Personal branding — it’s a phrase that invokes feelings similar to the ingestion of marmite. One either loves it or hates it.
I’m very passionate about the importance of building an authentic and effective personal brand; however, I know that there are cynics out there who perhaps feel that ‘personal branding’ is all a little vacuous and vain.
And I must say that this view always bemuses me. Because pretty much all of us have the foundations of a personal brand. Now, I didn’t say it was a good personal brand, but nevertheless it exists.
In this digital age, we are generally less than three clicks away from finding out exactly who someone is. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, employee or executive, your personal brand is probably already out there, for all to see.
And unlike ‘the good old days’, the digital age allows anyone to create and build a powerful personal brand. In fact, the internet (and more specifically, social media) is the ultimate leveller. And perhaps it’s this egalitarianism, that’s unsettles some people the most?
No matter. Whether they like it or not, just like marmite, personal branding is not going away. So, here are my top tips for building an effective personal brand that increases awareness, carries weight, delivers influence and generates leads and hopefully, sales!
Often, the biggest stumbling block for most people is the fear of ‘putting themselves out there’. And, when your personal brand is intrinsically linked to your business and therefore your bottom line, it’s not an unreasonable fear to have. However, in the same way that a business manages and monitors its organisational brand, so too can you and should you manage and monitor your personal brand. The most important element to remember is that your online and offline personas should match… the last thing you want, for either your organisation or your personal brand, is a disconnect of experience between promotion and reality.
This is the single most important element of building a personal brand. Whether you are presenting yourself as you truly are or whether you have created a persona that you think your audience will resonate with. Whichever route you choose, it is imperative that you ensure your ‘character’ is credible. Humans have an innate ability to sense when something just doesn’t feel right.
Personally, I find it easier to just be myself and be at peace with the fact that I may not resonate with everyone. That to me is the easiest and most authentic route to my market. However, if you are creating a persona, it might help you focus if you create an ideal customer avatar first. Once you know who you are speaking to, you should find it easier to create the persona that has to do all the talking.
Become a Thought Leader
This is actually a lot easier than it sounds. In the same way that everyone has a story worth telling, we all have expertise and passions. So, be prepared to share and tell us all about them. Whether you’re a retail assistant in an independent jeweller or a senior director in a major manufacturer, share your passion and your knowledge; through this you will start to establish yourself as a subject matter expert or an avid fan.
You can do this through self-publishing videos, posts and articles on social media platforms like Instagram or LinkedIn, proactively providing editorial opinion and comment to trade magazines, sitting on panels, giving talks at trade exhibitions, showing your personality through your company marketing, website or blogs if you have them, or you could go for the ultimate credibility builder – write a book!
Leading on from the thought leadership point, the quickest and most effective way to build and scale your personal brand is using social media. Through consistent and effective use of social media, you have an amazing amount of power over your personal brand. The impact of video across all platforms has been huge and notably has also increased engagement.
People buy from people, and video is a powerful tool to convey who you are and what you’re passionate about, quickly and effectively.
As with any marketing communications, ensure that you have a clear idea in your head about who you’re talking to, what you want them to take away, and ensure that you have a clear call to action. And bite the bullet. Trust me, no one ever likes video when they first start doing them. It is perfectly natural to hate the sight of one’s face and the sound of one’s voice when you first start. Get over it and get filming.
You are unique, as is your message and your position in the trade. Whatever and wherever that is. There is only one you and learning how to leverage that can result in surprising opportunities, from job offers to increased sales.
Even if you’re not getting a multitude of likes or comments, do not be fooled. There is a significant silent majority of social media users; they may not be engaging but they are watching you. So, never underestimate the power of your online voice and presence.
There are no wrongs or rights when it comes to creating and building your personal brand, IF you remember to really be true to yourself or to your organisational brand values. So, as well as creating your ideal customer avatar, you may wish to create your personal brand persona (whether real or crafted). It might help you get more comfortable with the type of content that you should be creating.
If you’re a senior director of a traditional organisation, you may wish to post articles discussing industry challenges or perhaps create a podcast series where you interview fellow business leaders on the key challenges facing the trade.
If you’re a quirky creative, like me, then you can authentically post about your passion projects and create videos of you singing in your car or offering strange people the opportunity to touch your hair (for a price, mind you!).
Whatever you do, do it in your tone of voice, appropriate to the audience you are targeting and in the most authentic voice that you have.
That’s what people want to see. And, ultimately, it’s what they will buy from or into, too.