building your own brand

What Is Personal Branding?

Put simply, a personal brand is that which makes you unique -- your experiences, your skills, and your worldview. Or, to quote Jeff Bezos,“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Personal branding goes way beyond business cards or a logo you associate with your name -- everything from the way you interact on LinkedIn to the treatment you place on your photographs is part of your brand. Developed correctly, a personal brand is a great way for you to stand out to potential employers and  industry peers in our competitive, digital world.

Why Build One? 

Whether you’re searching for a job, striking out on your own, or taking the next step up at your company, a personal brand can give you the edge you need. When you’re seen as an authoritative thought leader with a story to tell, you’ll stand out from your peers. Even more, a personal brand provides a foundation to build off for your entire career. According to personal brand master Gary Vaynerchuk, “Your personal brand is your reputation. And your reputation in perpetuity is the foundation of your career.”

Steps To Take

So, how do you begin developing a personal brand? Start by establishing what makes you unique. Consider the following questions: 

  1. Consider your career path. Are you just starting out? Do you have years of experience under your belt? How does that position you to make a difference in other people’s lives?
  2. Take a look at your skills and what sets you apart. What are your unique value-adds? Are you passionate about SEO? Work-life balance? Hiring the best people? Market research? AI and the fourth industrial revolution? 
  3. Establish the best way to communicate to your target audiences. How do you like to talk to people? Are you fantastic with the written word? Do you thrive in front of a camera? s meeting in person the most effective for you? 

Once you’ve got a loose outline of your unique offerings, determine who your targets are. Who (or what kind of people) do you want to talk to, and what do you want to say to them? If you’re an IT expert, for example, you might  focus on branding yourself as a cybersecurity authority. If you’re a marketing guru, you could craft messaging around content marketing best practices for small-business owners. 

Next, establish the look and feel of your personal brand. Though this can be simple, you may have to tap some outside resources to make logos and business cards really stand out. Ask yourself the following: 

  1. Which colors do I want people to associate with my brand? (you can use these colors in a literal sense across your brand or use them as general inspiration -- warm colors like yellow and red evoke very different brand messaging than cool colors like blue, gray, or purple.)
  2. Which feelings do I want my brand to evoke? Trust, happiness, joy, authority…the sky's the limit. 
  3. Does my brand feel more formal or informal? 

Once you’ve completed the steps above, you’re ready to write your personal brand statement. At this point, the most important questions you can ask yourself are: 

  1. What’s my story?
  2. What will inspire people to listen to me? 
  3. What do you want people to feel, learn, or do when they interact with me? 

Your personal brand statement should be a paragraph or so that distills your message and purpose, and the value you bring to your audience -- and it should drive your messaging and strategies moving forward.  

Time to Start Building

Once you’ve established your brand’s look and feel, your story, and your target audiences, it’s time to get creative about building it up. 

  1. Choose your social networks. LinkedIn is an obvious choice for personal brands, but don’t discount platforms like Instagram -- especially for showcasing your lifestyle. How will you talk to people on those networks? Lengthy articles, helpful videos, or quick snippets shared on your personal page? Start by asking yourself what your audience is most likely to find value in and comparing it to whichever ways you prefer to communicate. Do they line up? What needs to change?
  2. Reach out to mentors and people you respect in the industry. Don’t be afraid to give them shoutouts on your personal pages -- aligning yourself in this way with other professional brands acts as a type of social proof and helps people look at you as an authority within your chosen niche. 
  3. Consider other avenues for growth, too. Live-tweet an industry conference you’re attending. Reach out to podcasters who occupy your chosen niche or industry and pitch your story. Consistency is key (as it is in branding almost anything), but remember to keep relevancy top of mind. What means of communication are most relevant for your audience? What information will inspire them or add value to their lives or careers? 

Keep It Genuine and Watch It Grow

Your personal brand can give your career an edge, help you attract new clients, and establish you as a leader in your industry or niche. Just remember: Consumers are inundated by thousands of brand messages daily. Yours needs to do more than look pretty -- it has to provide an authentic, genuine experience for your audience. Consumers can tell when they’re being cajoled, and it’s more important than ever to be authentic in your messaging and presence. 

For More Inspiration

If you’re looking for more inspiration on personal branding, we recommend the following books: 

  1. Refuse to Choose! By Barbara Sher 
  2. Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success by Dan Shawbel
  3. The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier
  4. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller