As a consumer, we all know about corporate branding. That’s when companies invest monies to make their brands known.
Personal branding, similar to what businesses are doing in making their brands relatable, has become an effective and powerful way to differentiate yourself in our constant, noisy world. With the proliferation of social media, the gig economy and the wider network that we get in touch with on a daily basis, personal branding is becoming more important than ever to take control of your own image and moderate your narratives so that you don’t become a victim of others who could be branding you.
Defining personal branding
According to Karen Kang, author of “Branding Pays,” a personal brand is your image and reputation. Whether you know or not, you already have a personal brand. Your personal brand consists of the “whole you”: your wear, your gesture, your voice, your values, your presence and the way people feel about you when they are with you. It’s up to you how you want to manage your perception and take action to protect and evolve how you want to be thought of and positioned.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is widely quoted as saying, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” In other words, your personal brand stands for values and how you are positioned in people’s minds. Those values define your core as a person, that people can relate to and appreciate. Your personal brand also means the experiences and emotions you have created when people interact with you, whether through online or offline conversations.
Why it’s important
Cultivating a strong personal brand is important because you want to be seen and remembered as the person you want to project in public and private settings. These days, recruiters, hiring managers or business colleagues can easily learn about you via social media before they interview you, or meet with you for the first time.
If you are a participant in the gig economy, it is even more important to develop a personal brand so that prospective customers would seek you out to do work for them. Seth Godin, author, speaker and marketing guru, says in his book “Purple Cow” that you are either a purple cow or you are not – you are either remarkable or invisible.
Tips for a solid approach
• Be authentic. Being authentic means you don’t need to develop two different personas, business and personal – they are one. It means that you don’t need to be afraid to share your struggles, talk about your fears and articulate what motivates you to pursue your work or dream. It’s OK to take a stand on what you believe and don’t believe in, and makes it mean something instead of nothing. People like to work with people who are genuine with good intentions, not someone who is pompous, insincere or has an agenda.
• Be purposeful. In work and in life, people like you when you show you have given thought to the type of work that you do, or the projects you have taken on. It demonstrates things you value, and if those values resonate with your prospective clients or customers, you’ve already established a common ground before you even begin working together.
Being purposeful also means you look for meaning in what you do, that you bring substance and a sense of purpose to your work. People value that you care.
• Be humble and kind. You can choose to be boastful, live with hate or lead with fear. Or you can choose to be humble, kind and responsible in owning your voice. Being humble does not mean you cannot talk up what you do; it is about how you celebrate others when you are talking up yourself. Being kind means you are a bigger person and forgive others; it shows your human spirit in that not everything is always good, but you can see good in everything.
Building a personal brand that is remarkable and worth noticing takes years of hard work; it does not happen overnight. You have to work at it daily, showing up online and being there face-to-face.
Don’t be afraid to be your version of Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey or Justin Trudeau. By consistently living and breathing the values of your personal brand, you will keep it fresh, interesting and relatable.