Why developing your personal brand is so important

Personal branding - what makes you unique

Everyone is talking about personal branding now. Everywhere you look, there are articles, blog posts, discussions, and podcasts about personal branding. It can be overwhelming to sort through all of that information to find the answer to THE big question:

What does personal branding really mean and how does it affect me?

Before understanding what personal branding means and how to use it, you need to understand what it is not.

Here are the top three myths of personal branding:

Myth #1: Branding is just for celebrities or companies.

The truth is that branding is not just for celebrities or corporations. Branding is for anyone who wants to increase their value, earning power, visibility, and influence.

By developing your authentic personal brand, you are becoming very clear about what you bring to the table. This clarity about your unique offering increases your value, credibility, and confidence making you stand out from everyone else.

Myth #2: You don’t need to brand yourself if you’re in a corporate job.

Even if you’re in a corporate job, you need to have the ability to influence others because you often need to drive results through other people. Having an authentic personal brand that inspires and motivates others is the most sustainable way to accomplish your goals. Your authentic personal brand is the nexus of your power and your ability to influence others.

Myth #3: A brand is a logo or a tagline.

There’s so much talk about your personal brand from an external perspective – as though it’s ONLY something to be consumed from the outside. Personal branding is not just your logo, your business card, your website, your social media presence, your personal appearance, your brand colours, your brand story, etc.

Like your DNA, your authentic personal brand is an inside job – “the fundamental and distinctive characteristics or qualities you possess.” Personal branding is the inside-out process of unearthing your authentic personal brand.

Why developing your personal brand is so important

So What is an Authentic Personal Brand?

It is your unique combination of strengths, core-values, creative abilities, passions, vision, purpose, and imperfections.

Your personal brand is not like anyone else’s. It’s not like anything else out there. It is uniquely yours and yours alone. It is the essence of who you are – that “it” factor driven by your unique strengths and core values.

It is also your unique promise of value that others can count on. As such, it is your most powerful asset as a leader because it allows you to wield tremendous influence.

The Four Steps to Unlock Your Authentic Personal Brand

How can you crack the code to your authentic personal brand and cultivate it in ways that generate success? By following this simple, four-step process, which will help you unearth, clarify, elevate, and leverage your authentic personal brand.

Step 1 – EXCAVATE

The first step in unearthing your authentic personal brand is to begin an excavation process. You must dig down below the surface of your personality and begin to gather information about yourself. Ask yourself and the people closest to you some revealing questions.

Collect data about the qualities that make up your authentic personal brand using a 360 assessment tool. 360 assessments are sent out to those closest to you (your boss, colleagues, direct reports, friends, and family) and are a great way to get objective and confidential feedback from a variety of sources who know you well.

Take Action: Create your own free 360 assessment using a tool like Google Survey or Survey Monkey. Send it out to colleagues, mentors, former bosses, friends, and family. Don’t forget to take it yourself!

Ask 3-5 basic questions like:

  • What are my biggest strengths?
  • When you think of me, what top three qualities come to mind?
  • In what areas do I need improvement?

Step 2 – CLARIFY

Great brands are highly differentiated. Think about brands like Apple, which was distinctly different from the moment they hit the market. Their zen aesthetic, intuitive user design, and hip persona helped them carve out a place in the market and distinguish themselves from their competition.

I want you to begin to think about what makes you different – what makes you stand out. How can you embrace your unique qualities, stand out, and differentiate yourself from your competitors?

Take Action: Using the data obtained in Step 1, brainstorm what makes you different, what makes you stand out.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the recurring qualities and themes that define me?
  • What am I noticing that is really unique about me?
  • What qualities do I want to amplify/minimise?
  • What qualities, traits, or experiences differentiate me from my peers?
  • How do the unique qualities I possess help solve my target audience’s problem?

Step 3 – ELEVATE

Once you’ve unearthed your authentic personal brand and identified your differentiators, it’s time to strategically increase your visibility to your target audience. There are many ways to do this, the most obvious being using various forms of social media or launching a PR campaign.

One of the most overlooked but effective ways to elevate your brand is by developing powerful presence and communication skills. Few people are able to confidently articulate their unique value proposition in a clear, concise, and compelling manner. Those who can will easily stand head and shoulders above the competition and attract the interest of their target audience.

In order to elevate your brand, you will need an authentic elevator pitch that describes how you solve your ideal client’s big problem(s) and why your ideal client should work with you.

Take Action: Create a brief, conversational elevator pitch. 60-90 seconds, MAX.

Highlight:

  • Who you serve (Ideal Client)
  • What problems you solve (Your Ideal Client’s Problem/s)
  • How you solve them (Your Methodology/Differentiator)

Practice your elevator pitch at home among family and friends until it becomes second nature. So the next time someone asks you, “What do you do?,” you are ready with a clear, concise, and compelling response!

Step 4 – LEVERAGE

Once you discover and grow your brand, what do you do with it? What do you do with this incredibly unique and distinct set of qualities you possess? How do you use your personal brand to serve your organisation, your community and our world?

Now that you’ve done all the internal work of the first three steps and you have a real understanding of your authentic personal brand, it’s time to create an action plan to launch your brand to the next level.

Take Action: Create a step-by-step, easy-to-execute action plan to leverage your brand across one or more platforms.

  1. Select 1-3 “platforms” for getting your brand message out into the world. Do you want to blog? Write a book? Be a speaker? Create a podcast?
  1. Start with your end goal in mind and work backward to develop the steps you need to take to get there.
  1. Create a step-by-step list that charts your course – then take action and get it done!

Example: Let’s say that you have decided that the best way to get your brand message in front of your ideal clients is by being a keynote speaker. Thinking of your end goal, you may need to brainstorm keynote topics, research the best way to get speaking gigs, rewrite your bio, or get new headshots.

Each of us has an authentic personal brand – whether we want one or not, whether we believe in it or not. Whether we are actively nurturing it or letting it wither on the vine of neglect. It is integral to your ability to lead, to inspire, to influence, and ultimately to experience career and business success.

Invest the time. Crack the code. Use the four steps above to unearth your unique qualities, to cultivate the seeds of your authentic personal brand, and grow it into its full potential in ways that allow you to better serve your organisation, your clients, your family, your community, and our world. Tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious brand?

Want to dive deeper into unlocking your authentic personal brand?

Download our free workbook, CRACK THE CODE: 4 Steps to Unlock Your Authentic Personal Brand. It will help you identify and unearth the essential elements of your authentic personal brand, discover and embrace the strengths, skills, passions, and imperfections that make you unique and, explore ways to elevate your brand to increase your visibility and value. Get your free workbook here: www.tao-leadership.com/crackthecode.

Peter Jones's rules for business success

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About the author

Rasheryl McCreary is an Executive Coach and the CEO of TAO Leadership Development.  As an expert on Personal Branding for Leaders, Executive Presence and Virtual Team Communications, she has coached/trained over 1,000 leaders at Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and leading business schools, such as Amex, P&G, PayPal, and Harvard Business School. She hosts the podcast: Communicate with Impact for Virtual Teams™. Connect with Rasheryl on LinkedIn and/or follow her on Twitter. More blog posts by Rasheryl McCreary ››
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