I googled “personal branding” today and got nearly two million results. When I started my personal branding business, Reach Personal Branding, almost 15 years ago, few people knew what personal branding was, and even fewer were interested in building their brand. Today, as Google results reveal, there’s lots of talk about personal branding, and virtually every career-minded professional understands its importance. Personal branding helps you find a new job, get promoted, open clients’ doors, increase business success, and enhance your happiness at work every day. And it helps you do your job better – regardless of your role.
Today, most major corporations have programs to help their employees uncover and build their brands to increase engagement, performance, satisfaction and retention. Yet, despite this high awareness of personal branding, misconceptions persist. In this article I share with you the personal branding basics from my latest book, Ditch. Dare. Do! – what you need to know so you can use the power of personal branding to fully energize and maximize your career. Personal branding is as easy as 1-2-3:
Step 1: Know Yourself
Effective brands are based in reality. When we think of Volvo, we think safety, and that’s because Volvo builds safe cars. Apple is known for innovation because everything they do, from their products to their stores to their genius bars, is innovative. Disney is synonymous with family entertainment, delivering memorable moments for every generation. To build a strong brand, you too must focus on authenticity – who you really are. Branding is not spin, and it’s not packaging (though packaging is a component). Strong brands are uncovered – not created.
If you’re like most people, when you think about personal branding, you’re thinking about the sexy stuff – social media, writing articles, delivering presentations, etc. But if you aren’t clear about who you are, what sets you apart from others, and what makes you relevant and compelling to those who are making decisions about you, you’ll squander your communications efforts. You must know yourself.
Once you’ve gained the clarity of knowing yourself, introspectively and from external feedback, you can distill what you learn into your personal brand statement that describes your unique promise of value – who you are, what makes you unique and what makes you relevant and compelling to the people who are making decisions about you.
Step 2: Show Yourself
With a clearly defined and documented personal brand statement, you can begin to get the message out. In this step you build your career marketing tools, like your 3D brand bio, which expresses the whole you – who you are in your work, life and world. You also start to hone your message and your point of view. You learn to tell your story so you can build emotional connections with your target audience.
The 3D brand bio has quickly become the most important marketing tool career-minded professionals use. It hasn’t replaced your resume. You still need to show a timeline of your accomplishments and career growth. But your bio does more to create emotional connections – to show the complete you – to those who want to learn about you. And it can play many roles; it can be refined and resized for your LinkedIn summary, on your company intranet, in your social media profiles and as your byline for articles you write or blogs you post.
Step 3: Grow Yourself
Effective personal branding requires consistent repetition. In this step of the process you integrate your brand into everything you do by building and executing your personal media plan to increase the breadth of your brand and reinforce your message. You also increase credibility by integrating your brand into all your activities. Identify the tools in the real- and virtual-world that will be used to keep you visible and available to your target audience. Just as every company has a media plan, you too need to build and execute a communications plan so you are always in the sight lines of decision makers. Develop your media plan by looking at the intersection of the communications tools you love to use and those that will reach your target audience. Then, research the options available and start expressing yourself through those targeted tools. Remember to choose the appropriate social media tools to amplify your message.
To grow yourself, you also need to practice brand integration, meaning you need to rethink everything you do every day and find ways to inject your brand into those tasks. For example, if your brand is all about creativity, make the way you write agendas, lead meetings, compose emails, etc. more creative. Everything you do needs to scream creativity. Lastly, you need to think about your brand community. The members of your network can truly grow your brand by promoting you to those in their brand community. Building and nurturing relationships needs to become a part of your daily actions – that means finding ways to give value to those in your brand community.
Personal branding requires steadfast commitment, regular attention, and constant intention. But this should not be as daunting as it sounds because, above all, personal branding is simply about being yourself – your best self – always.