When someone mentions the word “branding,” what do you think about? Things like Charles & Keith, Prada, or Chanel might come to mind – even iconic, everyday brands like Coca Cola and McDonald’s. These examples all have one thing in common: they’re memorable, and everyone knows them. But what about viewing yourself as a product and business? What if you took the principles of branding and applied it to yourself personally to find new opportunities in your career? You’d get personal branding!
Sure, you might not have a rich career yet, being only a fresh grad, but personal branding begins on day one.
So, what is personal branding?
We might start off with what personal branding is not. It’s not an attempt to adopt an identity contrary to your own and package yourself in such a way that you feel artificial and clunky. It’s not a way to promote yourself for services you can’t provide. You certainly can’t smoke through it!
Personal branding is something unique to you and is deeply authentic – sometimes even on an emotional level. It could even be derived from an idea you strongly and sincerely advocate for. Richard Branson is one shining example – he boasts a following of 10 million people as the CEO of Virgin Group, while Virgin’s LinkedIn page only has 100,000 followers. That’s only 1% of Branson’s total following! His personal branding strategies include blogging regularly, engaging with his audience, living and breathing Virgin Group’s values and mission. Part of his brand is frequent book-writing as well.
A good personal brand highlights your unique talents and services and shows people how you add value to your clients. It could be in relation to your greatest passion, whether it’s working as a HR expert or a tireless computer programmer. Just ask Martha Stewart – she realised her personal brand was centred on lifestyle and cooking and went ahead to pursue it. Today, her name is the first that comes up when people look for lifestyle and DIY resources for their homes.
Essentially, the first step to getting started on figuring out personal branding is to ask one simple question:
“What is it that defines you that you want to be known for?”
Figuring it out might take a while. You’ll have to dig deep before you uncover some gems, and once you do, you can start to think about how to build your personal brand. Here are 3 steps to guide you through it.
#1: Figure out your appeal and personality
You’re not an organisation or an entity – you’re a person, just like all your future clients. It’s important to know that people ultimately trust people, and not always the businesses they represent or own. You might have a killer idea for a new A.I. system that’s up and coming, but investors might turn you down if you fail to make a genuine, human connection.
You need to know how to describe your personality and its best features. How do you make people feel? How do your friends and family describe you? Are you an authentic listener? Are you hilarious, or fun-loving? The first part to the personal brand equation is knowing how to appeal emotionally to your audience.
#2: Lock down your area of expertise / industry
You need to know your audience. You need to be clear on the industry you’re intending to break into. If you aspire to become a cryptocurrency investor, then you already know an important keyword is “cryptocurrency.” If you’re a software developer, your keywords will likely include “software” or “applications developer” – things intricately linked to the world of programming and developers.
Let people know what kind of work you’re engaged in, whether it’s through highlighting your industry or your key skills, such as being highly innovative. Start writing down keywords that come to mind before you start putting together your personal brand. You can make use of the following templates to craft something from scratch:
- With ____________ (talent/key strength/expertise), I am able to ___________ (what service you provide) for ______________ (your audience/market).
- I am known for _____________ (talent/strength/expertise) and greatly enjoy ____________ (service/skill). I wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.
- I’m highly _________ (quality) and __________; you can find me _________ (service) in the __________ industry.
#3: Establish your service and function
This should be the easiest part to figure out. Are you a creative content strategist? Are you determined to pursue a career in investment or as a web developer? By now, you should already have a good idea about the kind of service you want to offer people around you. Be confident and assertive – you know yourself best, and you know why you’re unique and set apart from the rest of the crowd. Some examples of completed brand statements/summaries include the following:
I’m a creative content strategist who works with businesses to let their visions come to life through written word.
Known for my strange love for code, I build websites and applications for start-ups as a highly-motivated developer.
After going through these three steps, you’ll probably be able to come up with a short brand statement or concise summary. You’ll soon want to build your entire image around this statement – that means cleaning up your social media, building your presence with a website, and managing how you present yourself both online and offline. A compelling personal brand will draw people to you and make positive impressions that ultimately pave the way to new job opportunities. It goes without saying that it is something you must maintain and protect, since you’re putting yourself out there and making yourself available to potential clients and your peers.
Good luck out there!