A guide to personal branding
Building a Personal Brand to Increase Your Opportunities
We’re all unique, right? That’s our personal brand.
Often, when the topic of Personal Branding comes, somebody says:
“I don’t have a brand. I’m not a product — I’m a person.”
Something along those lines.
They think that only products can have a brand.
Well, people have a brand too. It is what makes us different from the next marketing consultant, or solicitor, or accountant.
We all have a personal brand, and here’s why it is important.
Your personal brand is everything that people think about you. Beverland (2018) said that “people use brands to project whom we want to be, how we want to be perceived and how we want to feel about ourselves.”
Subjective to each person, activities such as your actions and what you say on social media influences your brand.
A brand can be so powerful it can become synonymous with a product—for example, Sellotape and Blu-Tack. I’m not even sure what the product category Blu-Tack is — Blu-Tack is Blu-Tack.
Branding is how a company differentiates its product from its competitors.
Equally, it can be profitable for your success in a professional world and help you stand out from other people doing the same thing as you.
“Your personal brand is the synthesis of all the expectations, images, and perceptions it creates in the minds of others when they hear your name” (Rampersad, 2008)
What is a brand?
We encounter brands every day in everything we do. In Symbols, designs, names, slogans, and colours — this is all branding.
A brand is your reputation. The term ‘Branding’ comes from the Proto-Germanic term ‘brandr’, which described the identifying marks burnt into the skin of livestock, slaves and criminals.
A business brand is everything that contributes to customers’ opinions and feelings about that company, influenced through word of mouth, performance and advertising.
This image that businesses create through marketing called their brand identity. How a customer perceives this brand identity is the brand image, based on everything the customer associates with the business, defining their overall opinion.
A strong brand is crucial because it “increases customers’ trust of invisible products while helping them understand better and visualise what they are buying.” A brand identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.
“We are immersed in a branded world from the day we are born to the day we die” (Beverland 2018)
How can a person be a brand?
Everyone you meet either has an opinion of you or will form one quickly. Whether you are a student, and an athlete, an executive or an entrepreneur.
Everyone is a unique individual and, according, will have a unique personal brand. It is a critical element of who we are.
Even if you think you are “not a brand”, people have an opinion of you, your personal brand.
A personal brand aims to create an emotional response from people towards you when they see your content online or meet you in real life.
Your personality, the narrative you create, habits, opinions, and values make up a personal brand. Some people can leverage their personal brand for great profit — see the Kardashians as an example of someone paid to endorses brands and products through their influence.
The concept of a personal brand links back to Tom Peters in 1997, who said, “As of this moment, you’re going to think of yourself differently! You do not belong to any company for life, and your chief affiliation is not to any function.
Your job title does not define you, and your job description does not confine you. Starting today, you are a brand.”
Peters’ idea that firms perceive individuals as more than just a set of tools for an employer.
“Your brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you.” (Peter, 1997)
Why is personal branding now so important?
A general distrust with corporations has grown over the years, so people prefer to do business with people rather than the company itself. Someone will do business with you because they like and trust you. This human connection drives customer loyalty beyond any relationship with a company.
Career-focused individuals can see a significant advantage by putting a focus on growing their personal brand. It gives them a point of difference for job prospects, client prospects, pitching ideas if they are entrepreneurs, politician.
It would be best if you had a distinctiveness about you to make you memorable from your competition. The same way branded products can differentiate themselves from other commodities.
Building your personal brand
There can be variation in how professionals use social media. Some people use more of their company brand in their content, while others focus on their achievements and careers. Some people promote other peoples’ personal brands.
Individuals develop their brand as an ongoing process. But it is possible to “create” or "re-create” one’s brand according to how you want to be perceived.
It can be challenging to manage a personal brand, as words and actions build your brand. Often, one might want to reinvent their persona if they have had a public embarrassment, for example. How authentic the audience perceives this is important to the success of a rebrand.
Like a business, individuals can illustrate a brand identity as part of their marketing strategy to nurture a particular image in consumers’ minds. These elements make up a brand and its marketing, for example, colour, design, and logo. It is also the personality of a brand, the tone of voice in your copy.
For an individual, it is your personality, the way you think, the way you speak, the way you look.
Personal branding is a process that evolves and develops over time. We do not want to mould it with sporadic big pushes but an ongoing, consistent small effort.
For example, as you work your way up the corporate ladder, your personal brand evolves with your position.
As we grow older, our values change, and we have new experiences. You gain new skills and learn more about what you are not good at and do not like to do. Your intended audience and marketplace also influence who your target audience is.
One key thing is you are consistent and authentic to who you are. The essence of who you are does not change. Forget that “fake it until you make it” phrase. It is hard to do that in this digital age.
Defining your message and what problem you solve
Does your personal branding strategy need to consider what problem do you solve? You need to make that message as defined as possible.
What is your elevator pitch to explain what you do to somebody in one or two simple sentences?
- What is your purpose?
- What did God put you on this planet to do?
- What is your mission?
Define a specific problem in your marketing and offer snippets of expertise that can give this solution credibility. What makes you unique? What can you do better than anybody else?
“Be genuine. It will make it much easier to manage your personal brand on a daily basis”
Pillars of a personal brand
There are four main pillars to growing a personal brand: Authenticity, Focus, Consistency and telling your story. The next section discusses how these four aspects help create a unique and inviting personal brand that engages people.
Authenticity is another word for genuine, real, and true.
If you are truly genuine, then you will have a unique personal brand. And if people find you authentic, they are more likely to trust you. If people trust you, they will do business with you.
Prove your expertise in your craft by giving away value for free in your marketing content.
Givers gain on social media and collaboration builds a culture of trust.
“If personal branding is developed at only a superficial level, for example by basing it simply on ego, spin or piggybacking off the work of others, then it will not be enduring.” (Harris & Rae, 2011)
Over time, successful individuals gain a reputation based on their expertise and ‘connectedness’ that attract customers. Doing something solely for profit considered inherently inauthentic (why consumers often perceive brands as fake).
Why is authenticity so important to people?
We search for meaning through consumption — our desire for authentic brands is about our willingness to be authentic.
Consumers immerse themselves in what they believe to be authentic experiences to reinforces their desired sense of self. This process is called self-authentication, which revitalises self-meaning and enhances our wellbeing.
Decide what your key message is and stick to it. Find your niche and target it. Keeping your message focused on your target demographic will make it much easier to create content around your personal brand. Moreover, the narrower and more focused your brand is, the easier it is for people to remember who you are.
Once your message is defined to target the customers you want, you choose to communicate with these people. Consider what your strengths are. If you are not comfortable on video, then you do not have to do it. If you are a great copywriter, then make a name for yourself through blogging.
Finally, what is your strategy to profit from your personal brand? What are you trying to achieve through the recognition?
Consistency breed results. Similarly, it is easier to stand out for something if you are consistently creating content around that topic to a narrow focus.
I became well known as the “Hamilton guy” on LinkedIn because I consistently posted Hamilton's content.
It was just stuff I had taken from the news, but it was the only one doing it, and I was consistent. Have something unique that you consistently do.
Something that people will associate with you. It could be a slogan, a jingle at the end of videos, a hashtag at the end of posts. There is plenty of ways to create your brand. People will fall in love with it, and you will have fans you do not even know exist.
Tell your story
A brand story can connect with its intended audience in an instant. It is the “WHY” behind what you are doing. “HOW” you provide expertise.
Your brand story should make the reader feel like you understand their problem and potentially solve it. It helps your audience feel like they know you, even if just a little, establish trust, build rapport and establishes your credibility.
Your story should be a central theme across your marketing copy.
A brand story should:
- Embrace your personality
- Illustrate your values
- Capture attention
- Connect with the reader
- Take the reader on a journey
- Be emotive
- Use characters such as a hero and a villain
- Help people get to know your character
- Explain why you are credible
- Reflect on the lessons you’ve learnt
- Justify why your brand exists
- Explain the problem you solve
- Have a call to action
- Be framed to be easy to follow and understand
- Be consistent across your marketing.
Growing your brand online
Growing your brand on social media can take a considerable amount of time and effort (or money), which might not necessarily lead to any financial gain.
But then, at the other end of the spectrum, you have influencers who have become very wealthy from their personal brand on social media platforms such as Instagram.
Other platforms are not easy to monetise and should drive more traffic to your website and make sales through social media instead of being paid to endorse products like influencers.
The digital world provides the ability to interact with anyone, anywhere, in any part of the world. Tools like social media allow us to broadcast ourselves to a limitless audience for little or no cost in some cases.
That is amazing to think how far we have come in 25 years where the media agencies previously had so much power and were the gatekeeper to this kind of exposure.
So much opportunity.
Traditional barriers to entry eroded, where people such as Royalty or Sports stars would have this “personal brand”, now anybody can have a personal brand.
People prefer to work with someone they know than a stranger, so the idea is, you want to become the person associated with that industry that they remember. Ongoing time and effort are required to build your online presence.
Tools to enhance your brand
The aim of building your brand online is to establish yourself as well-connected, knowledgeable, approachable and a giving personality.
Network with like-minded people. LinkedIn is the perfect platform to grow your professional personal brand and further your career. It is becoming an expectation for professionals to be active on the platform.
Recruiters expect a complete LinkedIn profile these days, and if you are actively growing your personal brand on the platform, you will stand out from someone who is not.
It is just as crucial for anybody trying to grow their professional personal brand to delete any embarrassing photos on Facebook or elsewhere on the internet that may be harmful and damage your professional reputation.
Thanks for reading.
I hope that this all makes sense and that you can now use these tips to help grow your personal branding to positively influence your career.
We’re all unique. Let that uniqueness shine through authentically, and people will remember you.
If you enjoyed the content, you might want to check out this post about using LinkedIn to grow your personal brand.