Personal branding is a term that is over used yet often misunderstood. In truth, your personal brand is part of your identity—it is a way to communicate who you are and what you stand for to your professional circle. It is your unique value and reputation in the marketplace. What it is not is a façade or persona you put on to impress. What makes a personal brand, well, so personal, is how authentic it needs to be to be effective. It HAS to be about you—your skills, your values, your experience, your interests, your points of differentiation. Your personal brand can incorporate your mission, but it is in the living manifestation of that mission that your personal brand becomes dynamic.
In my last post, I challenged readers to think of 6 or 7 attributes that they wanted associated with them as a foundational step to building their brand narrative. Getting a clear intention on how you wish to be perceived really gets you thinking critically of the messages you have been putting out inadvertently. For instance, in my last workshop, I had a young man describe one of his attributes as creative, yet he had difficulty articulating how he expressed this trait professionally. He certainly didn’t “look” creative—in fact he looked pretty conservative! Nothing in his appearance or demeanor gave the impression that he had a creative bone in his body. Yet he wanted to be perceived as creative. When your appearance or communication is at odds with your desired brand identity how do you reconcile it?
The simplest way is to act as if the desired trait is an integral part of you. In this young man’s case, I asked a few probing questions: Did he share creative ideas at work? Did he come up with creative ways to solve problems? Was he creative in his pursuit of his career goals? Did he manifest creativity in other ways? With some digging, we did find quite a few creative kernels in his professional life. And because he had a renewed awareness of how important this attribute was to him, he vowed to make it a more vital part of his professional reality. This is what personal branding is all about! It is about strategically positioning yourself in a way that allows the most salient aspects of your brand identity to be front and center so it is obvious to your peers, clients, managers, co-workers etc. that this is part of your unique value proposition as a brand.
Think about Martha Stewart for a minute. How did she get to be Martha? What makes her a lifestyle maven? Even after a very public setback, Martha Stewart’s brand re-emerged stronger than ever. How? For Martha it has always been about her branding. Everything about Martha communicates her key brand characteristics of excellence, high quality, traditional American living, trusted friend and advisor and homemaker. Her brand and identity are almost synonymous.
Martha Stewart likely employed many of the following elements as she built her legacy brand. Ask yourself, is your brand:
- Memorable? How does your brand engage? What makes you and the delivery of your brand promise unforgettable? What can you do to consistently exceed others’ expectations of uyou?
- Authentic? You are the CEO of your brand. Your brand must be built on your true identity. This is core of your brand. What is true and genuine to you? How can you convey that?
- Compelling? What is your story? How would you answer, “Tell me about yourself?” Are you reinforcing your brand message consistently by your presence, behavior, communications (online and offline) and performance?
- Differentiated? Are you ordinary or extraordinary? Are you a commodity or a brand? What is distinctive about you professionally? What unique skills/talents do you bring to the table? What can you specialize in? How can you add value to the business at hand?
- Aspirational? Are you aiming high enough to give your brand the opportunity to deliver in an expansive way? What other strong personal brands can you leverage? What hidden opportunities are available within your company/industry which you have yet to tap into? Be bigger, brighter, and bolder than you are now.
Finally, you must be persistent. Your brand needs time to grow. It should be developed organically. Great personal brands like Martha Stewart’s have taken years to grow into household names after a long period of dedicated work, sacrifice, courage, and patience to persist. Take your time, don’t give up, believe in yourself, and be patient.
Natalie Jobity is a marketing consultant, business coach, inspirational author and freelance writer and editor. She is the author of the Amazon Best-selling style guide: Frumpy to Fabulous: Flaunting It. Your Ultimate Guide to Effortless Style.