested in your customers, then it is crucial that you do listen to their complaints and try and fix any problems they may encounter with your product.
Above all else, though, you do want your personal brand to be relatively authentic. Sure it may ignore a few of your personal warts, and you may have to massage it a little to match your target audience perceptions, but it needs to ring genuine. It is not hard to spot a fake person, living a lie of a life.
You want your personal brand to match what people say about you when you are not around. If people don’t believe your personal brand, then you face a distinct lack of credibility.