Personal Branding 101

Personal Branding 101

Everybody has a personal brand whether they know it or not.

And it’s no secret that people buy things from people they know, like, and trust. So, having a strong brand is key to becoming a top choice in your industry.

By staying engaged in your work, and by being authentic and consistent, you can create a successful personal brand that truly reflects who you are and what you stand for.

What is a brand? 

Branding establishes a unique and consistent image/identity for a person, product, or company, and uses various marketing strategies for promotion.

Who you are – especially how you are perceived by others – including your appearance, your values, and even your personality, is generally what defines your personal brand. 

So, personal branding is the practice of building and promoting a reputation that reflects your values, skills, and experiences.

How do you create a personal brand?

There are several main qualities that help determine a brand. 

Many of your experiences and much of your expertise can play a role in your personal brand. Remember this going forward in your journey. 

Most brands have a clear idea of their values, who they are and who they want to become, who they are trying to reach, and what their message is.

Ideally, creating a brand should fill-in the blanks on the aforementioned items.

First, your values – define them.

Before you set out to create your brand, take some time to understand your own values. 

Knowing what you want, like, and stand for are a few of the key ideas in creating confidence and consistency for your brand. This way, your peers will also know what to expect from you. 

To help define your personal values, you can:

  • Answer the question “who do I want to be?”
  • Figure out who you are trying to reach, or help.
  • Create a consistent message 
  • Market yourself authentically

Who are you? And who do you want to be? (Or, what you want to do)

Who do I want to be is one of the best questions you can ever ask yourself. But it can also be one of the hardest questions to answer. 

This is the first step to identifying your brand’s mission. 

Choosing who you want to be is one of the most  liberating choices you have. And if you actually set your mind to it, nobody can prevent you from becoming this person.

I started in graphic design without any intention of studying design in college. All my life I have done well in creative pursuits. I was also pretty unhappy (generally) for a while before I decided to make that move. But because of this, I’m living proof that you can choose your own way. 

You have the freedom to chart your own path, but you still need to do the work to get there. 

Who are you trying to reach?

The basic goal of any brand is to connect with its audience in a genuine way.

A brand’s audience is called a target market. 

Your target market is defined in any number of ways that end up answering the question: Who is this for?

  • Who are you trying to do business with?
  • Who is going to buy your products?
  • Who is going to hire you? …and why? 

Knowing who you want to connect with is important because it also tells you who you aren’t looking to reach. Avoiding the wrong people can help optimize your marketing strategies and save you both time and money in advertising.

I had a retail job once, where my boss would let me order virtually anything I wanted from our suppliers as long as I could answer this question:

Who is going to buy it?

A lot of your brand goals will come down to who you are trying to help. But it’s not always immediately clear who your best customers will be. 

So, figuring out who is in your brand’s market is a fundamental step and should not be overlooked. 

You can:

  • Create a customer persona to identify characteristics that are specific to the type of people you are trying to reach
  • Devise a funnel so you engage followers at various phases of their own journey. 
  • Analyze other people in the space you’re trying to get into (a sort of competitive analysis)
  • Use analytics data (if available) to determine what people engage with. 

Create a consistent message

Now that you’ve written down who you are and figured out who you want to talk to, it’s time to think about what you want to say to them.

You know the analogy about throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks? Well, that often works to get the ball rolling for you but it doesn’t pay off if that’s your whole strategy. “Throwing spaghetti” is akin to advertising to everybody all at once, which can be great for brand awareness campaigns, but will severely limit your results if that’s all you do.

So, somewhere down the line you will need to separate your messaging between brand awareness (aka getting your name out) and your calls to action (aka asking for a sale).

That’s why it’s important to have consistent messaging as a brand! Ideally, your audience will connect with your values and what you have to offer, and by being consistent, they will be more likely to hire you when they are ready

The same principles apply whether you have a new product or a course, or if you’re a musician with new music for your fans. 

How to market yourself authentically

Get in where you truly fit in!

Eventually you will have to put yourself (your real self) ‘out there’. This means you might need to be vulnerable for a time but this results in a more “human” brand. 

A brand creates an emotional connection with its audience, right? 

Knowing who you are and who you are trying to reach will enable you to connect with the right people, more naturally. This is especially true when those people are connecting with the real, authentic, you.

You can’t fake a good personal brand. And nothing will hold you back more than trying to be somebody you’re not. 

So, the only way to ensure a strong connection is by being true to your own fundamentals and by keeping your promises. 

Branding is the promise you make; your brand is the promise that you keep. 

Kristin Zhivago

At the end of the day, just be yourself.

How do you get the most out of your personal brand?

Developing your personal brand can be good for your life and your career. 

Many people are coasting through life without even thinking of where they will be in five years, and sadly, many of them don’t really seem to care about how they influence (or are influenced by) other people. 

But not you, though.

You want to build yourself up. You want to be part of something bigger. You know there is something out there for you.

And to make the most of that with your personal brand, you just need to:

Do the work: Nobody can do your push-ups for you. The same goes for your brand (nobody else can decide who you want to be and communicate your values to the rest of the world).

Talk to other people: Learn to promote yourself to other people who might be interested in what you have to offer, without being spammy or cold about it. As your brand develops you will find the things you are about becoming a larger part of your daily conversations – with everybody.
Take care of yourself: I’m really not trying to make this weigh heavily on you, but you won’t get a second chance at your life. Take care of yourself by practicing good hygiene, reducing your stress, and trying to enjoy your life.