What is your personal brand? And how do you communicate it?
Think of a successful, reliable brand – of computer, or supermarket, or training shoe, and certain names will pop straight into your head, because they are ‘trusted’ brands. It’s not just about millions of dollars spent on marketing – it’s about what they stand for, in terms of quality, performance, values and image. We can learn a lot from branding, even if we’re not global businesses or delivering high-profile services. In fact, every individual has a personal brand – but not everyone controls the narrative about themselves.
Have you ever thought about your own personal brand and how people see you, professionally or personally? More and more, people are developing and promoting their personal brand to communicate their message, and achieve career success. If you’re keen to do this, here is a simple ‘how to guide’ to developing your personal brand.
First things first.
What is a personal brand?
Your brand is your reputation. It’s what you are known for and how people experience you – it is what is recognizable about you and what differentiates you from the crowd. Your brand communicates who you are, what you do, and how you do it.
Why do you need a brand?
Here are four reasons:
1. Be considered for opportunities
Your company cannot fully appreciate how to leverage you as a resource if it does not have visibility on your unique talents. So don’t deny your company that. Make sure that your company knows what you do well – and make sure you’re lifting other people up, as you climb.
2. Stand out
With a strong personal brand, you’re the first person who springs to mind when an opportunity arises. When someone says, ‘We need a good leader / project manager / analyst for this job’ – they think of you. Having a strong personal brand helps you to stand out and be considered for interesting assignments.
3. Be remembered when times get tough
Being recognized as an expert or high-profile person in your industry or field makes it less likely they’ll lose you – but if the worst happened, you’re more likely to be quickly snatched up by another employer.
4. Develop strong allies
Communicating your personal brand to your allies (informal connections at every level) who are informed about your work builds your network and visibility and increases your chances of attracting sponsorship.
How to develop your personal brand
There is ample guidance available on how to create a personal brand. Begin by conducting some self-reflection around the following key components, when creating a personal brand. Grab a pen and paper and jot down responses to the following questions:
1. Your Passions –
What excites you? Ask yourself: ‘What drives me?’
2. Your Accomplishments –
What do you do? What have you done?
3. Your Superpowers –
What are you great at? Ask yourself: ‘In what areas do I excel?’
4. Your Values –
What is important to you? What are your most important values?
5. Your Uniqueness –
What is unique about you? What’s your secret sauce?
6. Your Fascinating Facts –
What interesting information do you have about you that distinguishes you from anyone else.
7. Your Credible Credentials –
List any external validation you have received: qualifications, awards, testimonials, and quotes about you and your work.
If you’re struggling to answer any of these questions (or even if you’re not!), consult with friends, family and colleagues. Other people see you differently, and notice things that you miss or aren’t aware of – so, getting a 360-degree view gives you a more rounded picture.
This is the information that’s driving you and communicating your image. Your personal brand should honestly reflect yourself, your skills, values and hopes, so this information is vital.
Putting it all together
Once you have collected this information together, keep it and publish it in a variety of your brand assets – for example, a brand statement, your LinkedIn profile and headline, Twitter tagline, or in an elevator pitch.
For example, a brand statement is a short summary (just one or two sentences) saying what you do, how you do it, and what makes you / it unique. For example:
‘I am educator, life-long learner, leadership coach and mentor who loves helping women find their leadership voice.’
Other platforms – like your LinkedIn summary or an elevator pitch – will give you extended space to write lengthier statements to communicate your brand. For example:
‘I spent most of my career strengthening people, processes and teams in UN and NGO environments, and I became more and more fascinated by how leaders emerge – particularly how women assume – or don’t assume – a leadership identity. And I realised that the content and encouragement that I provide as an educator could be even more powerful when coupled with the witnessing and listening of coaching, so I trained as a professional leadership coach specialising in working with women who want to increase their personal and professional impact. Now I lead by example and run my own leadership development practice.’
And, of course, you will need to bear your audience in mind. You might have different audiences in different contexts for different purposes – e.g. local people for your community blog; potential clients for your website; collaborators and ‘like minds’ for LinkedIn connections. While your personal brand may remain constant for a time, the way you communicate it will differ, depending on the context and audience. So, put yourself in their shoes. What’s important to them? What will resonate with them? What will attract or fascinate them?
Just as your image changes over time, bear in mind that your personal brand will evolve and change, too. Check in with yourself every year or so, revisit those questions, and adjust your brand message and meaning if you need to. Since this should be an honest reflection, update your brand, as necessary.
If you don’t communicate your brand, someone will do it for you. This is an opportunity for you to communicate who you are, what you do and how you do it. And remember, everyone has a brand. So, how do you want to live yours – by default, or by design?
If you’d like to engage in some reflection as you consider your brand, download the Leadership Self-Reflection and Action Worksheet – great leadership reflection prompts.
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LinkedIn: Palena Neale