What Is Personal Branding?
Present an Impressive, Impactful and Authentic Image
So you want to stand out from the crowd. That's great! But how comfortable are you with promoting yourself, in person or online?
You're probably familiar with the branding done by major corporations. Their logos and color schemes, the type and the tone of their advertising, their customer service, and their corporate social responsibility programs all present a certain image and help to shape how you perceive them.
But, have you considered applying the same concept to yourself and creating a strong personal brand that you can sell? In this article, we'll take you through the practicalities of personal branding and discuss some of its benefits and risks.
Why Bother With a Personal Brand?
Your words, presentation and behavior always reveal something about your core values, passions and achievements. As a result, people will often make snap judgments about you, so it's important to make a good first impression. These qualities are also what managers look at carefully when assessing candidates for promotion or hiring new team members.
A positive personal brand can help you to meet new people who share your interests, and to win respect in your company and your industry for your expertise.
Your team and organization could also benefit, as what you learn from the experts that you connect with will help you to spot new trends and developments in your sector.
How to Create Your Personal Brand
The way that you conduct yourself at work will be a crucial part of creating your personal brand. It may also involve developing a profile in your industry's print or online publications and forums, or on social media. Follow these five steps to find out more:
1. Be Aware
Remember that the most obvious and convincing element of your brand is you – how you present yourself in the workplace, and how you communicate day-to-day with colleagues.
Your personal appearance matters, so dress appropriately for your business. What this means can vary between cultures and organizations, so do your homework when you're in an unfamiliar setting. But scruffy hair, unkempt clothing, and a lack of attention to personal cleanliness are simple no-nos in any case.
Aim to understand what impact you have on other people by learning to listen well and to empathize. Develop your emotional intelligence so that you can recognize your own emotions and those of others around you, and use that knowledge to enhance your working relationships.
Express your thoughts clearly but tactfully to win people's support. And be sure to pay attention to your decision-making skills. Your ability to make intelligent, timely decisions that take other people's needs into account while avoiding Groupthink will likely get you noticed for the right reasons.
Be conscientious in your work and look outward to consider others, too. If you go the extra mile on your co-workers' behalf, they'll more likely do the same for you. Similarly, simple courtesies, such as always being on time for meetings and acknowledging other people's efforts, will count for a lot.
Put all of these elements together and you'll likely develop charisma, which will give you a distinct and positive identity within your organization and beyond.
2. Identify Your USP
Find out what makes you uniquely valuable – this is your Unique Selling Point, or USP – then focus on promoting it.
Next, identify your personal values, and decide which are most important to you. Then carry out a Personal SWOT Analysis to establish your strengths and to think about what opportunities you have to use them.
Be clear about how your personality underpins your strengths. For example, are you a blue-sky innovator, a natural salesperson, or a tenacious financial wizard? Look at your role within your team, and think about what your responsibilities are and how best you can carry them out.
Be ready to talk about your achievements, so that you can demonstrate what you can offer your colleagues and team. Think of times when you've shown initiative, identify the positive habits that have brought you success, and determine how you can help your team to achieve its goals.
You can then bring together all the strengths that you have identified and write them down in a simple, one paragraph statement of what makes you uniquely valuable. Hopefully, when you read what you have written, you'll feel pretty good about yourself!
3. Be Authentic
Use the Wheel of Life® to consider what your priorities are and where you want to make changes. And have a clear mental picture of what personal, professional and skills-based goals you want to achieve. Then, break these large goals down into smaller, short-term ones that are easier to achieve.
But take care about embellishing your achievements. Your personal brand should be synonymous with trust. Any mismatch between your image and reality could damage your reputation.
Remaining authentic might mean that you miss opportunities in the short term, for example by admitting that you don't currently have the skills required for a particular task. But you'll likely be regarded as positive and trustworthy if you combine this honesty with enthusiasm for a challenge, and you'll remain in the running for future invitations.
4. Identify Your Audience
Up to this point, we have explored three steps that help lay the foundations of personal branding, and they are particularly useful for promoting yourself in the workplace. But you'll also want to project your personal brand more widely, and that is what we look at now and in the next step.
You need to be sure who your personal brand is aimed at for it to be effective. This will likely include:
- Your current or potential employer: Your branding should highlight the similarities between your values and beliefs and theirs, and should showcase the experience and insight that most matters to them. For example, your organization may emphasize innovation or corporate social responsibility, so think of examples from your professional and personal life that reflect these approaches.
- Your customers, clients and investors: Show them that you genuinely want to give them great service, or that they need your skills, ideas or products. Invite feedback from people inside and outside your organization, and think about any concerns that they raise. Finally, think creatively about how you could go above and beyond their minimum requirements.
- Your skills community: Establish your credentials within your personal and business network, so that you can share ideas and best practice for your sector. You could start by mentoring a co-worker, then perhaps begin blogging on relevant topics, supported by endorsements from people who've benefited from your advice.
Be sure to keep your manager fully informed of your personal branding plans, especially if you're promoting yourself online. Your organization might have a specific policy on this issue, to safeguard its own brand, so follow it.
5. Choose Your Channel
Try to keep in mind that, whichever channel of communication you choose, you should play to your strengths. Don't try to do everything: instead, set yourself an achievable target. For example, if you're a natural presenter, build your brand through online videos or podcasts. If you write well, put a blog together. And, of course, don't forget to take care of your day job, otherwise you'll have nothing to sell!
All of the various social media and online channels that are available today offer ways to help you to build your personal brand. Here are some of the main ones to think about:
- Networking: LinkedIn remains the most widely used professional online network. However, most users tend to dip in and out, so the site isn't best suited to blogs or extended comment.
- Blogging: If you have some useful insight into your industry to share, writing a blog could be a good way to build your reputation, engage with people who have similar interests, and expand your industry knowledge. However, you'll need to produce a constant stream of useful content to keep your audience interested.
- Microblogging: Twitter and Facebook are also good for sharing insights, opinions and content, and for establishing frequent contact with like-minded people. But remember that short and precise communication is an art, and be prepared for some very public criticism.
- Your own website: A personal website takes time and effort to set up and maintain, but it can be a hub for a whole range of content. Make sure that your web address is relevant, memorable and short, and that your site is attractive and easy to navigate.
Across all of these platforms, consider carefully the type of content that you share, so that you can safeguard your online reputation. Remember, your posts will remain in cyberspace forever!
Get a good-quality but informal photo of yourself for your profiles. Work on developing a user-friendly, conversational writing style, which is easy and engaging to read. And adopt distinctive, not restrictive, usernames that will stay relevant. For example, a handle such as @JoSmithWidgetManager may become a burden if you're promoted to another role or change specialism.
Promotional items such as mouse mats and keyrings may be the preserve of larger companies, but don't underestimate the impact of a well-designed business card – it's a physical and shareable representation of your personal brand.
Always bear in mind that everything you say, do or post helps to create an image of who you are. You can take control of this by systematically developing and managing a personal brand for yourself.
By controlling and shaping your personal brand, you'll likely gain greater recognition, and build larger and better-quality networks, which can benefit both your team and your organization.
Get to know the people who you're promoting your brand to, and decide on the most effective way to reach them. Understand that your day-to-day behavior and relationships will give the strongest impression of who you are.
Above all, be authentically you. Claiming to be more than you are, or to be able to deliver something that you can't, will likely backfire.