The secret to building your personal brand and why you have one, whether you like it or not
Have you every Googled yourself?
You might be surprised by what you find – old pictures of you out with your friends at so-and-so’s party. Profile images from jobs long ago. Or maybe there are other people with the same name taking up your precious search space, leaving you to appear on (shudder) page three.
While most people have conducted a search on themselves for a bit of a laugh, did you know what you find can actually have a pretty big impact on your marketing? Whether this is for your own business, or for the business you work within.
Welcome to the new world of personal branding where even your twenty-year-old self can ruin your chances of securing the right clients for your business or being perceived in the right way.
Got a name? A face? An identity? You have a personal brand.
At one point, there was such a thing as separation between the work you do and your social life. But with the growth of the Internet and social media, that great divide between ‘work and life’ has been crammed with so many old Facebook profile pictures that it’s not recognisable. And businesses and, indeed, employers are using that to their advantage.
Whether you like it or not, you have a personal brand.
That’s probably the harshest piece of truth we’ve shared in this article. We promise we’ll spend the rest of the time telling you what you can do about it to make it work for you!
What is a personal brand?
According to Personal Brand.com, a personal brand is defined as a widely-recognised and largely-uniform perception or impression of an individual. This is based on your experience, expertise, competencies, actions and achievements within a community, industry, or a marketplace.
You portray your personal brand through the way you are shown digitally, the way you conduct yourself at work, the networking events you attend, the causes you are interested in, the work you produce and even the way you wear your hair.
Let’s look at some examples. Richard Branson has established himself as a leader in innovation and business. His personal brand is separate (but still intertwined) with the companies he’s formed.
On a scale that is closer to home, every person has a personal brand they bring to the table in a business, whether you are a freelancer, entrepreneur, business owner, team member or manager. Your personal brand – your reputation – is how people think of you. Think of yourself as the CEO of your own company.
For many, their brands are forged for them.
For those who are smart, they will yield their personal brands for the benefit of their careers and their businesses.
Take a seat at the head of the table – it’s time to be the CEO of your own company
Now that you know you have a personal brand, what are you going to do about it?
Let’s start with that Google research we mentioned earlier. 56 per cent of people have Googled themselves at one time or another, so don’t feel strange doing it!
Take a look at what content is available in relation to your name. What photos, websites, stories are linked to your name?
According to data collected by Image Group International, over 84 per cent of respondents make business decisions based on their online searches. So what does their first impression on Google say about you?
Now that you know, it’s time to take control. You certainly don’t want that image to be of you in fluoro hot pants and a bad afro. Unless that is what you want your brand image to be – we aren’t here to judge. We are here to guide.
Time to get deep on your personal brand – how do you define yourself?
Personal branding is all about marketing what’s unique and interesting about you. So, what differentiates you to others in your industry?
The Glen Liopis group says less than 15 per cent of people have truly defined their personal brand. And less than 5 per cent of people are consistently living their brand at work.
This is considerably different to the 70 per cent of professionals who believe they have defined their personal brand.
As Gary V says, you can’t have “multiple personalities” anymore for business, family, and everything else. You need to be yourself, and that doesn’t mean ignoring the aspects of your life that make you who you are.
Understanding yourself and your values is the first step to building your personal brand. As soon as you start mimicking others and what they’re doing, you’ve lost that authenticity.
You want to shape your own story. Don’t let others (or embarrassing moments) shape it for you.
Let’s get you in the head space of your first time attending a seminar, university class or even kicking off an interview – it all starts with a personal ice-breaker.
If someone had to use three words to describe you, what would you hope they’d be?
More importantly, are you putting out into the universe the perception you would like of who you are?
If those three words you want to define you aren’t doing their job, then you need to take a step back and re-evaluate your personal brand.
Identify your core values, strengths and weaknesses and market yourself accordingly.
There’s no point identifying yourself as a juice cleanse master if you have a strong hatred for celery. Be honest and realistic, because that questionable green vegetable can burst anyone’s happy bubble.
Focus on amplifying the aspects of your personality that make you special. A good idea to start you off is to ask people you know what values and words they associate with you. That way you can leave behind the guilt of tall poppy syndrome and create your brand organically around what assets are true to who you are.
Building your personal brand online
While social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, it is also easily the most efficient way to build your personal brand online. And more importantly, own it!
According to entrepreneur.com, 85 per cent of recruiters and HR professionals say an employee’s reputation online influences their hiring decisions to some degree. The same can be said for potential clients and collaborators.
Building a positive, professional brand through social media adds credibility to your personal profile as well as your business.
LinkedIn is one of the most important forms of social media for marketing yourself or your brand if you are using it for the purposes of growing your career or business. It allows you to share digital content relevant to your brand or business and provides a platform to connect and network with likeminded entrepreneurs.
While other social sites like Facebook and Instagram are important, LinkedIn is your new best friend for personal branding. (You’re also 99 per cent unlikely to be tagged in an embarrassing childhood photo on there too!)
However, it pays to remember that your Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, YouTube, etc. profiles will also be available for others to see if you don’t have your security settings down pact. If your personal profiles are open for all to see, consider switching your settings to private or revamping your sites so they reflect the brand you are striving to create. Alternatively, set up a separate professional profile for your business needs.
It’s also important to keep in mind that owning your online space can make all the difference. The beauty of technology means you can now put your money where your name is. Literally.
If you want your name to be yours and yours only, then you can make that a priority. This is most notably done with website domain hosts for business owners. But, by all means – if the cash is there to copyright the K in Kardashian, go for gold.
The more control you have over your online presence, the more control you have over your personal brand.
Fill a bath and get personal with who you are
Not literally, but personal branding is really about getting to know who you are and carrying that with confidence through your personal marketing. If that takes a soak in a bath to really let your hair down, so be it!
Here are some starting points to get you thinking about your brand and whether you are/can carry it through your work and life. Remember, if being overly assertive doesn’t reflect who you are, you’re probably going to struggle to live that characteristic every day.
Personal branding starts with staying true to your number one boss – you!
- Think about your personal goals? Are they SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely)? How can your personal brand support those?
- How do you present yourself? Are you true to your own style yet remain aware of varying situations and events?
- How do you dress? If you want to be seen as organised and accomplished, do you portray that in what you wear and how you act? Some people go as far as defining themselves around a particular colour to keep that connection top of mind.
- Where do you network? Do you attend events that align with your values and goals? Do they boost your profile or waste your time?
- Have you audited your social media? This includes un-tagging yourself from any disastrous pictures that your mum keeps tagging you in.
- Are you sharing appropriate, brand-related content on your social media platforms? If you want to be seen as an expert, are you sharing content that is forward-thinking related to your area of expertise?
- Do you own your narrative? Are you confident in your image and is that being exhibited in your actions?
Still unsure of where to start or want more guidance?
We’ve got you covered!
I’m a professional speaker and one topic area that many people are interested in is personal branding. I’ve helped many professionals across different sectors to uncover their personal brand and live it in a way that most benefits their business, career and goals.