If you cringe a tiny bit when you hear the phrase “personal brand,” I hear ya — it’s a buzzword that can feel a bit phony, especially when tossed around the social media-sphere the way it often is lately. But when you get to the root of what a personal brand really is (don’t worry, we’ll get there), it’s a topic that I’m super passionate about and have been asked to speak on at a couple different conferences lately. The topic has resonated so much with audiences from all different backgrounds that I thought it would be fun to have the discussion here and share some of what I presented, plus open up the conversation to hopefully your thoughts on personal branding, as well as your stories, questions, and challenges. My ever-evolving job has opened up life-changing opportunities for which I’m incredibly grateful: to write a book, travel the country, and connect with all of you daily. No matter what industry you’re in (business owner or job applicant, student or stay-at-home mom) I’m convinced that big opportunities happen when you build an authentic brand. Keep reading for more on discovering your personal brand, articulating your vision statement, then communicating that message to the world.
1- A personal brand, defined.
The phrase “personal brand” can sound shallow and sales-y when taken out of context, so let’s start with my unofficial definition. A personal brand is how we show the world who we are and what makes us unique. It’s how people recognize us, and how people remember us. Everything we put out there, from the way we dress to the way we speak to what we post on our Instagram feed is a building block that defines our brand. If you’re on social media or have any kind of audience, you already have a personal brand. So the real question becomes: are you going to take the time and effort to guide and cultivate what your brand becomes?
2- Discover your brand.
Here’s what’s really cool about your personal brand: No one else in the entire world is just like you, and that sets your brand apart – it’s valuable! That’s what makes it so important for us to build a brand that truly reflects our authentic selves – It’s what will make our careers fun and satisfying, and also positions us for our greatest success.
My biggest wish for all of you is that you’re able to spend your days doing what you love, so take some time to identify your personal passions. Dig deep and lay claim to your unique strengths and abilities — and yes, you absolutely have them. If you’re not sure, think back to what you used to love as a kid, those activities you could spend hours on and you were so in the zone that time flew by. Chances are, these types of memories will give you a hint at some of your passions — and it may be time to reconnect with them.
3- Articulate your brand statement by writing it down.
This is a similar exercise to writing a vision statement, and once you’ve done it, you can start to be more strategic in the messaging, both subtle and non-subtle, you’re putting out there. This statement can be long or short, it can be written simply as a list of descriptors (cheerful, wise, funny), or it can be written as more of a mission statement that shows what you’re all about.
Don’t stress out too much about this because one of the great things about a brand statement is that it can continue to evolve forever. Last week we shared our new vision for the site that reveals how we’ve grown and some of our dreams for the future. If I’m ever unsure if a story or subject matter is on-brand for us, I can hold it up against that statement and know whether it’s a fit or not. You can use your personal brand statement as a similar tool to gauge whether a decision is authentic to who you really are.
4- Deliver the message.
Now that you’ve articulated your brand, it’s time to tell it to the world. First, remember that people connect with people. Reveal your personality and make sure your audience knows who you are and what you stand for. And remember that a personal brand is just a façade if it’s not backed up by good work. The hard work and good decision-making that we make day in and day out is what lays the foundation for how others ultimately see us.
5- Tell your story.
When it comes to a personal brand, YOU are the content. Practice telling your story in a compelling and creative way. A strong personal brand starts with a strong narrative that establishes a connection with your audience and helps them remember you.
6- You need a website.
Everyone interested in building a personal brand should have a personal website that communicates what makes your brand great. Even if it’s really simple (your resume, brief bio, link to your social handles) it will help rank your name on search engines and give people a strong first impression. This goes without saying, but visual elements are key. Check for consistency in fonts, colors, logo, headshot — if you need to, find a graphic designer to help you make it look awesome. There are tons of different website builders out there, but I personally use and love SpaceCraft. Full disclosure: my husband works there, but even if he didn’t, I’d still be a huge fan of the beautiful templates, easy-to-use software (no coding!), affordability, and the fact that sites are all optimized for mobile.
7- Make social media your most powerful tool.
The good news is that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the other networks out there have leveled the playing field and paved the way for us “normal” girls to build a personal brand that was once only possible if you were one of the big guys (i.e., a huge company.) The bad news is that it’s also really easy to mindlessly put crap out there that isn’t at all in line with the personal brand that we really want to convey to the world. So while it’s important to be yourself on social media, it’s also wise to think about your audience before pressing that “post” button. Besides using your own common sense, check for the following things:
Headshot: is it conveying the message you want to send?
Consistency: the messaging and the aesthetics should feel consistent across social platforms, and reflect other key elements of your brand like your website and business cards.
Authenticity: Overall, does your feed feel like a reflection of you?
8- Don’t forget to dream.
If you’re at the beginning of a new journey — whether you’re a blogger, entrepreneur, employee, job applicant, or hobbyist — all of this can seem daunting. Just remember, it’s really just about taking one small step at a time. If your daily habits are getting you a tiny bit closer to your goal, before you know it, you’ll have built something truly great. A personal brand evolves and grows with you, so experiment, have fun with it, and let it be a long-term process that ultimately helps you get to know yourself better.
Now it’s your turn! How many of y’all have spent time writing down your personal brand or mission statement? Do any brave souls want to share theirs in the comments? What are some of the challenges you encountered when defining your personal brand? We’d love to hear from you!