Before I get into the nitty gritty of this post, I have an important question for you.
Do you have a personal brand?
If you answered yes, great! Keep reading, I have included several powerful tools for you to ramp up your brand!
If you answered, no, I’ve got some earth-shattering news for you. You already have a brand, whether you know it or not. And if you aren’t actively managing it, your brand is most likely working against you, instead of for you. I know, I know. You don’t need one more thing to add to your to-do list. But trust me, personal branding needs to be on your list. If it isn’t, you could quickly lose control of your personal and professional identities and find yourself in the category of wishy-washy has-been.
A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking at a personal branding workshop for the Leadership Jackson program through the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. I had a blast with the 17 students (all business professionals). Do you know what happened when I asked everyone who already had a personal brand to raise their hand? No one raised their hand. And honestly, I think that is how most professionals feel. Most people have heard a little bit about personal branding but they don’t totally know what it is, and they definitely don’t know how it applies to their everyday lives.
While I don’t claim to have the best personal brand out there, I have learned a thing or two transitioning from a college student to a marketing professional to a business owner. I’ve even had some minor fails when it comes to my brand… (If you ask me personally, I will even share with you what those experiences were!) ;)
So here’s the scoop on personal branding. Please chime in and share your own experiences, ask questions, and of course, make sure to download the free infographic!
What is a Personal Brand and How is it Different from a Business Brand?
It seems like most people are more familiar with what business branding is. A business brand is what people think, feel, and expect when they hear a business name. When you think of big brands like Starbucks, Target, Nike, and Verizon, what comes to mind? How do you feel when you think of those brands? While business and personal brands have a lot in common, business brands are more concrete and are focused on selling.
So how is a personal brand different? Instead of focusing on a business, your personal brand focuses on you! As Jeff Bezos said,”Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” As I mentioned before, you have a personal brand, whether you know it or not. The key is taking control of your personal brand and being intentional in how you shape and use it.
Unlike business brands, your personal brand can evolve as you develop and change, both personally and professionally. You can specifically cultivate your brand around who you are, what you do, what you care about, and what value you provide others. Just as people are aware of businesses from their brands, your personal brand shapes the way people perceive you to be. Put simply, your personal brand is your reputation and is a representation of how you conduct yourself personally and professionally, and ultimately, how you interact and support others.
Here are a few simple examples… What do people think of you at work? Are you known as the go-getter, the worrier, or the one who is always late? Are people excited to work with you? Are they confident that you will deliver on your promises?
The 6 Key Elements of Your Personal Brand:
Before going any further, I want to outline the 6 key elements of a personal brand. I’ve included a fun infographic we created with a bunch of questions to get your minds ticking. I hope it helps you more clearly understand the way people perceive you.
Why Does Your Personal Brand Matter?
Without having a definitive personal brand in place, you may find that your focus is scattered or that your personal and professional identities don’t connect. When used appropriately, your personal brand can help you professionally and personally in a big way. Here are the top four reasons why your brand matters.
Provides structure and focus: Your brand can provide focus for the direction of your career and help you understand when to say no. In the past, when you’ve looked for a job, have you ever struggled to know what kind of job really suits you? I know I have! I would easily become distracted by a fancy sounding job, only to realize I actually wouldn't even enjoy the day-to-day responsibilities! Understanding your personal brand can help you identify jobs that really resonate with your values, your personality, and your work style. This helps you know when to say yes to opportunities and say no to options that don’t align with who you are and your goals.
Unites your personal and professional identities: I’ll be upfront, one of my biggest struggles as a business owner has been finding a way to unite my personality and my professional style. How can I be my goofy-self, and yet represent a serious content marketing business where my clients trust me? How can I keep my personal life somewhat private but still be honest and authentic? Personal branding helps you bridge the gap and allows you to convey as much or as little as you want. It is important to be honest, to be straightforward with your goals and to actively shape your personal and professional identity accordingly.
Enables you to network more effectively: Feeling confident with your brand and having a brand statement you are proud of will help you network more effectively. Please tell me I’m not the only one that has totally blanked when I am meeting someone for the first time. Cue the deer in the headlights look and me trying to quickly remember what my name is and what exactly I do! ;) Haha, oh dear, hate that feeling! If you have a polished brand statement and are confident in your brand, you will no longer be at a loss for words. And just as important, you will know what kind of people/businesses you want to meet at these events. No more accidently walking up to someone who is totally not in your target market and getting stuck for an hour with Mr. Talkerson. Remember, the key to networking is being authentic, being a good listener, and being proactive. Your brand will simply heighten your networking strategy and enrich your experiences.
Builds trust and credibility: Trust and credibility are earned over time. People reward you with their trust when they receive value, experience honest interactions, and have confidence that you are in fact, who you say you are. It took a full 9 months for me to really build a name for myself in the Lansing and Jackson market. I had to consistently show up, deliver on my promises, and show value before people would give me the time of day. And honestly, I still have to do that two years after opening the business, but that’s a good thing. We need to continually earn people’s trust. Remember, your personal brand represents the value you consistently deliver to others and should summarize the experience people will have when they work with or interact with you. Consistency is key here. People should be able to predict what it will be like to work with you - that means that you need to be consistent even if the circumstances around you change. Having a set of internal rules on how you conduct yourself can quickly position you as a leader, a reliable resource, and a trusted colleague.
How Can You Build a Strong Personal Brand?
Building a strong personal brand doesn’t just require creating a unique and powerful brand statement - it must also be apparent in various aspects of your life. Here are 4 ways you can build a strong personal brand.
Use social media in a positive, professional, and proactive way. Say no to an over-abundance of selfies, political tirades, and poor grammar!
Create a personal blog or website that positions you as a thoughtful leader. You don’t have to be super fancy to have a website or a blog! There are so many easy platforms to use, and whether you realize it or not, you do have valuable things to share with people!
Dress in a way that complements your brand and still showcases your personality. Don’t let who you’re dating influence your personal style (Been there, done that!), and don’t let a dress code at work hide your personality. It’s unlikely you always have to wear khakis!
Exercise proper etiquette. This applies to when you answer the phone, send emails, and of course, when you eat a meal with your customers. Seriously. Don’t chew with your mouth open. Don’t send emails with spelling errors. And please, please, please, answer your phone professionally.
Taking a few steps to make sure your personal brand is consistent and professional in these different areas of your life will help strengthen your brand, showcase your personality, and position you as a thoughtful and professional leader. It all sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised at the things I’ve come across! Paying attention to these little details can really save you some embarrassment!
How Can You Manage and Maintain Your Brand?
One of the most important things you can do to utilize your brand is to not ignore it! You need to actively manage your brand. (Yes, that even means having an updated LinkedIn profile!) One way to hold yourself accountable is to set measurable goals. What can you do on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis to make sure that people are perceiving you how you want them to? How are you proactively building your network? How often are you searching your name online to ensure nothing bad is being said about you?
Another way to actively manage your brand is to get involved in meaningful activities that speak to who you are. Find a non-profit you want to support or volunteer to be a mentor to a young professional. To stay relevant in your field, spend time reading or listening to something educational, consistently engage with your networks through social media, and regularly attend networking events. And don’t forget, on a yearly or as needed basis, be sure to evaluate your brand. Has anything changed? Has your focus shifted? Change is absolutely normal, but be certain that you update your brand so it is still an accurate and positive representation of who you are.
Additional Tips for Creating a Powerful Personal Brand:
Be clear about your values, what you do, and how you can help others.
Be consistent throughout your brand and your life.
Ask for honest and constructive feedback and make improvements.
Be generous with your time and your ideas!
Remain a student of your industry - stay relevant and keep learning!
Address any problems that arise immediately and professionally.
Yes, personal branding can seem overwhelming and sometimes scary, but you have a brand whether you like it or not. I hope you realize that if you take control of your brand now, you can shape it into a powerful, positive tool that works for you! You probably will make mistakes along the way, but that’s okay!
There are a lot of intricate details that go into building a brand you're proud of. We love meeting other professionals and brainstorming! Be in touch if you have questions.