Personal branding is nothing new. Julius Caesar’s three-word mantra, ‘Veni, vidi, vici,’ clearly demonstrated his winning-at-all-costs persona. Politicians have successfully developed and packaged their brands to win votes and build coalitions of political power. Today’s marketer, networking aficionado and job seeker find even greater pressure to build a personal brand given the digital tools that are widely available for branding and marketing a personal image and philosophy. However, some young people baulk at the idea of becoming a brand because it seems impersonal. The struggle to develop an identity influences many people to scream, ‘I’m not a brand; I’m a human being!’
Why Branding Has Become Essential in Today’s Social Sphere
Great branding is neither impersonal nor dehumanizing – in fact, branding makes people appear more human. Definitions of personal branding vary widely simply because they try to encompass something that’s universally tied to a vast collection of social, personal and business interactions. Millward Brown, the global branding consultancy, offers this definition: ‘Brand resides in the minds of consumers.’ This means that any brand – whether personal, social or business – consists of the perceptions that people hold about a person, company or product.
Today, so many people research and interact with others online that personal branding is vital for generating sales, marketing products, meeting people and qualifying for various jobs and projects. More and more companies hire people based on what they find on the Internet instead of what people promote on their resumes. Your online reputation can be your biggest asset or greatest liability in any endeavour. Warren Buffett commented on building a reputation, ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.’
Tom Peters of Fast Company explains why branding is so critical, ‘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.’
10 Highly Recommended Methods of Building a Personal Brand
Personal branding is the art and science of showcasing knowledge, skills, attitudes, career goals, empathy, and other characteristics. Some critics argue that branding promotes self-censorship and creation of false images, but genuine branding remains true in all interactions including commercial and non-commercial activities. It’s just too difficult to fake your genuine interests. There are many approaches to building your personal brand, but the following 10 methods are an excellent way to begin building your personal brand:
1. Knowing Yourself
You can’t build a brand until you dig deep and understand yourself. It’s critical to know your strengths and weaknesses, core values, skills, attitudes, long-term vision and current tactics or mission before you try to communicate those ideals to others.
2. Being Yourself
Once you’ve identified your own persona, you’ve got to operate within those parameters. That doesn’t mean that you can’t stretch yourself and reach for new skills, but you’ve got to do it in a way that allows you to be yourself.
3. Believing in Yourself
‘This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’ This quote from Shakespeare’s Polonius eloquently sums up the value of believing in yourself.
4. Learning How to Write and Tell Appealing Stories
Communicating in stories and parables can entertain and captivate audiences while demonstrating your core values better than long, dry textual communications. Spice things up with stories and an appealing point-of-view. Epic stories can generate powerful emotions that trigger actions. Character-driven stories are especially effective. For example, common popular personas include the following:
- Modest but likeable hero
- Small guy versus bigger guys or large corporations
- Passionate enthusiast
- Empathetic listener
Don’t ignore the value of other people’s stories – retelling them can leverage those benefits for your brand because you recognized their significance.
5. Acting Consistently
Nothing can damage your brand and reputation more than sending mixed messages. Foolish consistency might be the ‘hobgoblin of little minds,’ according to a famous Emerson quote, but the keyword here is ‘foolish.’ In almost every modern application, consistency is the gold-standard of building a positive reputation.
6. Showing Instead of Telling
Telling stories is the basis behind the paradigm changes that social media have generated in marketing practices. Instead of heavy-handed selling, show people that you can walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
7. Engaging Visibly with Others
You can get a lot of branding mileage by engaging with others at high-profile events where you can be seen and heard. Develop details for your social media profiles, and share information, photos, tweets and videos to engage your personal network or associates and admirers. If in business, respond quickly to complaints, criticism and reviews.
8. Communicating with Focused Authority
Strengthen your expertise and authority by accepting speaking engagements, supporting charities that complement your brand and writing thought leadership papers. Maintain an active presence in your industry and among your outside interests by commenting frequently on other posts, news and trends. Keep your LinkedIn profile updated with information about awards, promotions and projects.
9. Practising Empathy
Your values are always important, but it’s equally critical to step into another person’s shoes, which is the textbook definition of empathy. Showing empathy helps to build trust in your brand even with those who disagree with your specific positions on issues.
10. Persevering Always
Don’t get discouraged when things don’t go your way or move as quickly as you’d like. If you maintain your core values, continue to deliver on your promises and work tirelessly to build trust, the right people will eventually notice.
Trends suggest that personal branding has moved online in a tremendous way over the past decade for many reasons. Digital research has become the primary tool for learning about others. Virtual work arrangements are growing in popularity, so some people are only encountered online. Video and virtual connections facilitate long-distance communications that are almost indistinguishable from face-to-face contact.
Statistics Tell the Human Side of Branding
Personal branding’s influence percolates through marketing, social engagements, job searches and all modern activities. If you own a business, encouraging your employees to develop social profiles and share brand messages enables those messages to reach 561 percent more people according to research. Furthermore, 92 percent of all people trust messages from people over messages from corporate entities. These messages of employees are also shared 24 times more often than boilerplate social posts.
How you look and appear online now has wider ranging implications than building followers or attracting hits. Your digital image – for all intents and purposes – is who you are, and other people have 24/7 access to this information. Your personal brand influences entrepreneurship, employment prospects, acceptance to schools and training programs and even such mundane tasks as securing credit or leasing business or personal property. A strong online presence adds credibility to any venture you undertake regardless of whether it’s personal, business or social. If you don’t appear in online research, anyone has a perfect right to think that you’re hiding something or just not trying. Consistency and attention to details are key branding strategies that everyone shares, but the tactics you use and the brand you build are entirely up to you.
The sooner that you control the messages that comprise your identity, the faster you’ll advance in your business, social and personal communities. Entrepreneur, marketer and writer Seth Godin summed up how to get started nicely, ‘Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand.’