What is Personal Branding
If you’re a business owner, have a “side-hustle” or thinking of one, you probably already know the importance of defining your business brand. But what about your personal brand? If you’re not a business owner you’re probably asking yourself “why should I care about personal branding? I’m not trying to be a blogger,or anything like that”. Like you, I didn’t think it was important for me because I was not trying to be a celebrity or someone in the spotlight.
Reality check – “If you use the Internet, you have a brand. Whether you like it or not.” With the rise of social media it’s absolutely clear that it is important more than ever to be strategic about the image we present on the Internet.
So what is a personal brand? It is a “A clear compelling public image”
Your personal brand is a combination of:
1. Your authentic self – who you are as a person and qualities you embody;
2. Your specialty/expertise – what makes you unique & what you want to be known for.
A personal brand creates expectation in the mind of others of what they will get when they meet you and or work with you. In other words, it’s all about perception. By developing your personal brand you are taking control of how people perceive you.Which is then marketed and managed to ensure that your brand message is consistently communicated.
” Once you’ve done the work of identifying the substance of your brand, you can spread this message across all your public channels. It informs what goes into your webpage, your resume, or even your Twitter bio. It shapes how people see you.“
Even if you have no intentions of starting your own business or blog, having a personal brand is also important for your career. Whether you’re entering the job market for the first time, or currently unemployed and actively looking; or you looking to elevate your profile within your industry or current company having a personal brand goes a long way.
“Developing a strong personal brand can be the key to rising above the competition. It serves… to convey your skill set and style whether you’re looking beyond your current job responsibilities. ” (Rick Haskins, Multichannel News via “The Brand Called You).
Another motivating factor to create a personal brand is to remember is potential employers are going to Google you to see what’s out on the internet about you.
So let’s talk about what self branding is and isn’t. It’s not about shameless, arrogant self promotion. It is not a personal vision and mission statement, although they make up part of the brand but is not the complete picture.
My Personal Branding Process
In the past month I’ve been developing my personal brand statement but really it’s been years of doing the internal work through – reflection, introspection, a host of career assessments, books and a few good people. I wish I could say this is my first time trying to define or identify my personal brand, but I’ve been here at least several times in the last 3 years.
Almost every personal branding expert will tell you that defining your personal brand takes reflection and introspection which luckily for me I have been doing for years. I love to journal, it’s a source to unload all my thoughts, helps me gain perspective and clarity. After reviewing years of notes, they have reflected that I’ve been consistently using the same terms to identify my brand. And with each year’s attempt I could see progress and the brand being more clearly define. Unfortunately, it has taken me 3 years to get this focus because I started and stopped this process so many times. (Disclaimer, all results are different and while it took me 3 years to get to this point it doesn’t mean it could or should take this long for you.)
Why did I start and stop this process so many times? Well, it’s hard work and often times it needs guidance in the form of a coach. Depending on your needs you might need personal branding coach or a business and personal branding coach. Interestingly though I’ve found that I’ve been already living my brand “behind the curtains” to those close to me.
As I began my goal planning and preparing for the new year, I was uncertain the direction to go with the blog. Although I did a reader survey a few months ago, it was important that the blog still represented my authentic self. That’s when I reached out to Vicky Ayala whom I met at a blogger conference for help. It was reaching out to Vicky for her services that brought this 3 year process full circle.
Vicky gave me an assignment pertaining to defining my brand. I started the work using a few her resources. By following Vicky on Twitter I found Amanda Littlejohn’s free workbook. Shortly after, I read a fascinating book called How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination by Sally Hogshead, which helped me recognized my competitive advantage and how to harness my uniqueness by giving me words to describe my “highest and best value.”
I was ready for it to go to the next level and a series of events led me to meet Vicky and the podcast that I hadn’t listened to since July would have an episode which featured Sally Hogshead and her new book. In hindsight, I’ve been doing the prep work – putting this all together was a matter of the right time and the right catalyst.
The Defining Moment
I have been hesitant to define a personal brand because of a defining moment in my life, that created a negative self-awareness and insecurities that caused me to dim my light, wait for permission, avoid the spotlight. I was about 13 years old living in Jamaica and I was involved in lots of activities especially at church. One day one of the kids made a comment about me along with the question of why I had to be in everything. Although I didn’t show it, I was hurt. That was the first time, I ever felt conscious that my performance and my involvement in other activities made people uncomfortable or upstaged. Since then I have been consciously and unconsciously dimming my light, avoiding the spot light, and/or not take credit.
Now that I’m aware of the cause, I am consciously making efforts to step outside the years of this trained behavior. I have declared to embrace my brilliance without having to dim my light for fear of others feeling less than and I will dare shine my light to inspire others to their own greatness.
What does this have to do with personal branding? Personal Branding requires self-confidence. You need to embrace your brand and claim what’s unique about you – what makes you stand out. Otherwise you will go unnoticed. ” Believe me I know that tooting your horn or self promotion no matter how subtle can feel icky but as Sheryl Sandberg points out in Lean In – “Owning one’s success is key to achieving more success”. How will we achieve success if we don’t accept what we stand for?
3 Steps to Build your Personal Brand
1. Self-Discovery: Knowing yourself, asking tough questions and taking some time for reflection and introspection is the most important component
“In fact, if you don’t spend time learning about yourself, your values, personal mission, and unique attributes, you will be at a disadvantage when marketing your brand to others. Start by asking yourself “what do I want to be known for, and then select a niche so that you can position yourself in the marketplace.”
2. Communicate: Once you get clear about who you are, it’s time to communicate that consistently, whether on resumes, social media channels, blog/website, conferences and to your network etc. It is also the opportunity to take your identified brand to help build your network or create a niche.
3. Maintain: Actively monitor your personal brand online by creating Google alerts for your name in addition to the name of your blog, website or product if you have one. Another aspect of maintaining your brand is you must realize and accept that your personal brand will require updates and tweaks along the way. “As you grow, mature, and accelerate in your career, everything you’ve created has to be updated and accurately represent the current “brand you.”
Over the years I have taken several assessments including Career Leader, which is a career focus self assessment and Clifton’s Strength Finder, a self assessment geared to help you find your natural talents.
Developing your brand to write your personal brand statement takes time and courage. But once you do, you will feel confident. It took this exercise to fully realize, appreciate and accept a pattern that was manifesting itself as my brand, what I stand for, what I’m good…, no, who I am at my “highest and best self”.
What’s your personal brand? Tell us, we’d love to hear from you.
Photo Credit: Hefin Owen