When a complete stranger searches your name, do the results provide a realistic snapshot of who you are and everything you have to offer? The goal of personal branding is to understand your unique qualities—ideally those that will boost your career—and make sure you're putting that image forward. What follows is a discussion about what personal branding is, why it's so important, and the methods to use to develop your personal brand.
What is personal branding?
Personal branding means finding your uniqueness and building a reputation around the things you'd like to be known for. It's a process whereby you establish and promote what you stand for—an intentional and conscious effort to influence the public's perception of you by positioning yourself as an expert or authority in your field, raising your credibility, and setting yourself apart from the competition.
Your personal brand is made up of a distinctive combination of experiences, skills, values, and attitudes that make you unique and differentiate you from other professionals in your space. Simply put, personal branding is you. It’s the “cover” by which people will judge the book (you).
Your personal brand has a lot to do with how you present yourself to your audience—both online and offline. Also, it’s synonymous with your reputation. So, in a way, your personal brand can also be thought of as how other people perceive you.
Why is personal branding so important?
Personal branding is important because people will be Googling you at many stages in your life. Regardless of your age or the stage you’re at in your career right now, someone is screening you online. The reasons may differ, ranging from applying to college and going for job interviews to advancing your career and securing speaking engagements. For whatever reason they’re doing it, what others see when they look you up online can have major implications on both your professional and personal life. But, for the most part, the ultimate goal of branding your personal identity is to advance your career, increase your circle of influence, and have a larger impact.
How does personal branding affect your career?
It’s important to remember that no one else has your unique perspectives and personal experiences, and that as long as you’re willing to place yourself and your story on display, you’ll greatly increase your chances of success with your personal brand.
One of the ways personal branding can help you is with sales and outreach, especially when trying to build an MVP (minimum viable product) to enter a new market or get ahead of the competition in one that you have a starting point in already. Building a brand also lets you show off your unique characteristics so you can differentiate yourself from others in your field of specialization—which is crucial in today's super competitive online landscape. In addition, a strong brand makes it more likely that you’ll be exposed to a lot more opportunities. These include more interviews, promotions, job offers, contacts, clients, speaking gigs, etc.
A lot of people find the idea of building a personal brand a bit disconcerting. But, in today's digital scene, failing to take control of your own personal brand means that you’re likely missing out on opportunities by letting other people control your narrative.
What steps do you need to take to build your personal brand?
Regardless of where you are and what your reasons are for building your personal brand, the following three tips will help you showcase your talents and develop a well-defined brand identity of your own.
1. Audit your current search results
Your first step in building a strong brand is to audit your current online presence and get rid of anything that doesn't fit with your desired image. Even if you're not quite sure yet exactly what you want your image to be, just remove anything that can be potentially damaging, including posts, pictures, or comments that depict any of the following: unprofessional behavior, drinking or drug use, unprofessional communication, polarizing news (especially when related to religion, race, gender, or politics), sexually explicit content, bigoted behavior, and violence or bullying.
If you find that there are unsavory results in search engines related to your name, one of the best things you can do is create other entities to push the bad results down. Things like starting a blog, hosting a webinar with software that builds landing pages, create more social profiles, and building a presence on sites like Medium will help.
2. Define your personal brand
The next step is to gather all the information you need to help you build a vision of who you want to be known as. This involves evaluating your professional persona from the inside and outside—how others perceive you. It also involves learning your strengths, noting what you're good at so you can find the personal empowerment you need to communicate better and become an effective leader. In addition, you want to make a list of your values and beliefs that you stand behind no matter what—this will help others feel connected to you. Finally, you want to outline your passions and interests. Others are likely to take note of the things you do from the heart, as you’ll do them with energy and motivation.
Here are some questions you might ask yourself to help you figure out how to define your personal brand:
- What makes me unique?
- What is my vision for my personal brand?
- What is my goal with personal branding?
- What are my professional goals?
- Who is my audience? Who can I help?
- How can I help them?
- What makes me different? What's my X-factor?
- What makes me reliable? Trustworthy?
- How do I prove that? What/where is the evidence?
3. Develop and share a compelling story
You can now use the information you've gathered—your strengths, interests, passions, experiences, etc.—to help you build a unique story. Make it a compelling one that people will find memorable and share again and again through conversations and their websites, social media feeds, and other platforms. Your story should do three things: show people exactly who you are and what you can do for them; showcase your talents, skills, and accomplishments; and outline proof of your reliability and trustworthiness.
Ron Stefanski is a website entrepreneur and marketing professor who has a passion for helping people create and market their own online business. You can learn more from him by visiting OneHourProfessor.com.
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