As we’ve discussed before, branding is the mark you want your company to leave, the niche you want your company to fill and the package you present your company as. You create a brand strategy to build on positioning and your big idea. Your big idea ultimately translates into a creative brand story that you can take into the world to resonate with your current customers and attract new customers.
Businesses have had a long-standing “dibs” on the word brand and, when many think of brand examples, people start to list off companies like Coca-Cola or Nike that have a large brand presence.
What if you could take the idea of a brand and apply it to yourself?
Personal branding is the process of developing a mark that is created around you and your career– with some hints taken from your company’s brand to keep things consistent– to express your skills and values. We have the ability to empower ourselves and strengthen business relationships by taking what’s unique about ourselves and cultivating those qualities into our personal brand. Your personal brand is all about who you are and what you have to offer. It’s about building up the who of your character with what you do; your personal brand should bleed over into everything you do, and your business brand will in turn benefit from the hard work you put into building a personal 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, author
You’ve probably already run across examples of personal brands without knowing it. The first top-of-mind reference: Madonna.
Madonna has built her career on a type of counter-cultural extravagance we had never seen before and, whenever someone else emerges with the same type of extravagance, we tend to compare their persona to Madonna. She doesn’t shy away from her goals and, even though she’s evolved with the times, her core brand has remained the same, and her career has spanned decades. You don’t become the number one female music performer of all time just by singing some songs.
So, you’re thinking “well, I can’t be Madonna”. Of course you can’t. Madonna is a unique individual who has taken her unique characteristics, honed them, made her own personal brand, and created a generational empire.
However, you can be you.
You can take lessons from Madonna and apply them to your personal brand and create your own empire– big or small.
Of course, as a celebrity, Madonna is in the public eye 24/7, and everything she does is newsworthy. That’s the nature of the fame machine. But, you can take a cue from Madge and venture out into the public eye.
If you hide away in your office or shy away from building an online presence, when someone hears your name they’ll ask “who?”. You can’t build a personal brand without having contact with the world. Go out and network with people in your industry, attend conferences (near and far) about subjects that interest you, ask questions and share your own knowledge. Be active on social media and engage with your audience like a human rather than a robot.
Take a peek:
We all know Madonna’s brand is weird and wacky, but she’s also personal. It’s very likely the majority of her audience knows the struggle of breaking in a new pair of shoes, which gives this moment a relatable feel.
While you probably won’t be dancing on a stage, singing, getting ready for an international tour, you do have the ability to humanize yourself and your company. You can send a quick tweet about going out to lunch with coworkers or do a Facebook live video showing a volunteer event you’re at.
A word of caution, though: don’t use your social media to solely market to people. They’re following your social media to get to know you and who you are as a person– your personal brand. People love seeing the human side of their business contacts; what you eat, where you go, hobbies and interests are all what make you unique and contribute to your personal brand.
Who are you, and why do people like working with you? Maybe you’re extremely diligent about quality control and your coworkers know they can count on you to peer-review their work for mistakes. Maybe your positive attitude helps your office navigate stressful times with minimal issues. Whatever it is, take that, run with it and continue to build that characteristic.
It’s also important to align yourself with other strong brands. A good rule of thumb to follow is the three C’s:
Join alumni networking groups for your university or contribute to the alumni newsletter. Check into what your colleagues are doing in their free time outside of work. There are hidden opportunities in even these basic examples.
Volunteering with organizations you’re passionate about can help you build your personal brand. Donating, leading a service project, holding a board position, or just simply volunteering your time can attract positive attention. Aside from feeling good about yourself and spreading good in your community, people remember selfless acts.
Volunteering shows you’re team oriented and you can work with a team to achieve goals bigger than yourself. When you freely give your time, you show others you want to make a lasting impact in your community.
Your work and actions speak volumes about your character– which is what your personal brand relies on. You can say you hold certain values but, to help your personal brand, your life needs to embody your ideals in all that you do.
Be Open to ChangeMadonna perfected the art of change; in the decades she’s been in the limelight, the only thing that’s remained consistent is change. However, there’s always a method to the madness– never just arbitrary change for the sake of change. She’s changed to keep up with the times.
Your personal brand can benefit from minor tweaks every now and again to keep your message from getting stale; it can be as simple as engaging with your social media followers in a new way (#WisdomWednesday is an awesome way to share industry knowledge and position yourself as an industry leader) or post a blog article with a more laid-back “business-casual” voice. You’re keeping your core values the same but aligning them with a different message strategy.
Change what you should, keep what you must, because a revolving brand is not the same as an evolving one.
Building a personal brand is such a large topic because there isn’t one right way to do it and it’s about the bigger picture. Maybe you’re seeking a company whose brand fits your personal brand. Or, if you own a business, you are an extension of your business, and vice-versa, and you want to hire people whose personal branding fits your company’s.