WHAT IS PERSONAL BRANDING AND WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Personal branding, executive presence, etc.... we all hear those words around either we are in the corporate world going up the ladder or having our own business. But what it is exactly and ... does it really matter?
WHAT IS A PERSONAL BRAND?
We know what a brand is: there are all the different components that define a seller of products or services. It is the logo, the name, the colors, the shapes, the mission, the words, the style, the mood of a company. Think Starbucks, Chanel, Apple...
It is an intangible asset that is very impacting on the growth of a brand. You can have a great service or product to sell, if your brand is not defined and coherent, you might get weaker outcomes over the competition.
Ok so now, what does it have to with us, human beings?
Even if we don't have a product or a service to sell, most of us are either growing their career in the corporate world, or leading a project in the not for profit environment.. we absolutely all evolve around other human beings that might have the same qualifications or skills. However, each of us has a different mix of skills, experience, energy, attitude, story, personality... and that's where personal branding comes in.
In short, it is your reputation.
And nowadays, a big part of it is.... online.
It is the feeling you leave after a meeting, it is the energy you convey through your website or your Linkedin profile. It's how you want to be remembered and known. It's intangible but paramount, when the first contact is in majority via internet. Have you ever Googled yourself? And Google Images yourself?
Do it. It can be a real wake up call.
THE ONE THING YOU DON'T WANT TO LEAVE AT CHANCE: YOUR REPUTATION.
Imagine this situation (not so uncommon ... at all): you have been eyeing a great job at a company you dream to working for. You succeeded to get an interview through a friend of a friend of a friend. You know that first impression matters and you have worked with an image coach, so you refine your speech, you invest in a new suit because... what's a better excuse than investing in getting your dream job! You print your resume on a nice paper, you give your shoes their polish of the year .. you get the idea.
You arrive at the meeting, all confident, you give the warmest most confident handshake to the interviewer, you seat down and printed in front of that person is .... your Linkedin profile.... with.... your..... holiday selfie on the top that makes you want to cringe in your seat ... and under that 'masterpiece of a picture' is a professional title that even you don't even know what it means and if defines what you want...
Ok, so hold on here: the positive part in that example is that you got the interview and now you have the opportunity to show that person all the other aspects of your personality and experience... but in most of the cases: you will not reach that step because you haven't put all your chances on your side BEFORE. ONLINE.
Your online reputation set the scene to create offline opportunities.
That's why it matters.
Instead of investing in new clothes trying to get an interview or an important meeting with a prospect, be ahead of the others and prepare the ground to get your foot to the door. In a subtle but strong way.
Invest in a proper portrait shoot for compelling images of you on Linkedin, on your website, on Facebook and anywhere you interact online.
Invest in a Linkedin Profile coach to help enhance what needs to be put in front of a recruiter or a client's eyes.
Invest in a copywriter to make sure your website message is clear.
BUT BEFORE ALL OF THAT :
HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOUR PERSONAL BRAND?
This is THE question.
There is no right or wrong answer because it is very personal.
However there are many ways to help you like those 5 questions you need to ask yourself and asking also people who knows you well.
Seat down comfortably with your fav drink and a note pad, and answer those questions, it will help you tremendously to get clear !
1 - WHAT IS YOUR GOAL IN BUILDING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND ? WHAT DO YOU WANT TO GET OUT OF IT ?
Like everything in life, the first word that comes at the origin of everything is WHY.
You are reading this article right now because consciously or unconsciously you feel that you have to define and step up in terms of personal brand. Ask yourself why you feel that need ? Why now ? Are you aiming 'secretly' at a promotion at your work ? Or have you been running your business for some years but you are reaching a plateau in terms of sales, and you feel that your brand is not different enough from your competition ? Or you are at a turning point of your life and you feel the need to redefine what you want out of life and what is your next step ?
Answering that question will help you define many elements of the next questions, like who are your targets, how will you communicate about your brand, etc.
2 - WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE KNOWN FOR ?
It can about about a skill that you have, a craft that you master, a business that you grow, a product that you sell, but it can also be about a soft skills that is unique to you, a way of being that people comment positively about you, etc...
If you have a hard time answering, you can push it a bit further, even if it could seem quite dramatic to answer that question in that way... but if tomorrow you would happen to disappear, what people would say about you during their ceremony speech? What your obituary article would say about who you are, what you are accomplishing and how you are doing it?
Another, more positive way to answer is also to imagine how you would like your best friend to speak about you to her/his friends ? Or your best client referring you to other friends ?
In short : what do you want people to say behind your back :-) !
3 - WHAT PROBLEM DO YOU SOLVE ?
For the ones who offer a service or sell a product: you better already be super clear about the answer to that question. It is CRUCIAL to your business.
If you are working in a company and are in the corporate world, think about all the different tasks and missions you enjoy accomplishing every day and what problem do you solve through those.
More on the 'soft skills' side, you can also ask yourself : what problem do I solve with my qualities and the way I do thing ? With my values ?
4 - WHAT ARE YOU GREAT AT & WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOU THAT SOLVES THAT PROBLEM ?
Now we are 'looping' the answers to the last 2 questions.
You personal brand, your personality, your energy, and the combo of your knowledge + experience is what will differentiate your from your colleagues or competitors.
So what makes you the BEST person on earth to solve the problem you are solving ? Soft skills, hard skills, network, education ... where your business is located ... or the fact that you personally know someone or.... anything ! Anything can enter that answer as long as they solve the problem and they are unique to you.
5 - HOW TO COMMUNICATE ON YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
Now that you have answered those 4 questions, you should be more clear on who you are, what you want and what personal brand you want to grow.
The next step is how to communicate about it ! The excellent news is that there are many many ways to share you who are.
Your body language, the way you stand, the way you shake someone's hand, the way you seat at a meeting, the way you use your voice when you give a presentation, the word you use, etc. : All those elements will contribute in growing your personal brand around you. Look also at the words in the answer to the 4 former questions and implement them in your vocabulary. Embody them.
If you want an EXCELLENT & science backed-up source of information for that, I advice you to head to The Science of People. Another great source of inspiration is the best seller How to win friends and influence people.
The way you dress matters as well. Every single morning we make a choice to wear certain cloths, a certain color, accessory, etc. That you want it or not, that choice means something. Even if you are super casual, it contributes to the way people perceive you. If that's in line with how you want to be remembered, it's totally cool. However if by answering those questions you are heading another direction, get the help of an image consultant to help you get there ! It doesn't mean you will have to change your entire wardrobe, it will simply be maybe to change your way to combine some cloths together, or about wearing colours that enhance your skin tone or clothes that match your body type, etc.
STEP 1 : Google & Google Image
Have you ever type your name in Google ? Do it now and come back once you have done it.
Look at the words that come up, the website you are referred on.
Now click on the tab 'Google Images'. Same, look at what you see.
There is nothing to be found about you. That... in itself... says something about you. Again, no right or wrong, but it has to be inline with the message you want to convey.
There is a looooot of things that you might have preferred to keep private or which are not in line with the personal brand you want to grow. No panic, you will now take control. Change your privacy on the content you share on Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram. Contact some website for them to take down some images or content. After that cleaning, head to the next steps below.
There is exactly what you want to find there in terms of content and images. It is all inline with how you want to be referred to so : GOOD JOB !!
STEP 2 : Share content that you 'control'
Before creating any content or start sharing about who you are, what you do and everything about your personal brand, you MUST ask yourself who is your target audience.
I will give you 2 example for you to see the big picture and do the exercice on your own.
If your 'why' is about getting a promotion and you want to use a subtle way to make your boss understand that you ARE THE ABSOLUTE best one for it, your target audience will pretty much be your boss & people above, the Human Ressources Manager of your company and your colleagues. How can you reach those people ?? Do you thing it will be through Facebook or Instagram ? Most probably not. The content on those will have to be 'clean' and in line, but that will NOT be your focus to build your case. However Linkedin, a personal website and a blog would definitely be great online tools to work your way towards that promotion. Sharing articles, maybe writing articles. Updating your profile picture with a compelling headshot wearing a certain outfit and colors. Using specific words when your share posts, etc.
If you are an ex-lawyer, now flower shop owner and you want to attract local clients who value the beauty of fresh flowers on a weekly basis and your shop is located in an area with 30-40 yrs couple having their first kids ... Then you might want to share your beautiful brand with those first time mum through : a beautiful fresh website with modern images & an updated headshot 'not lawyer type'. An Instagram & Facebook showing images of you preparing stunning bouquets. And mastering your craft, and why not being a guest on some blogs about self-care for young mums and the positive aspect of keeping a link with nature & beauty in your home to go through hectic times.
You get the point. Don't loose your precious time and energy using a media that your target audience will NOT use.
Social medias : You have the main ones like Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin .. but depending on your targets there is also Tik Tok, SnapChat etc. On any of those, when you share something, take a step back just before sharing and ask yourself : Am I using the words that define my brand and that are in line with the message I want to convey ? Are the images or my portraits depicting correctly the energy I want to convey ? Am I using the right medium to reach my target ?
A website : If you have a business, I guess you already have thought about that medium. Just make sure every detail on it is in line with your message and target audience. And remember, your website might be the absolute first (and maybe only) thing that your target will see first. They will build the perception they have on you and the quality of your products and services by the quality of your website, your copy and your images and portraits. And remember, people look at images before reading. Please do not underestimate that. Step up your game if you have to, it is crucial for the growth of your revenue and business.
A personal website (Yes ! Even if you are employed !) : Nowadays, with plateforms like Wix or Squarespace, building a website is getting very intuitive, easy and inexpensive. A growing trend is to have, even if you are in the middle of a corporate career, your own website at your name. First of all, the big advantage is that you will be able to fully control what people see about you. Second, it gives you more visibility when someone types your name on Google. Here are 6 Things You Should Put on Your Personal Website—and 6 Things to Avoid at All Costs. Again remember: everything on that website (the font, your words, the colors, your business headshot) has to be cohesive with the personal brand you are building every day offline.
Blog & guest blogging : By creating written content on a topic that you are passionate about, or to set yourself as knowledgeable and expert in one field is very efficient. It will set yourself apart from your colleagues or competitors and it will give you a solid visibility in terms of SEO and Google Search when someone type your name.