What is personal branding anyway – isn’t branding just meant for businesses? Since when did this whole idea of “personal branding” become so important for individuals, and how can I effectively develop my own personal brand?
These are great questions! They were asked of me recently by one of our best personal branding clients. As I walked through the steps to show him why a personal brand is so important, I realized that this information is simply too good to keep a secret. While our top-paying clients get this information personalized (and usually face-to-face), I realized the principles behind it were so solid; they really ought to be shared with everyone seeking an effective personal brand.
So that’s why I am sharing it with you: To help you build a foundation in developing your own personal brand.
So let’s get started by digging a little deeper into the question “What is a personal brand?”
A personal brand is the message (usually portrayed through ideas and the images) that make up your public perception and identity.
Have you ever heard the term, “the medium is the message”? The phrase was coined by Marshall McLuhan in his widely-known book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964. Poised on the edge of the era of technology explosion, McLuhan was ahead of his time in his ideas about how technology would affect the culture. McLuhan proposed that a medium itself plays an immense role in the message it communicates, sometimes replacing the contend and becoming the message in of itself.
Likewise, the way we present ourselves – the platforms we use and the image we create – communicates strongly to those we interact with. It becomes an integral part of how we identify ourselves, whether we like it or not.
Whether or not you have deliberately developed your brand, you already have one. Yup! It’s out there already…it may be helping you, and it may be hurting you. And if you’re not being intentional about it, odds are it is hurting you. You already have a collection if images and ideas that you consistently portray. It varies from person to person, but this includes everything from your résumé – to the way you answer the question “what are your strengths and weaknesses” – to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles – and it even includes the way you dress and your tone of voice!
If you have followed me this far, you are probably thinking: Okay nice definitions, but can I really take control of my own brand?
In short, Yes. Well, mostly …
See, there will always be aspects of your brand that you can’t control – especially those things that happened in the past. (Think Tiger Woods sex scandal), but since your brand is based on YOU, you always have control over it. No matter what your past looks like, if you have the desire and you are willing to invest the time, you can always re-define your brand. No, you can’t make bad stuff go away, but you can redeem that time to a degree with lots and lots good stuff … Here’s an example (Yes, it’s extreme, but I think you will get the picture):
Imagine if Tiger Woods quit golfing gave up his fame and instead dedicated the rest his life, fame and money to ending homelessness in America. What if he spent years on the streets, not because he was broke, but just to learn about and care for the homeless community? Then, what if he came back and started giving all his money away to build effective homeless shelters that were tied with businesses to not just put a roof over their heads, but also to help them find gainful employment. What is the last 30 years of his life were fully dedicated to this venture, and he died serving that community? Would it change the way others saw him?
Again, extreme example, but do you get the point? Regardless of your past, and regardless of where you want to go next, there are always ways to make your desire a part of your own personal brand. Not only is it doable, but in order for you to change internally, it will become a part of your personal brand natural. Your personal brand does not just represent you, it is you! The medium is the message!
Ok, so what is the takeaway here? After much studying, I have two simple keys to building a brand that works for you:
- Make a concise decision about WHO you want to be i.e. “Niche Yourself”
- Be it, live it, and share it everywhere! i.e. “Be Consistent”
#1 “Niche Yourself”
Our culture today is overwhelmed with options. Studies show that having too many options is not beneficial to our brain, and severely limits our productivity for several different reasons. Diversifying isn’t always the best option. This concept works with branding as well.
Here is an example:
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, McDonalds, and Buffalo Wild Wings…I like them all a lot. But, if there were a restaurant that offered bar food, AND fast food, AND high class steaks, would I ever go there? Probably not. Presenting the three together causes the whole picture to lose its appeal…each restaurant has a distinct purpose and they have each mastered their various cuisines. I go to Ruth’s Chris when I want fine steaks, McDonalds, when I want easy burgers, and Buffalo Wild Wings when I want great bar food.
People come to you for a specific purpose: they know who you are, what you represent, and when they want it they know right where to go. If you try to present an incoherent whole — too many choices, in essence — with your personal brand, (even though all of them may be good things on their own) people won’t know who you are or what to expect – and since they don’t see a clear picture when they look at you and your media presence – they will probably have no interest in you. Make sense?
#2 “Be Consistent”
Consistency is the little-known secret to success. And it applies to your personal brand as well – The key again is not so much that “living fully, outrageously and making a difference” (or whatever your personal message becomes) is THE only way to brand yourself…the key is that you consistently give off the SAME message.
Remember, consistency equals trust. When people trust you they buy your message and are more likely to buy your product, because they are buying the brand as much as the product itself. The medium is the message!
So what do you do now? Well, for starters you can check out this personal branding 101 page that has some cool ideas on it.
Sit down with a notebook and write down some of your defining characteristics – what makes you you, what your goals and passions and desires are. See if you can find an emerging theme. You might already be on your way in this process; if so, dig a little deeper: take a few personality tests. Be super introspective. Ask others how they see you now and if they see your personal brand as a unified whole. Hearing this kind of perspective from other people can be a great way to clarify what you need to do next.
Here at Cold Collar we help people develop their comprehensive personal brand, not just a resume, and not just a cover letter. We help them shape their whole mindset and goal, clarify their vision, and implement a plan of action. We would love to be a resource for you as you start (or continue) down the journey of personal branding. Follow us or sign up for our e-newsletter for more helpful resources.