There’s a lot of talk about personal branding these days. So much so that you might think the concept is new. In reality, it’s not new at all. Think of some of the most common brands you know: Ford, Bayer, McDonalds, Guinness, Tim Horton’s to name a few. Or, brands that became synonymous with their leaders: Steve Jobs and Apple; Martha Stewart and her retail and TV presence; or, Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin empire. What do they all have in common? They built their success on their name.
Personal branding is the practice of building name recognition and marketing yourself, your career or expertise around your brand.
How did they build their personal brands?
Put simply, they stepped whole‐heartedly into the public spotlight. They shaped their brands by making a sometimes conscious, sometimes not, effort to frame themselves within a public persona that demonstrated leadership, authenticity, credibility and a commitment to personal values.
Take the example of Henry Ford. He didn’t invent the automobile or the assembly line, but he did make himself a man of the people by declaring automobiles should be affordable to the masses. He also strongly believed people should be paid a fair wage and put his money where his mouth was by paying his workers well. He lived a philanthropic life and believed most in giving small gifts to individuals, to which he gave away a large portion of his fortune. Add it all up and his success and name recognition can be attributed to a combination of his leadership, values, business acumen and the public persona he wrapped these in.
In a more modern context, let’s look at the personal brand of Steve Jobs. Despite the controversial figure he was to many, there’s no denying he stuck to his values in the relentless pursuit of excellence. It wasn’t about money for him, it was about creating something bigger. His personal brand survives through his legacy—technologies that changed the world. He believed in his products and became their public face in the press and at major product releases. His name will forever be synonymous with the brand, so much so, many argue today that Apple’s brand and resulting market share has suffered since his death.
Why all the heightened buzz around personal branding today?
The impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) cannot be understated. Gutenberg’s printing press launched the Renaissance at the end of the 15th century. The Internet, smart devices, connectivity, social media, blogging, video… these are the things fuelling a 2nd Renaissance and our personal and professional lives are completely interwoven. If you’re not convinced, Google your name. This is the picture the wider‐world has of you.
How do you build (and manage) your personal brand?
Without knowing it you started building your personal brand a long time ago. People who’ve known you all your life undoubtedly describe you a certain way. They know your values by the way you’ve lived your life. You’ve developed a sphere of influence and a professional reputation throughout your career as well through your actions and abilities.
Whether you want to go on to change the world or create change in your community, your personal brand will be part of the equation. As important as your inner circle has been, sharing your best qualities with others outside of it will be a key component to your success.
Think of your personal brand as your trademark—you have to protect and manage what you’ve built (and will build). Secondly, prepare to step out of your comfort zone. At its core, personal branding is about publicly demonstrating leadership and promoting your personal or professional values and abilities. You have to be prepared to step into the limelight for your brand to grow.
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Disingenuous, know‐it‐all, and self‐centered self‐promoters may get attention, but typically for all the wrong reasons. Stay true to yourself. Find opportunities to share your knowledge, wisdom, ideas and values with others in a genuine and authentic way. This will build an influential personal brand.
Tips to grow your personal brand
Growing your personal brand will mean developing tactics to reach exponentially more people who can benefit from knowing you or about you.
If you are a business owner, tactics could include becoming the public face of your company in product videos. It could mean leading public advocacy groups, donating your time and leadership to charitable causes, becoming a regular contributor in the press or on community radio shows, to mention just a few. This kind of public‐facing presence will build your personal brand and your company’s brand while you’re at it.
If you are an employed professional your tactical plans could include boosting your career by developing a public, professional online persona through blogging or social media. It could mean joining and leading industry working groups, boards of directors, becoming a sought‐after guest speaker at conferences, volunteering at charitable events or in your community, or all of the above. Any or all of these offer you the chance to build a public, personal brand.
Strike a balance
Although personal branding can translate into business or career success, start off with the right approach. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with self‐promotion when you’re promoting the authentic you. Whether you want to grow your business or you want to help potential employers get to know you better, approach your branding process with genuine intentions and patience. You’ve spent lifetime building the brand you have—protect it and grow it by adopting a genuine, balanced tactical approach.
Tools you can use to build your brand
- Social media: If you just can’t resist filling your social feeds with baby or puppy pictures, consider creating separate Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram etc. profiles to promote your professional brand. Be active, respectful and relevant to the conversation.
- Blogging: Set up a blog to demonstrate your leadership and knowledge online. Blog on topics that offer people useful tips, important news or insight.
- Video/photography: Step in front of the camera as much as you can. The more people see you the more they will recognize you and get to know what you stand for.
- Visual aids: Get a professional headshot done, consider hiring professional graphic design services to give your blog and social media accounts a consistent, professional look.
- Key Messaging: Create a professional branding statement, develop your writing and public speaking skills, and be consistent in your tone.