The Power of Your Personal Brand

The Power of Your Personal Brand

At one point, there was such a thing as separation between your work life and your social life. For many professionals, this is no longer true. This is why more and more thought leaders, business consultants, and influencers choose to build a personal brand: it’s not enough to be a nameless part of a larger, corporate brand anymore.

Here I’ll answer some of the most pressing questions about building a personal brand: what is personal branding, how does it benefit you as an individual, and how can you do it effectively?

WHAT’S YOUR PERSONAL BRAND?

Business-level branding has been a key part of the economy since the Industrial Revolution. Today, children who are not yet old enough to read can recognize popular brands like McDonald’s and Nike.

That said, brands used to be only for businesses. Employees were expected to uphold and support the principles of the brand. Some of us in marketing were even lucky enough to help our businesses build their brands. But as trust has eroded away from corporations and government institutions, we are seeing the ushering in of a new era: the personal brand.

Those of us who understand how to yield the power of our networks will achieve greater levels of professional success. And those who know how to use social channels to deliver helpful messages will ride the wave of this new era in personal branding.

Now, more than ever, is your time to shine as a positive voice in the crowded media marketplace.

The rise of branding on a personal level has been more recent. For a long time, personal branding was better left to athletes, models, and Hollywood celebrities. Today, personal branding is a key to succeeding in many different parts of life.

So, with that said, what is a personal brand?

Much like people trust McDonald’s to provide a product that’s cheap and filling, your brand is an attempt to get people to associate you with certain qualities.

At its core, your brand is your reputation; how people think of you. Everyone has a brand, but not everyone’s personal brand is developed to be a strength.

Think of a celebrity that everyone knows: let’s use LeBron James, one of the most widely known athletes of the modern era. His personal brand for some might be as a dominant athlete and a person known for giving back to his community. For others it might something else, but most people know something about LeBron James.

Now, think about someone less notable, say, your friend Steve. Steve might be a pretty good guy, but it takes a while to get to know him. A stranger isn’t going to come to Steve for help, even if Steve is the kind of person who would help a stranger. Basically, Steve’s reputation doesn’t precede him. His personal brand isn’t an asset, but it can be.

In what I think is one of the greatest magazine articles ever, “The Brand Called You,” Tom Peters in Fast Company, said “it’s a new brand world.” He continued:

Big companies understand the importance of brands. Today, in the Age of the Individual, you have to be your own brand. Here’s what it takes to be the CEO of Me, Inc.
Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.

FOUNDATIONS OF THE PERSONAL BRAND

Big companies understand the importance of brands. Today, in the Age of the Individual, you have to be your own brand. Here’s what it takes to be the CEO of Me, Inc.

It’s a new brand world…

Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.

It’s that simple — and that hard. And that inescapable.”

THE NEW ERA OF PERSONAL BRANDING

Fast forward to 2019 and the erosion of trust in businesses, government and traditional media. Edelman recently updated their Trust Barometer which shows that the media landscape continue to fragment with the growth of online and social media information.

But more importantly, it quantifies the dramatic changes in perceived credibility: trust in CEOs, professional service providers, public servants, and even analysts is down. While trust in regular employees and “people like you” reported huge increases. Only academics and technical experts are seen as more credible and their trust level is flattening.

And so when the average employee, just like you, is perceived as more trustworthy than the CEO, then clearly…

THE TIME FOR BRAND “YOU” IS NOW!

Now I know what you are thinking: “I don’t have the time and I don’t see the value.” But these are the same excuses people use for why they don’t hit the gym or eat better.

So stop kidding yourself and start contributing to the social business world. You will help yourself and your business too.

We need to simply be ourselves and talk/write about what we know.

I believe that if we nurture relationships, then we can become a positive voice in the marketplace, on topics we are passionate about. And we can earn the power to influence a future boss, a future employee, a future customer, a future partner or a future investor in our companies.

So, as Lisa Barone (@LisaBarone), Founder of Outspoken Media, once said:

“We are officially beyond the days where you can have a distinct “personal” and “corporate” profile. You must decide who you are and bleed it!”

In my presentation, I cover how “news” is still the best way to reach buyers in B2B Marketing.

I admit to having a “crush” on Ryan Seacrest (@RyanSeacrest). Why? Because, along with Oprah Winfrey, he totally gets the importance of personal branding. There is no one like Ryan Seacrest. Multi-channel, multi-format, 24×7, always-on. And that’s why Fortune once proclaimed, he is the “future of media.”

And I talk about how following these steps and effectively communicating what makes you unique to the world, will bring you personal and professional success. You will gain influence. Your company will benefit from your strong and positive voice.

And who knows, maybe you’ll get a book deal or star on a reality TV show or even get to meet Oprah or Ryan Seacrest. Tell them I said “hello!” Oh, and a retweet from them would be great…

YOUR PERSONAL BRAND IS PRIMARILY DIGITAL

Brands used to be just for businesses. Companies hired consultants and agencies and spent millions of dollars to determine what color their logo was, what fonts really set them apart, what messages covered the key value of their products.

But then the internet happened. All kinds of information started moving around the world. Companies and governments and institutions became less important. Social media allowed us to connect with anyone with an internet connection, and later anyone with a smart phone.

Part of the reason the importance of personal branding has increased so much in the past decade or so is because suddenly, everyone has access to some degree of information about everyone else. Want to learn about a new doctor who you’ve just made an appointment with? You can see where he or she got their medical degree and what other patients are saying about them with a few taps on the screen of your phone.

And now we’re all publishers. And while we have all always had a personal brand, now, this brand is evident on every platform we use to connect with others.

Aside from celebrities and athletes, people thought to have a curated personal brand tend to be thought leaders and business consultants — people with professional notoriety. That example shows that this is far from true. Everyone should have a brand.

Effective personal branding can open countless doors for you in life. Basically, it would be a mistake to disregard it completely.

WHAT CAN PERSONAL BRANDING DO FOR YOU?

I worked with one company on building the personal brands of 10 consultants. We identified their areas of expertise. We cleaned up their LinkedIn profiles and added examples of their work (videos, articles, recommendations from clients they had worked with).

Most importantly, we built a daily, weekly and monthly plan for them that took no more than 2 hours per month: we asked them to share one article relevant to their industry or expertise every day. They spent a few minutes every week connecting with other experts in their industry. And the wrote and published one article every month.

The result at the end of 12 months was astonishing: millions of dollars of sales had closed directly from their social network (in this case it was on LinkedIn.) By the second year, the sales deals they were getting via this approach became the largest source of new business for the firm.

But this didn’t happen overnight. These people carefully built and developed their personal brand. They became known as experts. They shared the expertise of others. They built the size (and quality!) of their network. And they shared their own expertise. This combination, applied consistently is what delivered the results.

This is a relatively new phenomenon: people don’t trust business-level brands or corporate advertising and PR as much as they used to. The market is inundated with brands of products released by companies. A McCann study, as reported by Ad Age, revealed that compared to 20 years ago, nearly half of the people surveyed said that they trust brands less.

This, in turn, amplifies the reach of personal brands. Messaging shared by employee accounts reached 561% of the audience that the same messages did when shared by official company accounts, according to Scribd.com.

Here are some reasons why you should join the movement of individuals taking more and more care in developing their personal brand.

DIFFERENTIATING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND

Basically, all of the benefits of personal branding come down to one question: why should someone choose your brand over another? What makes you different and more suitable for the task at hand than your competition?

When you want to show someone that they should choose you, you have to brand yourself as a better fit for the role in question.

Sales

Let’s use sales as an example. B2B salespeople and marketers are often selling more than just a product; they’re selling belief in their personal brand. It’s hard to make your product or service stand out in a market saturated with knowledge. It’s easier when you can get others in a professional community to put their trust in you as an individual.

Job/Contract Hunting

Maybe a review of the definition of a human “brand” would help here.

Ries and Trout once said “a brand is simply a perception in the mind of the consumer.” So whether you like it or not, people are perceiving you and your business. Focusing on your personal perception (or brand) will allow you to see what elements of your activity allow you to have higher or lower levels of perception and for which traits.

You and your business have different brands because you are perceived as something by those who interact with you. Brands are not logos or colors or PowerPoint templates or website URLs or ad campaigns or slogans. Brands are what your connections perceive you to be.

And you have the power to influence that perception!

Hiring is done online, but more than that, recruiting is done online. Your personal brand is your digital first impression, like a resume, but more about you personally.

The average person spends hours on your resume, fine-tuning and targeting information towards a specific role. Are you putting the same thought into your brand?

Take this speaker video from a TEDx event for example: Jane Michael Ekanem, a highly accomplished professional, questions why more women aren’t achieving as highly as men, despite having many of the same qualifications as their male counterparts. What it comes down to, she claims, is that men are often more aware of their personal brand.

You can be a perfect fit for a role, but if you can’t get someone interested based on their impression of the brand that you’ve built for yourself, it doesn’t matter. You can’t rely on your resume to open doors for you alone.

HOW TO BUILD YOUR PERSONAL BRAND (AND ADVANCE YOUR CAREER)

It’s important to remember that the existence of your personal brand doesn’t start the first time you think about it. Put yourself in the shoes of people searching your name and look at yourself from their point of view: Google yourself!

Browse the first few pages and see what comes up. What do the results say to you? If results link to social media profiles, what do those profiles reflect to the people that may be viewing them?

You already have a personal brand. Now it’s a matter of leading it in the direction you want. Define your own personal brand mission by thinking about these 3 simple questions: WHO, WHY and WHAT. Here’s my personal brand mission:

Finding the time for social media is just about making it important.

  • Be social every day. Sounds ridiculous if you think about it in the real world sense. So why not make it “real” online. Make small “investments” in social every day. Tweet once a day. Blog once a week. Do whatever works for you and be realistic. But it’s amazing how persistence pays of when you do this year after year. You’ll have sent hundreds of tweets, created dozens of blog posts, connected with lots of great people and learned more than you would have ever imagined.
  • Share your unique skills and passion. Write about the things you care about, share what interests you, and you will find people with similar interests. Then they will inspire you and encourage you with their own point of view, and interesting that lead to amazing conversations. This in turn becomes the idea factory you need to consistently generate lots of great share-worthy content.
  • Help others. I believe we all have to “pay it forward.” Karma works in the social world. Share the work of people you admire and they will take a second look at your own work. Over time, you will become an authority yourself.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Personal branding is good for you, for your business, and for your career. Using these practices to build a positive personal brand for yourself will always have positive consequences in your career and your life.