Personal Branding Tips – How to Create a Personal Brand
Personal Branding Introduction
If you’re curious about how to create a personal brand, or if you’re interested to learn about why personal branding is a key ingredient for success, then read on.
Whether you realize it or not, “brands” have always been a large part of your life. Perhaps you pined after the latest Nike hightops as a child or your stomach still grumbles when you pass the iconic ‘golden arches’ from McDonald’s.
Whatever it may be, one thing is certain: the growth and success of most companies (and individuals) are due to clear messaging (e.g., branding) that makes them instantly recognizable.
Customers associate certain words, feelings, and images with brands. And, that kind of universal recognition translates into power, influence, and opportunities. These principles apply to startups, entrepreneurs, and businesses of all sizes.
Short on time?
You can skip straight to our “Personal Branding FAQ” to see the highlights or you can watch the personal branding video:
HERE’S WHAT WE COVER IN THIS GUIDE:
- Personal Branding Introduction
- Why Personal Branding is Important
- Personal Branding vs a Business Brand: What’s the Difference?
- Personal Branding 101: How to Create a Personal Brand
- Examples of Effective Personal Brands
- Takeaway: What to Remember About Personal Branding
- BONUS: Free Personal Branding Template Guide
- Personal Branding FAQ
Why Personal Branding is Important
Let’s reiterate the previous point: When it comes to standing out from the crowd and defining your special “brand,” the same approach that applies to large corporations can also apply to individuals.
If you don’t develop your own personal brand, others will do it for you.– Laura Lake, Author of “Consumer Behavior for Dummies”
According to writer and marketing professional Laura Lake, personal brands “can be the secret sauce that make you stand out in a stack of resumes. If you don’t develop your own personal brand, others will do it for you. Developing your personal brand is a proactive way of controlling your career development and how you are perceived in the marketplace.”
Building a personal brand allows you to establish a clear vision of yourself and your future, which helps to create professional and entrepreneurial opportunities. You want employers, colleagues, investors and potential clients to have a clear impression of who you are, what you stand for, and what they can expect you to deliver. That is the beauty of personal branding.
Plus, personal branding doesn’t just help you in a career context. In fact, a personal brand helps you with so much more than simply marketing yourself as an entrepreneur.
For example, establishing a clear idea of who you are and what you have to offer will help in your dating life and with making friends. You’ll approach every situation with more confidence, knowing what you bring to the table. You’ll find it easier to apply for awards, describe yourself on social media and during public speaking, and any situation where you have to put your best foot forward.
This guide will provide you with actionable advice and concrete steps you can take to start creating your personal brand so that you can work toward becoming a trusted expert, industry leader, and change-maker.
Personal Branding vs a Business Brand: What’s the Difference?
Before we get into offering advice on how to build your personal brand, it’s important to identify the difference between a personal brand and a business brand.
Essentially, personal branding is centered around you as an individual, while business branding describes a company that you create.
When you create a business brand it’s not linked to you specifically, so you have the potential to sell it and exit the company. You can even work anonymously or outsource the work to others. However, it can feel less personal and can be more challenging to connect with your audience.
With a personal brand, you’ll build a brand around your unique skills, passions and quirks as a person. It’s highly relatable and engaging and helps you establish trust with your audience. The cons? You can’t outsource YOU, so if you stop working your brand will lose its value.
Each style of branding has its advantages, and you might do both within your career. For example, you might have several different business brands for each of your companies or projects, but you may also create a personal brand for yourself at the same time.
Personal Branding 101: How to Create a Personal Brand
You can start building your personal brand today by following these seven (7) steps:
1. Define Your Personal Mission Statement and Elevator Pitch
Being able to quickly and effectively articulate who you are and what you have to offer is essential to personal branding.
You need to be honest about whose attention you’re trying to get, what your natural style is, and the story you’re trying to tell.– Ryan Erksine, Brand Strategist at BrandYourself
“You need to be honest about whose attention you’re trying to get, what your natural style is, and the story you’re trying to tell. Without all that, you won’t make comfortable clothing choices, and you definitely won’t have a personal brand you can relate to.”
Take the time to think about your short and long-term goals. What do you want to achieve? What is your motto? What makes you unique? As you go through this process, remember to stay true to yourself. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. This is about what YOU have to offer and what makes you the person that people should work with, or invest in.
If you are an employee, Julia Malacoff, Author at Glassdoor, has this advice to offer:
“Where you end up in your career has a lot to do with how people perceive you at work.”
Malacoff put together this pretty cool quiz that helps people think through how to craft a personal brand that naturally aligns with their character and career goals.
Some of these questions include:
- How would you describe your workplace persona
- How would you describe your social media presence?
- How do you react when a colleague asks you for help?
- Which statement best describes your current career goals?
- How do you feel about networking events?
- How would you describe your life outside of work?
Exercises like this are helpful in making you aware of your style and bringing certain characteristics about yourself to your attention.
Whether you work for a company or you’re in business for yourself, this workbook from PricewaterHouseCoopers provides a detailed step-by-step guide to thinking through personal branding and getting ideas to craft a strong elevator pitch or mission statement for yourself. Some key principles here include:
- Personal branding matters – “Your brand is your reputation. It’s your calling card. It’s what you’re known for and how people experience you.”
- Step up to stand out – “The secret to standing out is to impress…with the unique and authentic you—in person, on paper, and online.”
- Soar with your strengths – “People with strong brands are clear about who they are. They know and maximize their strengths.”
- Weaken your weaknesses – “[K]eep your friends close; keep your enemies closer.” The same is true of strengths and weaknesses. It is really important to know both. That way, you can say “yes” to those things that employ your greatest strengths, and you can say “no” to activities that aren’t going to serve your deeper purpose.”
- Tap into your values – “A good way to figure out what makes you tick is to look at your values. Think of them as your personal compass—they give direction to the choices you make and the way you behave.”
- Pursue your passions – “Your passions fuel your actions. When you integrate your passions into what you do, you’re more engaged and can create a powerhouse of enthusiasm, engagement and inspiration for those around you.”
- Define your purpose – “Exploring your thoughts about your purpose will help set you on the right path early in life. It’s pretty heavy concept, but an important one to explore.”
- Build your brand and make an impact – “Giving back is an outward expression of your values, passions and purpose and provides an opportunity to demonstrate your strengths. It’s good for society. It’s empowering and inspiring for you and those you will influence.”
Once you have gone through some of these self-exploration exercises, you can take what you learned and put everything together into a powerful elevator pitch or mission statement that concisely conveys your personal brand.
It’s helpful to think about your personal mission statement as a 30-second elevator pitch for describing yourself to someone you have never met. If you only had a few seconds to make a lasting impression, what experiences or accomplishments would you want to mention? How can you quickly and concisely convey who you are?
2. Discover & Leverage Your Specialization
By applying Tip #1 you can get a better sense of what unique qualities and expertise you bring to the table.
In defining your mission statement and pitch, you should also consider what can you do better than your competitors and how can you leverage this to appeal to a niche market. This is your “specialization.” The next step is to leverage and develop your specialization as much as possible.
As digital marketing guru, Neil Patel, says, “Pick something specific that you can do better than 90% of the world.” (Tweet This)
You can probably do a lot of good things, but that doesn’t mean you’re an expert in every single one of them. The only way to create a personal brand is by becoming the go-to, recognized authority on a specific topic.
Hone in on what makes you different and how you can bring something valuable to the table. Offering a more narrow specialization will help you to connect with the right people who need your unique skills.
Once you have a clear sense of your specialty, invest in yourself. What you can do in your career depends on your ability to adapt to changing markets and keep pace with technology.
Attend conferences. Take classes. Soak in as much as you can and stay ahead of the curve. There are plenty of low-cost and free resources that can help you continue to develop professionally. Coursera offers free online courses from top-notch universities and there are plenty of business books available that will help you continue to learn and expand your skills.
3. Build Networks & Surround Yourself with People you can Learn From
“Remember, you’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. Chances are, you’ll spend most of your time during the week at work, so make sure you’re around people who inspire you and bring out the best in you.” (Tweet This)
One of the most effective and affordable ways to build your brand is through networking. Fortunately, if you followed tip #2, you have a huge advantage. It’s a million times easier to network and engage in conversations when you have valuable insights or knowledge on a particular topic.
The more you reach out to people within your field (and even related fields), the more recognizable your brand will be. By connecting with people, you can build a community that can work as brand ambassadors and helps expand your influence.
Look for communities of like-minded people, attend local networking events, sign-up conferences, take classes and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings in your field.
As you reach out and network, keep in mind that you need to be offering something of value and leveraging your specialty. Don’t make it only about you. People don’t always respond well to the “sales pitch” approach. Offer your time to help them or an equivalent gesture to begin establishing the relationship.
You can take this one step further in tip #4:
4. Seek out Mentors and Industry Role Models
In an interview with Natfluence, Former Soccer Defender, Arne Friedrich, tells us the importance of mentoring — not just in business but in life:
“Find a mentor who helps you, a person with experience who is honest with you. Let them hold you accountable.” (Tweet This)
Connecting with a mentor helps you to obtain a deeper understanding of your respective field or mission. It’s important to learn from the success of others who have faced similar challenges. A mentor can offer a fresh perspective on your brand, your business and your approach. It’s easy to experience tunnel vision if you don’t seek input from outside sources. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to be proactive about seeking out mentors from the beginning.
If you have a mentor in mind, set up a face to face meeting where you can begin the conversation. Be sure to mention that you admire their work and would like the opportunity to ask for advice. Remember they are offering you their time, so be prepared, punctual and graciously thankful.
Most importantly (as mentioned in Tip #3), find something you can give in return. Find a way to help them such as by proactively identifying a problem or task that you can help with. This requires putting in the time to learn about and understand your mentor. The personal attention should be a two-way street. If all goes well, be sure to keep the interaction going and set up regular meetings or touchpoints. Growth is a continuous process.
Another way to get deeper expert advice is to identify thought leaders or reputable specialists in your field and follow them. LinkedIn and Twitter are great places to identify who is leading the conversation and who people trust and listen to. From there, you can check out their personal websites, YouTube channels and other forums to learn as much as possible.
If you want to take this even further, try ACTUALLY following them. No, not physically chasing them down the street, but rather ask yourself this question: What would this person do in my situation? Then, pretend to be them and follow their approach. Experiment and practice with applying the techniques and strategies that the industry leaders are doing and see what that does for you.
5. Use “Visuals” to Reinforce Your Personal Brand
In an interivew with Natfluence, Liz Giorgi, who created soona, the world’s first virtual content studio, shared the following statistics:
- Consumers spent over $860 billion online in 2020, up nearly 45% year over year
- Two-thirds of consumer online shopping decisions come down to the photos they see
- 75% of people are shopping online at least once a month
Giorgi notes that “brands need to be authentic and real; they also need to keep in mind that two-thirds of consumer online shopping decisions come down to the photos they see.” (Tweet This)
She points out that distribution channels for content are growing rapidly and having compelling photos and content is crucial. She explains that having strong video content on your website will make you competitive and get people to engage (and stay engaged).
If you have an ecommerce store for instance, Giorgi suggests that instead of just posting images of your product on a white background, bring in a human holding or using their product to communicate the connection with customers. According to Google, brands that use even just a hand see a 30% lift in conversions.
Likewise, to reinforce your personal brand, you can use color, images and other design elements to build a more comprehensive and personalized approach. If you are just starting out, it can be tempting to try and cut corners and save money when it comes to design and logos. However, these visuals are important and when done well, will create a return on investment that is well worth the money.
Fortunately, there are plenty of great resources that will help you connect with talented designers who offer competitive rates. Websites like 99designs allow you to create a logo design contest, receive different submissions and choose a winner. It is an easy way to enjoy a variety of interpretations without having to do a ton of leg work and seek out designers.
It’s also very important to get professional photos of yourself taken for personal branding purposes. You’ll need them for the “About” page of your website, as well as your social media and LinkedIn profiles.
It’s worth investing in the services of a professional photographer who will take photos that make you look your best. Personal brand photography is an art and a good quality photographer will talk to you about the image you want to convey and set up a photoshoot that reflects your unique style.
6. Establish Credibility by Focusing on Results and Quantifying Your Success
“Branding is turning into the new advertising. Blatant lies and fake personas are a thing of the past. Today’s brands win customers over through transparency and empathy.“– Fabian Geyrhalter, Best Selling Author of “How to Launch a Brand”
Fabian Geyrhalter found his passion for branding by sketching Nike logos on the shoes of Snoopy characters he drew as a kid. Ever since, he has been hustling to get results for his clients and helping them to build their brand through workshops, best-selling books, podcasts, mentoring and keynote talks. By focusing on getting wins for his clients while also being transparent in his methods, he has established himself as an industry expert and a trusted brand strategist.
Touting your expertise and skills is fine and well, but most people would rather see results than hear a lot of lip service. Here are some quick tips:
- Request testimonials from co-workers, employers and clients
- Gather and share the strongest samples of your work
- Team up with trusted and credible brands in your field to create something memorable and valuable
- Share your expertise in as many forms as possible, but pay attention to which path is most helpful to your audience and double down on that (e.g., books, articles, podcasts, videos, speaking, mentoring, workshops)
The goal is to find ways to create value and then quantify that success. If you worked with a company to help them create a new content strategy, provide information on how their visitors, conversions and revenue improved as a result of your efforts. Providing concrete examples will help you build your credibility and become a reliable and sought after source for information.
Once you have collected testimonials, created a portfolio of your work, and gathered evidence of your results, share it. Make sure it’s easy to find. Be sure to include this information on your LinkedIn account, your website and any other professional profiles. This will help you increase visibility and solidify your brand.
7. Develop a Content Marketing Strategy and Leverage Social Media
In our business interview with Mari Smith, renowned Facebook marketer, we learn the following about the importance of content marketing:
“It all starts with content. Focus on being visually compelling with a good mix of images and short videos. Invite your audience to engage as best you can. Allocate even a nominal budget to elevate the reach of your content to the right audience, primarily when you’re first starting. Don’t forget the most important part – converting all your hard work into leads and sales, which is the conversion aspect. Include CTAs (calls-to-action) on your posts and allocate budget for paid placement (ads).“
Building a brand requires investing time and energy into long-term content strategies. You will have to consistently produce high-quality content and push it on social media platforms and other forums in order to gain traction.
Don’t expect to see results overnight and don’t be discouraged if it takes months of hard work before you start reaping significant rewards. Be persistent. Stick to your strategy and you will eventually see your vision becoming a reality.
If you are running low on content marketing ideas and need some inspiration, check out these examples that have helped companies produce and publish viral content.
When it comes to social media, consistency is key. As Neil Patel points out: “We all love consistency. If your social media profiles are consistent across different channels, then your visitors will form positive associations. They’ll know what to expect, no matter the social network.”
Determine which platforms are best for you based on your audience and your content. Then focus on your efforts on regularly posting on these platforms. Follow this guide to help you create a social media strategy for personal branding.
Examples of Effective Personal Brands
The best way to learn about effective personal branding is to see it in action. Here are some excellent examples of people who have mastered the art of personal branding:
Neil Patel is a well-known name in the marketing world and was awarded as a Top 10 marketer by Forbes.
Neil Patel has clearly identified what he does best, which is ranking websites on Google. He built his brand around giving helpful, clear tutorials on SEO and digital marketing advice that anyone could follow and use.
Although Patel has several companies, including HelloBar, KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, his personal brand connects everything together. This is a great example of a very consistent brand. When you see his smiling face, you know exactly what you are going to get.
Guy Kawasaki is a Renowned Evangelist, Podcaster, and Writer.
Guy Kawasaki is involved in many different business ventures, including Canva and his podcast Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People. In every project he works on, Kawasaki thinks of himself as an “evangelist.” This is a term of Greek origins that means, “bringing the good news” and it describes how Kawasaki enthusiastically champions everything he works on.
Are you inspired to create a brand new job title for your personal brand, like Kawasaki did with “evangelist”? It’s a great conversation starter and can really make you stand out.
You many know Kendra Scott as a Recurring Shark on ABC’s Shark Tank, or as a leading fashion designer, but on thing is for sure: she has done a killer job in communicating her personal brand and what is important to her.
Kendra Scott’s brand is built around her three core values: Family, Fashion and Philanthropy. She has built a positive reputation for herself by treating her employees and customers like family.
This is a great example of a personal brand that is built around emotion and values. Everything about the way Scott presents herself is centered around how much she cares about her customers and the people she works with. Think about the things that you care deeply about and how those can be reflected in your personal brand.
Mari Smith is known as the “Queen of Facebook” and she has built a personal brand based on her expertise with this particular social media platform. In fact, she’s considered such an expert on Facebook that sometimes “even Facebook asks for her help.”
Smith is an excellent example of how you can make your personal brand stronger by specializing in one thing. Rather than a generic “Social Media Consultant”, she chose to focus deeply on Facebook and brand herself as the “Queen”, and it works!
In an interview with Smith, when we asked her what makes her the best version of herself, she explained that every single day, she strives to be conscientious about how she shows up in the world. This includes the thoughts and feelings she has, how she speaks with others, and what she’s focused on.”
Takeaway: What to Remember About Personal Branding
Don’t let this knowledge go to waste. If you remember one thing, it’s important to remember this: In today’s world, personal branding matters more than ever.
If you don’t actively define your personal brand, others will do it for you. And, you don’t want something as important as your personal and professional reputation to be out of your control.
If done right, your personal brand can help you to build trust and reflect what sets you apart. A clear picture of who you are, what you stand for, and how you can help others will open doors for a brighter future, as well as a more meaningful life.
You can use the tips in this guide as a starting point to build and maintain your personal brand and see for yourself what opportunities come your way.
BONUS: Free Personal Branding Template Guide
Expressing your unique personal brand to others is not easy. Writing about yourself is difficult and it can be a challenge to find the right words to explain what you do and what makes you special.
To save you from hours of frustration staring at a blank page, we developed a helpful resource for getting started with building your personal brand. Once you have these key elements in place, you’ll get a clear picture of how best to market yourself.
After you have followed the steps in this guide, you’ll have written a concise and powerful personal brand statement. You can use it on your website, your About Page, your social media, your marketing materials, and anywhere else!
Ready? Let’s get started!
Click below to access the “Fill-In-The-Blanks Personal Branding Template” and build your personal brand statement.
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Personal Branding FAQ
Here are some common questions relating to building a personal brand: