As an individual, you have a unique set of skills, experiences, and perspectives. Personal branding is about leveraging those qualities to establish yourself in your industry, and differentiate yourself from others. In this post, we’ll explore why personal branding matters and how to get started.
Why Personal Branding Matters
At its core, personal branding is the proactive management of your reputation. If you strive to live intentionally, you cannot afford to just react to what people think of you. This is especially true if you are introverted or shy (they are not the same) and want to walk into a room feeling empowered.
Personal branding is especially important for women, who often face unique challenges in the workplace. By establishing a clear personal brand, women can position themselves for success even in male-dominated fields. Think for example the lineup of a conference roundtable. Often such events are built through the organiser’s own network: they’ll think of people who are a good fit or ask around, and only search online if necessary.
Personal branding allows you to communicate your area of expertise in a way that is unequivocal, concise, and memorable, so people will think of you.
Additionally, personal branding can help you build a supportive network of peers and mentors, and find opportunities for growth and advancement. It’s a powerful tool.
How to Get Started with Personal Branding
Define Your Brand
The first step in building your personal brand is to define what makes you exceptional. Consider your skills, experiences, and values, and think about how you can leverage them to set you apart from others. Once you have a clear understanding of your brand, you can develop a strategy for communicating it to others.
Does strategy sound too contrived? Take a step back and think of how you would describe your best friend. Now think about how you would describe them to someone for a blind date. Finally, think about how you would describe the same friend to a prospective client or employer. That’s their personal brand (through your eyes). Did you think anything inauthentic and “not truly your friend”? I bet you didn’t.
You can do the same thing with yourself. It’s just knowing what you show of yourself to give the most value to the person you’re talking to.
Here are some prompts to help you see yourself from the external vantage point and craft your brand identity.
Establish Your Voice
Your personal brand is not just about what you do, but also about how you do it. Establishing your voice means determining how you want to communicate with others. What tone and style is the most “you”? This involves how you speak and write, or creating a visual brand identity (which is my zone of genius and why you’re here).
Here’s a 3-parts series about brand visual storytelling. The exercise from before is highly recommended before you dive into this.
Brand Visual Storytelling: A 3-Part Series
If you want some more resources specifically about your writing and speaking, copywriter for creatives Ashlyn Carter has a free Brand Voice Guide and even a fun quiz to get your started (I’m a Whimsical Visionary, let me know in the comments which one you’ve got).
Build Your Platform
To establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry, you need to have a platform for sharing your ideas and expertise. This could involve creating a blog, podcast, newsletter, or YouTube channel, or simply being active on social media. By creating consistent content and engaging with your audience, you can build a following and establish yourself as an authority in your field. However, content creation is not the only way open to you.
Good old fashioned PR (public relations) is also an option, and a great one while at that: instead of being at the mercy of the algorithms of search engines and social media platforms, or building a following from scratch, it allows you to leverage the existing audience (and let’s be honest, SEO power) of established media in need of expert content. For example, I recently gave a comment about career buzzwords to Stylist.
If you want some more resources about getting started in PR, my old friend Jenna Farmer is my go-to person for this.
Cultivate Your Network
Building a strong personal brand also requires cultivating relationships with others in your industry. This could involve attending networking events, joining professional organisations, or simply reaching out to others in your field (be mindful of their time, though). By building a network of peers and mentors, you can gain valuable insights and opportunities for growth.
Referrals are still one of the most powerful marketing tools at your disposal: 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know, and rely on word-of-mouth 2x to 10x more than paid media (statistics from Nielsen and Boston Consulting Group).
Your name can be put forward for speaking engagements, PR opportunities, or even prospective clients. You can also find precious collaborators to offer services together. For example, I can work closely with branding agencies to make sure your branding photoshoot fits seamlessly in the overall branding strategy, and also with hair and makeup professionals for clients who want a full VIP experience on their photoshoot. Your specific industry will have its own opportunities for collaboration.
Personal branding is a powerful tool for establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry and differentiating yourself from others. By defining your brand, establishing your voice, building your platform, and cultivating your network, you can show up for yourself and your clients with confidence, style, and poise.
Here are further resources about personal branding: