Personal branding is the act of using one’s image rather than a company’s. The good news is that you don’t have to be Taylor Swift to put your personal brand to work! To sell yourself with the goal of benefiting your business, you just have to follow a few specific steps to take charge of how you present yourself to others. You need to showcase your personality, skills and experience in a natural and authentic way.
Why personal branding?
Done well, personal branding provides added credibility and increased trust. The more people see you in certain situations and hear you talk about specific topics, the better their understanding of you as a person becomes. Obviously, you won’t be able to please everyone. But having a strong personal brand will help you gain recognition beyond your traditional networks, generate word-of-mouth and encourage people to approach you, saving you a lot of time typically spent seeking opportunities.
In the long run, your brand can help you:
- Secure an interview
- Obtain a promotion
- Gain recognition in your industry
- Increase your contact list
- Find clients who are more like you
- Sell more products
- Position yourself as a leader or expert in your field
Personal branding is also very useful to manage your reputation. If someone was to make false accusations against you or your business, a strong brand would act as a protective device and would leave your “followers” with reasonable doubt regarding the alleged facts. Being proactive reduces the risks of someone trying to take control of your brand and spread rumors about you.
Developing a personal brand strategy
Modern history has brought us a wide range of influencers who have reached the top thanks to a remarkable sense of business and to tools such as Instagram and YouTube. Many people have gained momentum by spontaneously highlighting hobbies or traits of personality. Over time, these individuals have generated an important following simply due to the fact that what they share resonate with others.
Not everyone can easily put themselves out there, whether it’s online or in person. Follow this plan and it will be pretty easy to start building that brand without totally overhauling your ways overnight.
- Ask yourself the following question: what makes you unique, what makes you “you”? What do you value the most? What makes you someone people can trust, who they can count on?
- Make a list of your personality traits and your passions.
- Ask others what they think of you.
- Decide on your objectives. What do you dream of accomplishing? What is your vision?
- Identify your audience. Are you looking for clients? Or maybe do you want to get noticed by “influencers” in your industry? What are your audience’s interests and what do you have to offer? Who can help you reach those people?
- Write a personal brand statement. In one or two sentences, summarize what you want to accomplish, with whom and how you will get there.
- Type your name in search engines. Take note of the search results. These should support your strategy and showcase your expertise. If certain things are inappropriate or irrelevant, try to delete them.
- Look up examples of people you admire and who inspire you. How are they positioning themselves and what can you do to mimic that?
- Select the right communication channels where to promote your brand based on your research.
Where to push your brand
Personal branding is often approached as an online tool while in fact, it goes beyond social media and the web. How you carry yourself in person or in writing is also important. To start, you’ll want to choose half a dozen channels to focus on, which you will have selected based on your objectives and audience.
Nowadays, an entrepreneur without a website is like a dinosaur. Worse maybe, some people might question his or her motives and trustworthiness. A website is like a business card as it allows potential clients to find you while improving relationships with existing clients.
Beyond the “About Us” section which is a must to help those wanting to find out more about your expertise, your website can showcase your personal brand in different ways. Don’t hesitate to include more than a single picture of yourself, whether it’s a portrait or an action shot. An intro video is also a great tool to have. It’s important to give your audience a sense of what guides your work (your values, philosophy or approach) throughout the site.
Social media is an obvious choice to showcase your brand, even if it can take a while to see any concrete results. If you don’t already have an online profile, do it! Now! A complete absence from social media will one day or another hurt your brand. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, SnapChat, YouTube, go where your audience is! You’ll want to make sure your profile is impeccable, which means having a professional headshot and completing all of the fields.
Be consistent with your messaging and present yourself in an authentic way. Forget about fake setups or fancy stuff but be professional – you don’t want to be seen as an amateur. Do you want to become the no 1 scuba diving retailer in Canada? Give tips, explain how your equipment works, show off your latest family trip, all good ways to put yourself at the forefront without looking like you’re trying too hard.
Whether you have a preference for the pen, the mic or the camera, content creation is a great way to lead the way and demonstrate your expertise in a given field or on a given topic.
You can start your own blog or write for other blogs or a platform like Medium (to maximize content exposure). You can also create a podcast or a web serie for your YouTube channel.
No matter the medium, what’s important is to showcase value and offer quality content that people will want to consume.
Talks & Conferences
Just like with content creation, offering workshops or talks allows you to share your knowledge and experience and positions you as an authority. Start by identifying the most relevant opportunities and knock on doors if need be! Certain groups or events have more complex application processes but others offer flexible formulas. You can even organize your own event for additional opportunities!
The first impression is the most important understanding there could be no second one. Love it or hate it, appearance is a ‘thing’ so might as well think about it. Understanding others’ perception is the first step because being aware of your image is what allows you to make an informed decision. Do you dress and present according to your personality? If the answer is no, you might want to consider changing (!). Respecting your true self will make you appear more confident, therefore attracting you more people. Reflect on your audience and what its own taste might be like. But don’t go against your true nature.
Personal branding is also about how you carry yourself on the phone or by email. Orally or in writing, have a coherent message and use a language that is “you”. Try to give your interlocutor a hint of your personality even if the communication is short. Find inspiration in your personal brand statement and think of what makes you unique. Pay attention to your email signature as well, add a little something to it. And why not use a font that you are particularly fond of!
The devil is in the detail
As useful as it can be, personal branding can be perceived as a manipulative process, which is not entirely false, in certain instances anyhow. But it’s important to remember that like it or not, we can’t stop people from passing a judgement. They’ll have an opinion no matter what. Why not try to ensure they forge the best opinion?
Strategic or not, personal branding should always be done in a way that is a true representation so to avoid being accused of manipulation.