Your brand is what people visualize when they hear your name or see your picture online. Your brand is at work whenever you go to an interview or make a new connection. Your brand can define your success and consumer reach. If you actively participate in molding your brand to your liking, it can be a valuable tool for achieving your goals.
What is a personal brand?
A personal brand is your story. It communicates the talents and values you represent to customers, colleagues and other professionals. It is the culmination of what you do and what you stand for. It exists not only in your online presence but also offline as well.
Why your brand is important
Think about every professional situation where you’ve attempted to impress someone, whether in interviews, job promotions or client relations. These are all examples of when having a well-defined personal brand can help you cultivate powerful connections. When you become intentional about your brand, you control how you market yourself, allowing you to manage your actions and choices to build credibility and trustworthiness.
Although a personal brand might seem quite a shallow concept at first, working on your brand can help you become a better and more genuine version of yourself. Having a firm grasp of who you want to be as an individual will make your decision-making and choices more consistent and in line with your values.
The critical elements of an effective personal brand
Before we discuss building a brand, it will be helpful to establish an effective personal brand. Although everyone’s brand is unique, there are some integral components to any good brand.
1. Authenticity. You can’t fake your brand. Doing so will only lead to inconsistencies in how you present yourself, which people will catch on to sooner or later. So, always start this process from a place of sincerity.
2. Values. Your brand values are your characteristics and traits people associate with you. Depending on your industry, profession and audience, these characteristics may be certain aspects of yourself that you want to amplify. For example, a public speaker may wish to enhance their fun-loving nature. Meanwhile, a business person may want to appear intelligent and ruthless. In contrast, an influencer may want to build a reputation for being hip and trendy.
3. Integrity. Building a personal brand isn’t just about obtaining success. It’s also about defining and sticking to your principles and not allowing external forces to compromise your integrity. When you are clear about what you stand for (and stand against), you can base your decisions on more than just monetary value.
4. Charisma. A good brand should make you stand out from the competition. After all, many people are good at what they do. So you must ask yourself, what about your story makes you unique? It may seem a tricky question at first. Only you have lived your life, and only you bring specific experiences to the table.
5. Trustworthiness. You’ll build trust in those around you when you deliver the work you say you can do and keep consistent with your values and principles. The result is better opportunities in your professional and personal life.
How to create a marketable personal brand in 5 steps
1. Figure out who you are
Figuring out who you are might sound like a strange proposition. But how well do you know yourself? Unfortunately, in today’s fast-moving world, many of us forget to take the time to reflect and focus on ourselves. To build a solid personal brand, a bit of introspection is vital.
Here’s a simple exercise to help you with this process. Grab a sheet of paper and write down the answers to the following:
- What do I struggle with?
- What drives me?
- What kind of tasks drain my energy?
- What do people compliment me on?
As uncomfortable as it may feel, honesty and deep thinking are integral here. If you struggle to answer these questions, try asking friends and family for their input. Of course, none of the answers to these questions are set in stone and will change over time as you learn and grow. However, once you know yourself better, you can start working to project an image of yourself and start strategizing your career.
2. Consider how you want to be known
Once you’ve worked out who you are today, you can start to focus on who you want to be tomorrow. Try not to focus too much on the things you want in life but on the habits required to be the person who gets those things.
You can start by looking at the industry you wish to enter: what knowledge, reputation, and talents are required to succeed there? Think big, but break down larger goals into small achievable steps. That way, you can measure your actual progress easier later.
3. Define your niche
Your aim should never be to try and please everyone with your brand. It’s a waste of your energy and resources. Instead, focus your efforts on defining your niche and working to appeal to your particular audience.
Companies, professionals, clientele and recruiters are more likely to contact someone who specializes in solving a specific problem than someone who claims to do a bit of everything. Think about it this way: if there’s a leak in your house, who are you more likely to call: a handyperson or plumber? Of course, it’s good to still work on building broader skills, but a well-defined niche can help you focus on taking command of a specific section of the market.
4. Optimize your social footprint
Once you’ve honed in on your specific audience, ask where these people can be found and what they are looking for. Once you’ve answered those questions, start building your online presence to cater to them. For example, suppose you are a graphic designer looking for customers. You would do well to focus on building an impressive online portfolio and promoting it across more generalized social media platforms.
Wherever you promote and interact online, remember that consistency is vital. For instance, don’t act like a professional on LinkedIn and post drunk and embarrassing photos elsewhere. Ensure the overarching tone and image you present online remains similar across platforms.
5. Network like crazy
The point of networking is not to try and amass a following. Impressive though it may seem, having thousands of followers won’t do you any good if no one is engaging with you. Your real aim is to create connections and foster communication.
Reinventing and readjusting your brand
The digital and professional spheres are forever changing, and your brand will need to evolve with them. As your body of work increases and you grow as a person, you’ll need to adjust your brand to represent who you are. But always remember to stay authentic and unique. Once you learn to harness the power of a well-cultivated brand, you’ll be able to move forward in your career with clarity and take the steps you need to succeed.