October 22, 2018

How to Build a Personal Brand

Your brand is your reputation!

How to build a personal brand 

Today’s business topic is prompted by two things in particular.

First, I’m currently preparing to speak at Lindsay Teague Moreno’s social media conference in Denver this weekend. Given that my presentation is on the subject of branding, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting and researching and reading on the topic. So, given that it’s already in the forefront of my mind, I thought it natural to share with you some of these ruminations.

Secondly, I recently listened to this podcast featuring fashionista and influencer extraordinaire Blair Eadie, and this one quote in particular from her keeps resonating and reverberating in my mind.

Brands are trying to become more like people, and people are trying to become more like brands.

- Blair Eadie

I’ll come back to that quote in a bit. For now, let’s hop into our discussion on personal branding.

What is a personal brand?

When we think of branding, we often think of logos, colors, fonts, and such. But these are just a visual representation of a brand. At its core…

Your brand is your reputation!

Your brand is how people think of you. In fact, everyone has a brand – whether you realize it or not. In the past, there was a definite demarcation between work life and personal life. In large part, this is no longer true. You can’t have a work persona and an “outside of work” persona. You can’t think of yourself in parts. You are you, and that reputation precedes you wherever you go.

Branding is what people say about you when you are not in the room.

- Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon

Who needs a personal brand?

Your first inclination might be to think that personal branding is only relevant to the business of bloggers, influencers, or other entrepreneurs in that vein. However, that is simply not the case.

Who can benefit from developing a personal brand? Simply put, everyone!

Personal branding is not just for entrepreneurs, freelancers, influencers, and other self-employed individuals. Even as an employee, you can benefit greatly from honing your personal brand. Do you want to be considered for advanced assignments, promotions, or even changing companies? Well, you should know that over 70 percent of employers google candidates’ names and scan their social media channels!

Clearly, no matter what you do professionally, the onus is on you to craft your personal brand to send the right message.

The power of a personal brand

Given all that, how can you leverage that personal brand to be a professional asset for you? How can you use that personal brand for good?

Truly, effective personal branding can open countless doors in your life. We are living in a time in which people yearn for personal connection. People are much more prone to trust individuals than institutions. People don’t trust organizations like they used to. Think about corporations, governments, religious institutions. The trust has tarnished.

If you can effectively understand and develop your personal brand, then I dare to say the world is your oyster! Cultivating a strong personal brand will humanize your business and allow you to develop stronger relationships and thus broader exposure.

People yearn for connection. They yearn for authenticity. We see this today even in how people are using their purchasing power. When making purchasing decisions, people desire more than a mere financial transaction. They want to feel a part of something bigger.

Connecting to a brand on a personal level can even outweigh features, price, and much more when one is making decisions on what to purchase.


3 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand 

When thinking about building a personal brand, the task can seem monumental – almost too large to tackle. But like with most things in life, I find it easier to break a big task down into simple, management chunks.

Given my proclivity for alliteration (particularly with the letter C obviously!), I like to think of personal brand building in terms of the 3 C’s.

1. Consider your existing brand

Reminder: you already have a brand – whether you know it or not. So, let’s take some time to get to know your personal brand as it stands today. Survey what’s out there.

Examine your current digital footprint. What’s in a name? Well, Google yourself! What shows up when you google your name? What images appear in your Google search?

Also, consider googling topics for which you want to be considered an authority. What content shows up for those topics? How can you move up in the rankings for these topics? What knowledge can you share that is better / different / more than what already exists?

Then, look internally. Who are you? Where do your strengths and passions intersect? What differentiates you? What are your defining characteristics?

Are you stumped? Ask others! Sometimes asking others can shed great light on the subject. They can see from the outside clearly what is less clear to us internally.

2. Craft your ideal brand

First and foremost, know your why! I cannot emphasize this enough.

If you haven’t yet read the book Start with Why by Simon Sinek, I highly recommend that you do so. Knowing your why gives you purpose. Knowing your why fulfills you. Knowing your why injects passion into all that you do. When you are passionate about what you do, you inspire others. You engender their trust and loyalty, as they feel like they are part of something bigger. When we align with our community on an authentic, purpose-driven level, our connection is so much stronger.

Furthermore, knowing your why will help you make intentional choices for both your business and your life. Your how and what can flow naturally after your why. Never get these things out of order.

Your why is your reason for existing!

For instance, if you ask me what we do around here, I might answer like this, “We create colorful content and curate colorful products.” But that is not nearly as compelling as our why. Why do we do what we do? Our whole purpose in existing is our why:

We empower women to live, think, and dress with more color.

And I feel passionately about this mission! I could go on a long diatribe about why this matters to me, but I’ll save that for another day. Suffice it to say that I feel passionately about helping other women live boldly.

Secondly, I’m a big believer in strengths based leadership – and I highly recommend this book. Focus on what you’re good at. Be honest with yourself. People respond to authenticity! So, never ever try to be something or someone you are not. People can sense that from a mile away. If you are not being true to yourself, everything you endeavor to do will fall flat. It won’t fulfill you, and it won’t resonate with your audience.

On a related side note: Consider hiring branding professionals to help. There are people who are skilled at helping you codify exactly who you are and what you do – and help you create a visual representation of that.

When we underwent our massive rebranding a year ago, I worked with Justin Keller at Circle Fifty. As Justin listened to me talk about the business, he uncovered a powerful truth. When we looked at the intersection of what I was passionate about and what performed well, we clarified that there was one common thread: color! It didn’t matter what particular topic we wrote about; it mattered more that the content was colorful. So, with the help of an expert, I was able to bring that common thread underlying all of my content to the forefront with the “More Color, Please!” tagline.

Another local company whose branding work I admire is CKO Digital. Their knack at translating a brand into visual assets is brilliant. So, if you’re in Houston (or anywhere really) and looking for branding help, I highly recommend you talk to Justin at Circle Fifty or Mishelle at CKO Digital.

3. Cultivate your community

Once you’ve nailed done your why, start cultivating your community. Consider how you can connect and care for your community. Consider asking yourself these questions:

Who is my ideal customer?

Where are my prospective clients?

What digital platform are they using?

How can I provide them value?

Give freely to your community! Meet their needs and solve their problems – before ever asking for a dime from them. Think of it this way… if you tuned in to watch an hour long TV show and 45 minutes of it was commercials, would you stick around for long? Similarly, you should only be selling to your audience a small fraction of the time. Give, give, give, give, and then ask.

On the topic of community, bigger is not always better. Know your niche. Know your people. And connect with those you have. Don’t always be looking to expand your reach. Sometimes, you can benefit more by deepening the connection you already have – rather than expanding your width.


A Note About the 3 C’s of Brand Building

Note that these three steps should be revisited repeatedly. It’s not as if you do it once and you’re done. Continually take inventory of your brand… Are you considering your reputation? Are you actively crafting it into what you want it to be? Are you cultivating your community?

The Role of Social Media in Building Your Brand 

Before I close, a few thoughts on utilizing social media in building your brand… Given the prevalence of social media today, I would be remiss in not commenting on the role of social media in brand branding.

Social media is merely a tool.

Understanding this is of utmost importance! Like a hammer is a tool used to build a house, social media is simply a tool used to build our businesses.

Social media is not the be all and end all. “Winning” at social media is not the objective. Building a following just for the sake of reaching a certain number is useless, if you aren’t connected to that following.

Deliver value to your audience. Don’t just build a platform for self aggrandizement.

The Bottom Line on Personal Branding

More than ever, your reputation matters! So, be cognizant of what you’re putting out into the world – in person and online.

Give more than you take. Engender loyalty. Respect the responsibility of having a personal brand. And never take for granted that people have choices in who to follow, what to buy, and where to spend their money. Be grateful and stay humble.

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