You may be a hiring manager dispensing a pre-employment assessment during 9-5; you may be a junior level data analyst looking to work as a freelancer; or you may be a business executive who wants to dispense their accrued knowledge. Whoever you are, your professional goals are within arm’s length if you take the time to build a personal brand.
A personal brand is much more than a flashy logo or a color palette. A personal brand goes far beyond having a nice-looking business card. A personal brand is not just about having a website with your name on it. A personal brand is much bigger and all-encompassing. It’s about who you are and what you do. Your personal brand is how you present yourself, both online and offline, to your ideal audience.
You may be playing around with the idea of a change in your career. Maybe you’re looking for a lateral move within your organization. Or do you want to create more future opportunities open in your chosen field. Personal branding supports these goals. You can start striving towards your career goals by taking the time to carve out an image for yourself.
You don’t want to be a professional that underestimates the power of this particular marketing tool. Branding can be a helpful way to boost your career and add value to your colleagues and customers. Personal branding differs from standard branding. You may be familiar with famous brands like Nike or TikTok. These brands are highly visible and recognizable.
What is a personal brand?
Personal branding is about increasing your visibility, reputation, and making sure people trust your skills. It’s about creating a positive impression or influence on others, making it easier to land clients, earn a promotion, or any other career goal you may have.
Since your personal brand is the image you put forth, it incorporates your values, who you are as a person, and the qualities that separate you from others. It’s how you keep your employees informed or your clients satisfied. It’s your special recipe for success.
By highlighting who you are an individual---not a CV or a piece of paper---you’re showing the specific ways that your experiences and background can solve specific challenges. It shows why you are specifically “made” to solve serious pain points or see the future.
Think of all the touchpoints you have when interacting with brands like Nike, Amazon, or Victoria’s Secret. You may not actually be a patron of those brands, but chances are you recognize them through online advertisements, newspaper articles, YouTube collaborations, or your friends posting they got the latest Nikes. These are all touchpoints of a brand. Similarly, everything you create or post is an extension of your personal brand.
What you share on your Twitter to the events you host online, these are all ways that spread your branding message. Your brand influences how your audience perceives you. When you post statuses on LinkedIn to the email signature, these are small touchpoints that you’re able to control.
Why build a personal brand?
Chances are you’re reading this because you’ve got career goals. A personal brand creates a competitive edge to stand out amongst other professionals in your field. You may have similar skills to human resource managers or software engineers peers, by showcasing what those skills are you’re showing how you’re uniquely capable of solving problems. This dilenates you from your competition.
What are the steps in building my personal brand?
Crafting a personal narrative is easier than you think. You may want to sit down with an old-fashioned notebook paper and pen to dwell on these questions.
Step 1: Determine your core
The first step in creating a powerful personal brand is to determine what makes you, you. Part of building a personal brand is sharing your passions and values. By sharing what already exists in your skills arsenal, you’ll be able to build it up from there. Thus the first step is understanding yourself to move forward. Head of marketing at Popular Demand, Monica Lin, highlights that “People can see right through a disingenuous act.” It’s important to truly distill what makes you unique---and be authentic about that. Otherwise your audience may not completely trust you.
Questions to ask:
What skills do I have?
Which skills are unique or uncommon?
What are my core motivations?
What am I most passionate about?
What unique experiences have shaped who I am?
What makes me stand out from my peers?
How can I serve my target audience?
By understanding what you bring to the table, helps you figure out the next steps. Finding your target audience, delievering helpful content, or simply making decisions, all of it starts with this first step.
Step 2: Determine what you want to accomplish
You have a larger, overarching goal for your career. What is it?
When talking with your audience, either in-person, at work, or online, your intentions matter. By understanding what your objectives are, you’ll be able to view your personal brand as a platform of leadership opportunity.
You want to ask yourself these questions:
What are 3 important accomplishments in my personal and professional life?
What niche would I like to be in?
What would I like people to know me for?
What do I want to be an expert on?
When you identify the things you want to accomplish, you’ll be able to focus more on what specific actions can fuel your intentions. You’ll be able to make better, more coherent decisions in your professional and persona lifves. Since you’ve identified your values in the first step, you’ll be able to also align how your values align with the decisions you take in reaching your goals.
Step 3: Choose your target audience
Personal branding is not about becoming. It’s about becoming selectively famous; you’re well-known to a certain group of people. If you work in talent managment, you’ll be well known to hiring and recruitment professionals. Or if you’re the businessperson who understands data science, you’ll be targeting business analysts. There’s a core audience out there. The King of Building an Audience might be entrepreneur and investor Tim Ferris, the man behind New York Times Best Seller, the 4 Hour Work Week. His advice in building an audience? Ask yourself “why” three times when you feel like you have to do something.
“So you have to build an audience, ask three times. Asking why three times, so why do you have to build anaudience? And you might say because I have to have people to sell to when I launch my product. Okay, why do you have to launch your product? Well, because I want to build a business that allows me the freedom to travel the worldand have enough income to do A, B, and C. Let’s take travel the world, it may turn out,once you ask why three times that volunteering at a local embassy for your target country, like Sweden or someplace else, is the shortest path to getting to your objective, not building an audience”. Ferris points out not to mistake the intermediate goal as bigger than the big goal itself.
In addition to making sure your larger goal caters to a core audience, ask yourself these questions:
Who needs my help and expertise the most?
Who will most likely be engaged with the skills that I have?
Who are the people I’m most passionate about making a difference with?
Once you land on a general audience, you may want to dig deeper. Think about learning more about the specific demographics of your audience. You may be targeting travel junkies or hiring managers. When you dig deeper, there are layers of the type of person you’re targeting. For example, if you work in human resources, you’ll learn that 72% of HR managers are women; in 2017, 86% of HR generalists were women. By learning more about your audience, you’ll be able to think about their life choices and responsiblities outside of the office. Some may be young mothers or may already have children grown up. Your audience may have lots of disposable income or they may be more budget-oriented.
Step 4: Name your Unique Service Proposition
Your USP is what your personal brand delivers. It’s the simply message that shows what you stand for and what you do for your audience. You may be familiar with these well-known USPs:
M&Ms: “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand”
DeBeers: “A diamond is forever.”
FedEx Corporation: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
Similarly, think of what your USP tagline is.
I work with (target audience) in (your skill) so that they can (outcome).
You can say that you help business coaches with your Google ads skills land 5 clients in 1 week. By being specific---and clever---you’ll be able to paint a picture within a sentence. This makes your personal branding easy and accessible.
Step 5: Act like your brand
This may be the most challenging aspect of building a personal brand. Particularly for those who may suffer from feeling inadequate, or Imposter Syndrome. You’ve done the ground work of showing who you are; now is the time to act. You’ll now choose how you’ll communicate or reach your target audience. It may look like starting your own website (a genuinely, all-around good idea). It may include writing blog posts, starting an email list, podcast, or regularly engaging on social media platforms.
Whichever channels or platforms you choose to deploy in your content, be sure to constantly highlight your USP and the problems you solve. This will begin to build a coherent brand of what makes you uniquely qualified to be a hiring and recruitment guru or a project manager.
Step 6: Build a supportive website
Your website is what turns casual onlookers into play clients or customers. It’s your online home for your personal brand. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you most likely understand how pertinent is to be online.
Given you have only a limited amount of time to impress the site visitor, you’ll make sure that everything on your website speaks to you and your USP. It needs to reflect the brand.
How can I make sure my website truly reflects my personal brand?
Get you a personalized logo
It’s a small detail, but makes a huge difference in showing your audience you take yourself seriously. It shows that you are indeed a brand and not just an individual with a website. You don’t have to be selling products to get a logo; personal branding is about making your logo as personalized as possible. It can be formulated from your signature or a combination of your favorite shapes and your USP.
State your USP upfront and center
Visitors should easily find what you do and what makes you the perfect person to do it. There shouldn’t be any guess work on what you offer. Ideally, it should be near the top of the webpage or any other place that is clearly prominent.
Hire a professional photographer
Take yourself seriously by making sure professional photos of you exist on your website. You’ll not only use these on your website, but will also likely use them for speaking events, PR packages, and other forms of content distribution.
Feature customer testimonials
These are gold. If you have customer testimonials, be sure to include them on your site. It shows visitors that others have trusted you and have gotten great results!
Tell clients what to do
What are you looking for visitors to do? Do you want them to join your email list? Follow you on Instagram or book a demo? Make it clear how visitors can get in touch with you---and what you want themt to do to explore your services more.
By showing what sets you apart from you peers via a USP---and a helpful website---you’ll gain an edge. You’ll show up as a trustworthy expert, earning you clients, customers, followers, or whatever you’re looking for in a target audience. Finally, stay persistant in building a brand. The road is not a straight path, but a winding road as you figure out how to phrase certain keywords or edit your website. What’s most important is you’re taking control of your professional career by building a long-lasting personal brand.
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