Branding is something you might already have an understanding of, especially when it comes to business branding. But you probably don’t think much about having a brand yourself. The idea of “personal branding” is unusual to most people. But in this online era, where things, both good and bad, last forever on the internet, personal branding can be considered more important than ever. Your personal brand is how you promote yourself. It is the unique combination of skills, experience, and personality that you want the world to see you. It is the telling of your story, and how it reflects your conduct, behavior, spoken and unspoken words, and attitudes. Done well, you can tie your personal branding in qwith your business in ways no corporate branding can possibly succeed.
Professionally, your personal brand is the image that people see of you. It can be a combination of how they look at you in real life, how the media portrays you, and the impression that people gain from the information about you available online. You can either ignore your personal brand, and let it develop organically, possibly chaotically, beyond your control, or you can help massage your personal brand to depict you as the person you want to be. A personal brand is for (almost) everyone, so here are a few golden rules for creating an engaging, unique, and inviting personal brand.
1. Have a focus.
“Too many people are unfocused when it comes to press and coverage, trying to be “everything to everyone.” Decide what your key message is and stick to it,” says Cooper Harris, founder and CEO of Klickly. Her personal brand has undergone a dramatic shift—from working actress to respected tech entrepreneur and she has handled this shift by only focusing on one message at a time. Keeping your message focused for your target demographic will make it that much easier to both create content around your personal brand and have others define you.
In fact, Adam Smiley Poswolsky, millennial workplace expert and author of The Breakthrough Speaker, takes it one step further when he’s advising speakers: “Carve a niche, and then carve a niche within your niche. The best personal brands are very specific.” And Juan Felipe Campos, VP of tech and partner at Manos Accelerator, goes one step further to focus on communities that he targets with his large-scale clients. “Keep your message and content consistent to one niche topic to become memorable within a targeted community.” The narrower and more focused your brand is, the easier it is for people to remember who you are. And when it comes time to hire a speaker or a new employee, your narrowed-down brand will be what they remember.
2. Tell a story.
If your personal brand isn’t telling a story, you’ve already lost half of your potential audience. Allen Gannett, chief strategy officer at Skyword and author of The Creative Curve explains it best:” The most effective personal branding strategy these days is to build a true narrative – single character monologues are boring in Tinseltown, and even more boring for your personal brand.” No one wants to hear you shout about your brand into the social media void, so create a story around your brand that your audience can engage with. Allen regularly meets and chats with his audience in airports around the world, further developing his warm and friendly personal brand.
One of the best ways to tell that story is through written content or video. For Pelpina Trip, social video strategist, this is definitely the case. Her own video channel on LinkedIn sees some of the highest levels of engagement across the platform. “The most personal way to communicate online is with video. Simply use your smartphone to video message your clients, make a personal connection with prospective clients and connect with co-workers. After all, you always have your smartphone on you!”
3. Follow a successful example.
“People interested in personal branding need to start marketing themselves like the celebrities and influential people that they look up to every day,“ explains Jason Wong, CEO of Wonghaus Ventures. His own personal brand has gone viral several times, over subjects like ice cream in Japan, inflatable pool toys and memes, earning him the title of the “Meme King.” His success often comes from studying trends and popular individuals on different social media platforms and then implementing them with a twist. Creatively dissecting social analytics and establishing the next big trend can be within your grasp too, if you pay attention across all social media platforms and not simply focus narrowly on one of them.
4. Be consistent.
Being consistent is very similar to having a narrow focus—it’s much easier to get recognized for one topic if you consistently create content and brand voice around it. “Ensure that your personal brand promise stays consistent, both online and offline,” explains Fyiona Yong, director and millennial leadership coach (ICF ACC). She regularly works with millennials in a corporate context to help them define their more conservative work goals. “You have to demonstrate consistency across your communication, gravitas, and appearance. Don’t underestimate how tiny inconsistencies can derail personal brand effectiveness.”
On the opposite, creative side, CyreneQ, a top storyteller on Snapchat, suggests “something consistent either visually or personality wise. Something unique that people can associate with your brand and know it’s you. For example, a sidekick mascot or having a catchphrase you say after every video – something people can fall in love with.” Her sidekick mascot, Ele, has garnered millions of views per Snap for brand work, allowing her fun personal brand to represent big box brands like Walmart and DC. So whether you’re creating a wild, incredibly out-there fun brand or one that’s a bit more on the conservative, corporate side, consistency is key.
5. Be ready to fail.
Failure is tough, and all of us generally want to avoid it – that’s human nature. However, to have a personal brand that rises above the rest, you need to have a failure. Walt Disney spoke of this often when he reminisced about his failed first attempts at creating an animation brand. “I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young. I learned a lot out of that. Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. ” And what can happen is never as frightening as not trying at all.
When Timothy Hoang, CEO of Stories By Tim, Inc. develops his influencer clients, he likes to tell them: “You’ll never achieve the best branding until you fail a couple times while pushing past your comfort zone.” The very best brands always come from repeated trial and error, mistakes and failures and not from instant perfection.