Once upon a time, personal branding was reserved as one of the many‘first world problems’ of celebrities, public figures, the rich and the famous… well, at least it used to be a consideration exclusively for those in the public eye. The concept of personal branding is hardly a new one, however in this age of social and online media, virtually anyone with an internet connection can access and utilize countless platforms to be seen, heard and searched.
So how in the heck do you even begin to distinguish and position yourself favourably in a very noisy and crowded online sea of people and info? Simply by creating and leveraging your powerful personal brand, you savvy thing!
Personal branding is your reputation; how others perceive you. It is how you project your message and your image which assists others to form an impression of you. It is what you’re associated with and what you are known for. It also helps to manage misinformation. In its simplest form, it involves presenting yourself the way you would with your own company 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 in Fast Company
Crafting your personal brand is emerging as a digital age necessity. Going on a date? A job interview maybe? Networking or going to a business meeting?
You’ll probably be Googled and checked out on any number of social media sites, And don’t go pretending like you haven’t done your share of online stalking of other people too! Let’s honest - what have you found about others online that has shaped your impression of them?
In a previous life I was a recruiter. Long, long gone were the days a firm handshake and taking someone at their word is enough to get a job. The checks I undertook were ex-tens-ive. No joke, they were something you’d expect of Homeland Security. This very much included Google searching and social media checks. It was my job to interrogate assess a candidate’s fit to the position and the company.
What could I possibly find that could potentially impact a candidate’s consideration for a job? Try mug shots and news reports, semi + fully nude photographs, racist / sexist / homophobic content, evidence of wild weekends including drink skolling / drug taking / unconscious photos. I’ve even caught out lies and inconsistencies on CVs and info told to me in interviews! You name it. I’ve seen it. And if I can find it, so can everyone else. Of course if that is the image you are trying to project – though it physically pains me to say: go for it! But for the rest of you trying to establish some sort of credibility, authority, professional and authentic image, it’s time to get serious about creating an epic personal brand.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Oprah Winfrey? Kim Kardashian-West? Sir Richard Branson? Martha Stewart? Coco Chanel? Warren Buffett? Ellen Degeneres? Walt Disney? Of course you have! What comes to mind when you hear each of their names? Those are the attributes that help comprise their personal brand.
Many of today’s most identifiable, enduring, affluent brands are the personal hallmarks of identities and entrepreneurs who have built their reputation and wealth with their great hair faces, personality and expertise at the forefront of their brand. Love them or hate them, they have emerged as popular or respected authorities and experts, influencers, thought leaders and innovators in their fields.
Even individuals need to develop a brand for themselves …. Whatever your area of expertise, you can take steps to make people think of YOU when they think of your field – Accelepoint Webzine
Good news: you don’t need a herd of PR + branding experts to manage ‘your brand’ (though these tips are designed to help you look like you do!). You’re probably in some way already doing it without realizing it.
Building a brand need not be headache inducing or terrifying exercise! Let’s begin with 5 steps you can start from today (with bonus actions you can tackle further down the track). Remember, above all else, be creative, be real, be consistent, be you.
1. Get To Know Yourself
NOW: Create a mission statement outlining who your audience is and what you want to achieve. What do you want to be known for? What do you believe in? What are your strengths (and weaknesses)? What makes you different, distinguishable from other people? Write this down. Use your natural tone and your voice as you would in person. You don’t want to sound like two different people online and in real life!
2. Digital Audit
NOW: Update your online/social media profiles | Clean up unfavourable posts/content | Ensure your email address is professional.
LATER: Write a bio | Consistent branding across all platforms | Professional photography | Own domain name | Create a portfolio | Testimonials.
3. Create Value
NOW: Begin regularly posting, commenting and sharing valuable content | Join relevant communities or groups | Participate in online forums + chats.
LATER: Blog | Write articles | Create communities | Offer your knowledge freely | Collaborate.
4. Get Personal
NOW: Be on the lookout for potential networking opportunities + speaking engagements (and seize those that are a good fit!),
LATER: Teach classes / workshops | Business cards | Volunteer your skills and expertise to a worthy cause or group | Project work | Become a mentor.
5. Learn, learn, learn!
NOW: Monitor for feedback | Handle criticism and rejection graciously | Keep up to date with what’s going on in your profession/industry.
LATER: Plan | Be a student of your craft/profession and keep learning + developing | Engage a mentor, influencer, expert in your field.
Building an authentic personal reputation is much like building a business or career: it is a marathon, not a sprint.
Creating a brand that is truly genuine and authentic to who you really are is as liberating and exciting as it can be daunting. Don’t be intimidated by putting yourself out there. People connect with people, so be real, be vulnerable, be human! Knowing who you are, living the values you espouse, presenting your image in its truest form is what attracts the sincerest personal connections, draws dream opportunities from ideal employers, and invites loyal clients, customers and colleagues to you.
To embrace who you are is to champion your (epic) personal brand.
I’d love to hear your thoughts – what fears or barriers are holding you back from building an effective personal brand?
Stacey Murray is the founder, and Chief Partner in Crime at Her Signature Life. She believes we all deserve to make a living doing what we truly love.
During the day Stacey answers to Master T, her one year old boss. By night, she talks incessantly, teaches passionately and writes crazily to support other creatively skilled + professionally trained mothers striving to build meaningful businesses and careers. Also a chaos tamer in training, keen traveller, Game of Thrones tragic, and aspiring cider taster. Say hi on Twitter or Pinterest!