Personal branding is a subject which provokes strong emotions in many people. Some think personal branding is something sleazy and somehow below them. They tell others they don't have a personal brand or they wouldn't do personal branding. However, they don't understand that even saying such things is part of their personal brand.
Everyone has a personal brand, everyone does personal branding. Often without without giving it any thought, and by complete accident.
The term branding has a less than pleasant background. It comes from actually burning marks on things, people and other animals. Burning marks has been used as a sign of ownership, but also as punishment, to mark people who were accused of stealing or other crimes. Which is why it's quite understandable to feel less than enthusiastic about it.
These days the term branding is usually connected to marketing. It's what distinguishes you, your business, offerings and work from others. It's a promise, and it's expectations. It's what you do, and it's what others think you do. It's the image others have about you, and it's the ideas you try to convey.
Even if you don't actively and purposefully build your personal brand, you are still branding yourself, as well as others are branding you. Everything you do and say, whether it's for work, business, hobby, or gain, defines your brand. And the same goes with everything you don't do and say.
With every blog post, every Tweet, every Facebook update and Instagram photo, everything you pin on Pinterest, everything you say in the presence of other people, you brand yourself. The clothing you wear, your hairstyle, your makeup or the lack of it, and other details of your appearance brand you. Your voice, your accent, and the words you use, they all brand you.
Additionally the comments others make to your blog posts or updates, and things others say and think about you, brand you further. Your personal brand doesn't live in a bubble, and you cannot control it.
The reason why you need to define your personal brand, and steer it to a certain direction, is simple. Your personal brand gives you a head start, makes you stand out, and helps you to get whatever you want.
When you try to get clients, land a new job, find a romantic partner, educate people, or get your kids to eat their vegetables, you lean on your personal brand. Your brand tells your prospective clientele or potential employer what you do, how you do it, why you do it, and what to expect from you. It tells the people on that dating app which way they should swipe. Your personal brand makes it easier (or harder) for you to influence, teach and coach. And it tells your kids that they really need to listen to you for their own good.
If you are looking for a new job, your personal brand is what allures or turns off potential employers. In case you have a business, your personal brand is tied to it. People see your business in relation to you as a person, not just as a separate entity.
Since you already have a brand, and others are branding you, isn't it better if you have some say on it? While you cannot control your personal brand and the way others see you, you can guide it. And with intentional guiding, you can direct your brand and the way others see you to the direction you want. This intentional guiding is personal branding.
There are many things you can utilise in building and defining your personal brand. Let's dive into some of them.
Your intention and purpose
What is it that you want in life, work and business? What is your goal, and what do you want to accomplish? Why you do what you do? What gives you a feeling of purpose?
Your goals and what gives you meaning is a big part of who you are. This is the basis your educational and career path, as well as your romantic life and kind of everything. Your intention and purpose generally dictates the choices you make, your decisions and wishes.
The things you want in life and the things that give you a purpose can enhance your message, and even suggest things like the details of your appearance. They shape your perspective, form your beliefs, and make you act in certain ways.
Understanding what you want isn't that easy. Sometimes you may find yourself thinking you want things because others want them for you. Or not wanting things because others want them for you. Either way, what you want is dictated by other people, rather than you.
It can take time and effort to realise what you want in life. Additionally, your wants may change in time, which makes things even more confusing. Maybe, previously you wanted a shiny career and lots of money, but now you want to relax and enjoy life. Do remember, it is quite okay to change your mind and start wanting different things than you did before. You don't have to hold on the old dreams, if they don't suit you anymore.
Purpose is probably even more difficult. I need to point out that you don't exactly have a purpose. There are things that can give you a sense of purpose. Defining those things is easier said than done.
You need to start being a bit more mindful about your work, lifestyle, hobbies and whatever you do. When do you feel like you have accomplished something? When do you feel like things you do have a meaning and really count? Take a note of those moments and think about what you were doing or saying.
Bring your intention and purpose to public in the form of different kinds of content. You can utilise social media services, blogging and other writing, videos and podcasting and (other) art, including photography. Create a mission statement, which you can add on your profiles, website and content. If you want to take your mission statement to a whole next level, write a full on manifesto.
Your skills and knowledge
In time, you have build a library of skills and knowledge. Some of them may seem less relevant for your career path than others, but they are there nevertheless.
All of the things you can and all of the things you know give you a brand. Perhaps you are that guy, who can be asked to bake those cute cupcakes for a charity sale. Or are you that gal, who can write mean code with her eyes closed. Perhaps you are that person, who knows it all about the history of feminism.
Your skills and knowledge includes, but isn't limited to, your education and work related skills. It also includes stuff that interests you enough that you kinda just have learned about it, your hobbies, your political interests, and so forth.
Showing your skills and knowledge has defined you in the eyes of other people. If you want to be seen as someone whose knowledgable in movies, you must show it somehow. If you want to be seen as someone who is skilled at crocheting, you must show people your skill.
Saying it isn't usually quite enough. Although, due to cognitive biases, often repeating stuff publicly a lot may make it seem so. Thus it really depends on how well and far you can spread your message. And if you can get other people, preferably those with influence, to repeat it.
Create a portfolio, show off your skills with creating content about and around it, and weave your knowledge into your mission statement and manifesto. A website is a great way to show and tell about your skills and knowledge. You can again utilise blogging, videos, social media and podcasting to spread the word about your skills and knowledge. For example, educational content like this blog post is a great way to do that.
How you present yourself
The way you dress, talk, look and style yourself define you in the eyes of other people. While you might want people to see behind the surface, they will judge you by your appearances. It is unfortunate, but true.
While there are things you can affect about your appearances, obviously some things just are the way they are. I do recommend dressing and styling yourself in the way that feels comfortable and authentic to you. You don't have to change the way you look or sound, but you gotta understand how it affects your personal brand.
The way you present yourself isn't limited to your looks and outfits. The way you express yourself has a great impact on your personal brand. Again, express yourself in the way that feels comfortable and authentic to you, rather than in the way you think you should.
More important, than to try and change your appearances or self-expression to fit your personal brand, is to take them as a part of it. Become aware of how the way you present yourself affects your personal brand. Acknowledge the fact that your appearances, the way you talk and what you say have an impact on how others see you.
Ask yourself if the way you present yourself correlates with your personal brand. If there's a clear gap there, rethink your personal branding.
The people around you
While you might want to think you are a free individual, a self-made person and the designer of your own destiny, the people around you have a huge impact on everything you do and are. Others see you in relation to those people you are somehow connected to. Additionally everyone has their own idea of who you are and what you are about.
Sometimes you may forget that your online presence includes also the other people who you follow, who follow you, and with whom you have conversations. In the same way, the other people around you affect and modify your overall personal brand.
Your connections can define your brand in surprising ways. These connections include family, friends, colleagues, clients, acquaintances, and other contacts. Especially if you are repeatedly been seen in certain company, that company becomes part of your personal brand.
It's essential to remember that you cannot control what other people think or say about you. You can only steer their image of you to the direction you wish. Often others put their own wishes and hopes on you, expecting you to fulfil them. Understand this, but don't let them to define you the ways that feel uncomfortable for you.
Take a look at your different connections. How do you think they define you as a person? How do you think other people interpret the fact that you follow a certain person on Twitter or are friends with someone on Facebook. Then look at the way others talk about you. Have they gotten something about you wrong, and is there a way you can kindly correct them?
Be more conscious about who you are connecting with and why, and about how they talk about you with others. Harmful connections are good to get rid of.
While your personal brand is mainly about you, it still is partially about the people around you. Take your connections, professional and personal alike, as part of your personal branding process.
Take it further
I have listed ten questions you can answer to build your personal brand. Try to answer them as sincerely as possible.
Personal branding is not a one time process. It is something you keep doing through your life. Your personal brand can evolve and change. Don't be afraid about redefining and representing yourself to the world.
Especially when you want to redefine your personal brand, for instance as you switch careers, there may be resistance from others. Keep on doing your thing and presenting your intention, purpose, skills and knowledge, and eventually the resistance will give up or go away.
You don't need to be everything for everyone. Those who cannot take your personal brand the way you want it to be taken are not the people you need or want to be around you.
Your personal brand is important. Treat it that way.