Branding is no longer just for businesses or entrepreneurs. In the past, a solid resume and a firm handshake were often enough to make a lasting impression or land your dream role. But social media has made it possible for everyone to create a profile, have a presence and make connections. Those in the know – from HR leaders to business coaches – say personal branding has become essential for anyone who wants to get ahead in their professional life. Research backs this up, showing a strong personal brand helps you “achieve positive career outcomes… and leads to greater career satisfaction”.
So, what exactly is personal branding?
Actually, it’s not that different from corporate branding, which refers to a company’s image or identity, how it presents itself to customers, and how it differs from the competition. Personal branding is about ‘packaging’ yourself and your career as a brand, with the overall goal being to stand out from the crowd so you can achieve your professional objectives.
Essentially, your personal brand tells your story:
It’s about who you are and what makes you unique
It showcases your strengths, talents and values
It offers insight into your workplace behaviours
It represents the culmination of your life and/or work experience
Personal branding isn’t loud self-promotion; nor is it about positioning yourself as something that you’re not. Instead, it’s about substance over volume. You don’t need the most impressive story – but you do need one that is built on the truth.
Ultimately, personal branding is about creating greater visibility, building credibility, and gaining a competitive edge.
Characteristics of a strong personal brand
It’s easy to make a strong first impression, especially face to face, but to ensure staying power in a world that is undeniably digital, your personal brand needs to have certain traits.
Typically, the most successful personal brands share the following traits:
Authenticity. Trying to ‘fake it till you make it’ won’t cut it as pretending to be someone you’re not isn’t sustainable. Building a personal brand isn’t about creating a character; it’s about curating parts of who you are in order to present yourself in the best possible light. As Dr. Seuss wrote, “There is no one alive who is you-er than you.” You are the sum total of your unique talents, traits, skills, experience and behaviours. So, take time to recognise the real you and understand your strengths and values. Then be brave, be bold and put your authentic self out there!
Consistency. Can you walk the talk? Being consistent means living your brand every day, in all your interactions with those around you. It means everything you do, say or create should align with your personal brand values. You need to consistently deliver what you promise. Remember, consistency creates momentum – the more consistent you are, the more recognisable and trustworthy you’ll become in the minds of those who matter.
Generosity. Be prepared to spend time and energy on others; be encouraging, supportive and available; and be willing to share information and/or your expertise readily to help others grow. Why? Generosity creates reciprocity – researchers have found that people who’ve experienced generosity are more likely to be generous themselves. It also builds loyalty, strengthens relationships and opens the door to future opportunity.
Passion. To keep others interested in your personal brand, it needs to clearly reflect your passion for what you’re doing. A lack of conviction, energy or positivity will convince people you have nothing to offer and turn them away to look elsewhere.
Building a powerful personal brand is not unlike cultivating a strong relationship – it requires intentional effort, putting your best self forward, fostering trust, honest communication, and commitment.
7 Benefits of having a strong personal brand
It supports your personal development. Creating and maintaining your personal brand means you’re investing in yourself. It helps you establish a sense of purpose, gives you direction, develops your self-belief and builds your confidence.
It banishes imposter syndrome. Personal branding is about identifying your strengths and talents, and shining a light on your accomplishments. In focusing on positive facts as opposed to a fictional and negative narrative, it directs your attention away from self-doubt, diminishing any feelings you may have of being a fraud.
It helps you stand out. Personal branding helps you create a unique identity, shape your reputation, and communicate your value to others. Because you’re in the driver’s seat, you control the narrative and choose how others get to see you. The more you build your brand, the further you’ll elevate yourself above the pack and the more you’ll distinguish yourself from the competition.
It builds strong relationships. In telling your story, a strong personal brand helps others understand who you are and what you stand for, making it easier for them to connect with you. It also boosts your authority, which helps others see you as someone they can rely on and trust which, in turn, helps to build stronger bonds.
It boosts your visibility. Your talents and accomplishments can easily go unnoticed if you’re ‘invisible’ or worse, overshadowed by those who actively promote themselves in your field or industry. However, as soon as you engage in personal branding, you become discoverable, shareable and more recognisable. The higher your visibility, the more attention you’ll get and the more social connections you’ll make, opening the door to future opportunities.
It builds your credibility. Credibility is built through action, not words. In living your personal brand and taking action to deliver what you promise, your audience will come to see you as being credible. And, as your reputation and track record grow, their support – be that references, testimonials or reviews – will further boost your credibility.
It attracts your ideal opportunities. A powerful, authentic personal brand demands attention and respect, and will make the conversation happen! It resonates with like-minded people who share your values and goals, including prospective employers. It helps to present you as an expert, opening the door to additional career opportunities.
How to blueprint a strong personal brand
Your personal brand doesn’t happen by chance or overnight. It’s an intentional process that requires considered planning, deliberate action and firm commitment. Here are the steps you need to take to get started:
1. Practise deep self-reflection.
Get to know yourself really well. Ask yourself the following questions – you may even choose to write down your answers, mull them over, and rewrite them until you’re satisfied they represent who you really are. If you get stuck, ask a mentor, close friend or family member for their input and honest feedback:
– Who am I?
– What makes me unique?
– What are my best qualities?
– What are my strengths and my weaknesses?
– What do I enjoy doing and get excited to talk about?
– What do I want to stand for?
2. Identify your ideal audience.
Your target audience consists of those who are close to you, including your family and friends, as well as long-standing colleagues or clients. It should also include people whom you’re trying to impress, such as your current or potential managers, other colleagues or new clients, and recruiters. Think about people who are passionate about the same things you are, and those who can help you achieve your goals. Ask yourself:
– Whose attention am I trying to get?
– What type of organisation do I want to work for?
– Who is my ideal boss, co-worker or client?
– Who will benefit most from what I have to offer?
3. Research the competition.
Before you can get your voice out there, you need to research what others are up to, and what the opportunities are to do things in a better way. Find out who the thought leaders and experts in your chosen field are and follow them. If they publish content, read or watch it, and consider the topics they’re choosing – identify their angle and try to think of a way to present yourself differently. Also, consider the following:
– What do they have to offer?
– What are they doing and saying?
– How visible are they? Are they on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook?
– How successful are they, i.e. how many followers do they have?
– What content seems to resonate best with their audience?
– Whom do they follow?
4. Work on your pitch.
As you start to conceptualise your personal brand, set some time aside to work on your ‘elevator pitch’. Usually a short summary of who you are, it frames your attributes and accomplishments, and focuses on a few key points you’d like to emphasise. Being prepared makes it easy to put yourself in the best light, define your niche and provide a snapshot of what sets you apart. Use your pitch to introduce yourself effectively – whether you’re at an event or creating an online presence.
5. Get social.
Our digital presence has become the basis for others to decide if they want to build connections with us. In fact, according to a recent study, seven out of 10 employers use social media to screen candidates. So, If you want to be remembered for all the right reasons, you need to review and edit your online presence, or start creating one that’ll make you stand out. Your social media presence needs to be up to date, relevant, relatable and engaging. Keep the following in mind:
– Create content that interests your audience.
– Keep your voice and image consistent across all channels.
– Post regularly.
– Interact with your audience; if they leave a comment, respond to them.
– Always keep your content positive.
Remember two things: anything you post can have personal or professional consequences; and the Internet has a very long memory!
How coaching can help you build your brand
Building a powerful personal brand takes time. It can also be a difficult journey to navigate on your own as self-criticism and fear of judgement can get in the way.
Working one-on-one with a professional coach will give you the space to reflect on who you are and identify your strengths and weaknesses. Using proven tools and strategies, your coach will also help you:
Overcome self-doubt, self-criticism and limiting beliefs
Explore and articulate your brand
Develop confident communication skills
Release your fear of public speaking
Become an effective networker
Take control of your story – work out exactly what you want to share, how you want to share it, and whom you want to share it with
Become visible in an authentic and effective way
A powerful personal brand will forever be an asset to support your professional journey. Regardless of what happens in your career, you’ll always be able to take your professional reputation with you!
Ready to star as the hero(ine) in your own story? Whether you’re stuck getting started or looking for guidance on how to shape your personal brand, a Hello Coach expert can help.