The concept of a personal brand has always been a little strange to me. Having worked in the advertising industry, I know a thing or two about building images that people will buy. However, it isn’t something I used to consciously work on until the social media boom. It was baffling at first, seeing people put immense effort into filtering their online pages. But looking beyond their curated posts, I came to realise what was happening. It wasn’t just a bunch of humble brags — it was a showcase of their work and what they were about. Suddenly, social media handles and online portfolios became the modern calling card.
To this day, I remain a firm believer that your work should speak for itself, but a personal brand will amplify your introduction in incredible ways. It is a powerful tool that gives you control on how to set yourself apart from your peers. You might not be a celebrity, PR agent, nor entrepreneur selling a product — but in this scenario, the product is you. This is your chance to make your mark and express your expertise and personality. Simply put, it’s that extra something that makes you stand out from a shortlist of candidates who might be one post away from landing the promotion you want.
As previously covered on Joseph Liu’s blog, personal brands take work and don’t happen overnight. However, it’s a quality investment of your time and effort. Now, let’s have a look at how exactly you can craft your personal brand.
Determine your platform
The first step is to claim your space before you cultivate it. Most people have multiple accounts across various websites, but that entails making sure your message stays consistent on each and every one. If that doesn’t sound like something you want to do, pick one platform and build from there. This can be as simple as a blog, or you could go the extra mile and create your own website. Whichever approach you prefer, you’ll also want to consider your audience.
Notice how Instagram is the ultimate millennial playground, while LinkedIn has a more put-together corporate feel for professionals who mean business. On the other hand, perhaps the demographic you want to reach is all the way in China, where people primarily don’t use Facebook. Business mentor Erin May Henry stresses the importance of tapping into a community, which you’ll only be able to do once you determine who you’re talking to and the digital space in which they thrive. From there, it will be much easier to put yourself out there and be seen.
Establish your identity
Take a step back and think about the skills and lessons you’ve picked up along the course of your career. Now, try to apply that in the image you want to put up.
You’ll also want to establish yourself as some sort of authority in your field, though it’s important to strike a balance so you don’t undersell or oversell yourself. Another way to look at it is to allow yourself to be bought instead.
Forbes compares it to the experience of being ambushed by sales people at a shop, which is neither fun nor effective. When was the last time you were actually comfortable with someone following you around the store and shoving products in your face? Imagine, instead, a sales person who simply approaches and welcomes you, extending their help in case you need it. Isn’t that so much more pleasant and less intimidating? That is why when building personal brands, you want to exude the same welcoming effect.
Walk the talk
What you bring to the table is what will set you apart from the thousands of other personalities and professionals out there. But I’ll let you in on a little secret – it’s not always about what you are, but what you can do for your audience. This is something we work with everyday in the world of advertising. It’s not enough to tell people what this shirt looks like or how this blender works. People want to know how buying a product will enrich their life and benefit them.
At this point, you should already know who you are as a professional. But what makes you stand out? Think in terms of experiences and give people a glimpse of what it’s like to work with you. If you’re a fitness coach, maybe you want to show people that getting fit can be fun and attainable. Or perhaps you’re a copywriter with an authentic flair for culture and a sharp, witty voice to express it.
What you want to do is show people that these experiences can only be had if they work with you. According to Corporate Brand Personality author Lesley Everett, ask yourself what you can do daily to add a layer to your brand that reinforces your image. This also helps establish trust, giving your audience a sense of familiarity. You’re no one-trick pony, after all.
Foster your connections
We can go on about the nuts and bolts of building your brand, but if there’s one thing that shouldn’t be forgotten, it’s that people are still people behind their screens. They appreciate those who will go the extra mile for them, and that means engaging with them. Marketing agency Ayima recommend opening up communication lines, which could be as simple as replying to a potential customer, or as elaborate as implementing initiatives that encourage conversation. This shows your willingness to engage with them. It’s just as important to do the basics of showing you care about your clients. Connecting with them empathically will make you stand out in a sea of other polished brands.
About Guest Contributor Sandra Miller
Sandra Miller is a digital marketer and consultant who’s worked with many brands and small businesses. In her spare time, she likes to go offline and read books or cook for her family.