One of the most recognizable business personal brands is that of Richard Branson, who says of his own brand efforts, “Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.”
Sounds great! But how did he do it? What does that commitment look like? How do you know the right emotional chords to strike? Then there is the question, “Is it even worth it?”
Creating a personal brand is no small task. In fact, it is not a single task at all. It is a process that can feel intimidating to the most confident executive. Even marketers and business branding experts can be unsure where to start when it comes to the very specific process of personal branding.
In this look-at-me culture and dynamic job market, it’s both helpful and necessary to stand out when upleveling your career, or starting a business. A personal brand is for (almost) everyone. So here are 7 strategic ideas for creating an engaging, unique, and inviting personal brand.
1. Niche yourself.
Just like business brands, personal brands require a clear focus. Trying to be a chameleon, appealing to everyone, creates a “bland” rather than a “brand”. However, what your niche looks like can be wildly variable. For instance, my own brand niches at the intersection of leadership and branding. From there it’s important to maintain no more than 5 topics that connect to your niche. For example, I speak about imposter syndrome, which erodes leadership and brand confidence, and I discuss the vital importance of values as a foundation for both.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky, millennial workplace expert and author of The Breakthrough Speaker, advises speakers (AKA thought leadership brands): “Carve a niche, and then carve a niche within your niche. The best personal brands are very specific.”
The narrower and more focused your brand is, the more likely you can own your niche, become sought after and recommended. It isn’t about the size of the audience you reach, or the followers you generate. It is about serving the best audience for you with tremendous clarity.
2. Be authentic.
No one can be you, or your brand. Many new entrepreneurs, and individuals climbing the ladder of their career, are tempted to model their brand on someone whose brand they admire. While there truly is nothing new under the sun, originality that springs from your life experience, your unique values, story and purpose.
The temptation to stand out based on features, processes, and points of difference like customer service and proprietary products will not do for your brand what your brand personality will—connect emotionally with your customers.
"Be genuine. It will make it much easier to manage your personal brand on a daily basis," explained William Harris, Facebook ads expert at Elumynt. Your personal brand should be an easy daily filter that you create content and reach out to your audience with.
3. Build your personal brand story.
If your personal brand isn’t telling a story, you’ve already lost half of your potential audience. Donald Miller built his brand on how to tell your story in a very precise way with Storybrand. For him, your brand story is about your customers’ stories even more than your own.
Allen Gannett, chief strategy officer at Skyword and author of The Creative Curve explains it best:” The most effective personal branding strategy these days is to build a true narrative - single character monologues are boring in Tinseltown, and even more boring for your personal brand.”
Unfortunately, shouting about your brand into the social media void is not very effective. What is effective is to create a story around your brand that your audience can engage with. Host live videos, masterminds and ask questions online for more two-way dialog.
4. Be consistent.
Being consistent is very similar to having a narrow focus—it’s much easier to get recognized for one topic if you consistently create content and brand voice around it. Not only that, the social algorithms are better able to show your content to the right audience when you do.
This is one of the core ideas behind brand talking points mentioned in #1 on niching yourself. Consistency isn’t about posting on a regular basis. It is about consistent messaging, appearance and brand image. The wrong brand message appearing consistently is worse than being invisible. Never underestimate how tiny inconsistencies, or a disconnect between your messaging and then actual brand delivery can derail personal brand effectiveness.
5. Plan to fail.
Failure is tough, and all of us generally want to avoid it - that’s human nature. However, to have a personal brand that rises above the rest, you can benefit greatly from failure. There are lessons contained in our missteps that we can learn from and so can our audience. The vulnerability and inherent risk of visibility means our failures are on parade. When we admit them, and pick ourselves up and reset with grace and dignity, we are an example for future brands to follow.
The key idea here is that failure isn’t fatal, and it ultimately strengthens us. Gates, Huffington, Jobs, Woodman, Bezos and even Edison were deemed failures at one point. And they chose to remain unstoppable.
6. Grow your impact through service.
While there are examples of brands that have built themselves up at the expense of others, the most fulfilling personal brand and leadership approach is less about the leader or person, and more about those they help and lift up.
Selfish leadership and selfish brands are ultimately self-limiting in their impact. We exist in community with our peers, superiors, customers and employees. No one builds their leadership or brand in a vacuum, and when enough bridges are burned as you are climbing, the infrastructure to support your brand becomes non-existent.
7. Be your brand.
Building a personal brand cannot be done when you divorce your brand from your personal life. When it comes to your brand, there is no “off days”. You are always on. This is the essence of personal brand authenticity. It requires full honesty about your personal values, priorities, personality, strengths and weaknesses.
As a result, you never need to worry about whether you are representing your brand effectively. You live it every day, all day. Because your social media, online reputation and website are not your brand at all. You are.
If you are ready to begin building your personal brand and grow both your influence and impact, reach out to schedule your free call to access our expert guidance.