When working for a company it tends to be the company brand that matters and our position or job title within the company defines us. Some extrovert people have what people might see as a personal brand. For many it’s very easy to avoid the topic by focusing on the daily tasks and not pay much or any thought to a personal brand.
Until something happens!
- In a positive direction it may be ambition for promotion or to set up a business and win clients, or to make more of Social Media like LinkedIn to attract prospective customers.
- In a negative situation it may be that it’s getting tougher to hit quota, to win new clients, or to be allocated leads, or it’s harder to get meetings with key people, or you need to find another job.
It’s becoming more important on many levels to define, develop and manage our personal brands. I’m not just talking about photos, logos, and straplines. I’m referring to values, beliefs, passions, expertise, skills, character, experience, learnings, education and other elements that go to our core.
The good news is that Personal Branding is, well, personal. It will be totally unique, as there’s no-one else on the planet exactly like you. The major benefits are that your personal brand will mark you out as a ‘go-to’ person for your specific topic, and it will make you more memorable as well.
I found it quite a challenge to work out how to define my personal brand, how to create it, and to continue to build it. By sharing these ideas I hope I can make the process a bit easier for you.
7 ways to develop Personal Branding
Here are 7 steps I’ve compiled as a framework for my brand and journey.
A recent conversation reminded me of an approach I came across in 2009 during my education in Internet Marketing. Gregg Davison and others introduced and outlined the topic of ‘My Story Marketing’. Although this was aimed at entrepreneurs who wanted to make money online, the principles are enlightening. The approach was essentially a story in 4 parts.
- Before – paint a picture of where you were: down on your luck, trying to escape a dead-end job, or other circumstances that your target audience could emotionally engage with
- After – outline the success that you now enjoy, the lifestyle, and the things that people in your target audience aspire to
- Expertise – build credibility by highlighting things you’ve learned along the way, that you are able and willing to share with others
- Action – outline a simples set of steps that people should take to achieve what they want, more quickly, with less effort, cost and risk (…by buying your stuff!).
This is not so very different to what companies do. This structure applies to marketing case studies. And take a look at the emails in your in-box and I’m sure you’ll identify common messages.
One significant ingredient is the emotional engagement. To be really effective it includes empathy, pain, joy, hope, relief, urgency and more, which are weaved into the story.
- Developing a compelling story is the foundation for a successful personal brand.
- Living our story is the journey, and how we meet other travelers along the way.
- Sharing our story is our personal marketing and lead generation campaign.
Social Media enables us (and others) to do this in a way that was not possible previously.
The area of value is perhaps the most difficult area to define, and one that can be the most difficult to implement.
Defining the Before and the After is a good starting point to then define the ‘what I did in between’. Presenting this in such a way that it helps to generate interest and sales opportunities is the crux of connecting social media activity into sales. Trumpeting accomplishments and pushing out ‘take action now’ messages is unlikely to be successful in building an engaging personal brand. Avoiding this topic is unlikely to bring in a commercial return on time spent in social media.
Creating the environment where people say ‘So tell me what you do’, or better still, ‘There’s something I think you can help me with’, is a positive result, and the ideal goal.
The time dimension, the Past, Present and Future, provides a good framework and structure.
- Past – sharing things that have happened in the recent past, such as a sales campaign or a project that has just completed, adds to the accomplishments side of our CVs and emphasises the achievements and outcomes focus of what we’re working on.
- Present – some people focus very much on the present. This can be evident in Twitter, Facebook, and sometimes LinkedIn updates. Location specific apps and features, like FourSquare and Facebook Check-in make it easy to let people know you are at a specific location now, and add a reason or highlight to elaborate. Maybe you are at an airport, station, exhibition, hotel, or similar, and adding a comment builds your brand.
- Future – as we book things into our diaries, such as trade-shows, conferences, and other activities happening in our domain areas, these are good things to share with others. It shows we are connected with the time-line in our industry, and can create opportunities to connect and meet with others.
A really important part of our brand is our community. The People, Places and Organisations we associate with define our chosen community. In the neighbourhood where we live it’s the people we meet, the shops and pubs we go to, the groups we belong to, and so on. Similarly online we can build up our personal community, through the people we connect with and get to know, the companies we pay attention to, the products and applications we use and so on. Endorsing people and products is part of really engaging and declaring this aspect of our personal brand to others.
The social network called Squidoo was the first place I came across the phrase ‘lens’ – which means a personal view on something. We all have views on many things. In a business context we filter a mass of information to decide whether something is relevant or not to us. We can use our filter and lens to develop our personal brand, by sharing and commenting on and adding to what is core to our domain. This might be a simple ‘Like’, a Share, a comment, through to writing blog articles. These provide a great insight for others into what we are taking note of, what we like, and what we contribute to, and what ideas we have. This is also an area where discussions can be initiated, having raised a point and end with a ‘What do you think?’ comment. Groups and discussions on LinkedIn and elsewhere are great places to develop this aspect of personal branding.
In our personal and professional lives we can be passionate about many things. Whether it’s being a fan (fanatic) of a football team, family, sport, business, success, knowledge, music, art, travel we all find our own topics. Sharing our business passion with business associates in a professional way can be an important pillar of personal branding. Being passionate about outside interests is also a way to share values, and establish common ground.
Personal brand will always be a work in progress.
Having a goal and a plan, and taking action are the main steps to making it happen, so I suggest:
1. Review each of these 5 areas – Value, Timeline, Community, Lens and Passion.
- How can they be refined, and say more about the real us?
2. Consider how can they be communicated, on a real-time basis, in conversations, online and in other ways.
- Map this out as a content plan, for example send tweets and status updates rotating round the 5 topics.
3. What BIG THING can we do in each area that would make a major statement that we can refer back to many times.
- Can you write a blog post, create a slide presentation, record a video, speak at a conference?
What we do carries more weight than what we say, so keep taking action.
Add Personal Branding into your LinkedIn Profile
Now take a look at your LinkedIn Profile or your CV. It can be a good starting point for personal branding, but also it can be quite constraining, so use it as a cross-check.
A typical CV (and many LinkedIn profiles for that matter) is an historical record of dates, experience, achievements, skills and a profile summary. The main point is that most of a CV looks backwards, and is not a living document. It can help to have a framework around which to develop the story though, to develop personal branding in a meaningful and engaging way.
However our experience, achievements and new skills are developing on a daily and weekly basis. LinkedIn and other Social Media provide a means to share in real-time, or at least at regular intervals, the events that will eventually be included on our CVs.
Status Updates, Tweets, Blogs and more provide a means to add and update the record of our experience, a way to share ‘my story’.
Enjoy the next stage of your journey.