Your personal brand is who you are as others see you. It’s what people think about when they hear your name, see an image of you, or interact with you.
In our professional lives, we try to shape our personal brand to emphasize the positive characteristics of our personality that make us unique, such as our individual strengths, talents, passions, core values and life experiences. Here is a 3-step approach to creating your personal brand.
Step 1: Know Yourself
The first step in creating a personal brand is to realistically assess your strengths, weaknesses, skills and values. This isn’t an exercise in navel-gazing, but looking at who you are and what you bring to the table. What value do you provide? What is distinctive about you or sets you apart? Consider:
- What are your priorities? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What things are most important in your life?
- What are your talents? A talent is something you’re naturally good at. You don’t need to put much thought into how to do it because it comes naturally to you.
- What knowledge and skills do you have? Knowledge is anything you’ve learned so far like facts, street smarts, and lessons from experience. Skills are the processes by which you do something. For instance, you might take a class or hire a coach or trainer to refine your skill set.
- What are you passionate about? What subjects can you talk about for hours? What are your hobbies and interests? What would you do if you won several million dollars and no longer had to worry about bills?
- What are your core values? These are the morals and ethics you live by.
The five elements listed above collectively form your strengths. A strength is an inner talent that you’ve developed skills and acquired knowledge around. You can do it consistently on a day-to-day basis. It’s in line with your core values and you are passionate about it. Your strengths are your competitive advantages in business. They are what differentiates you from others.
Step 2: Create “Brand You”
Once you assess your personal strengths, passions and talents, the next step is to craft a public image based on those core values. Your public image isn’t – and will never be – a 100% accurate reflection of who you are. The public doesn’t have the time, attention span, or interest to get to know you as well as your best friends and family.
What you are doing here is to cherry-pick specific characteristics about yourself that you can accentuate into a “brand you.” Ideally, those traits are true to your own values and beliefs – as well as resonating with your target audience.
Online, people seek out those who provide honest, authentic communication. Authentic means different things to different people. To some, it means baring their soul and keeping no secrets. To others, it’s a professional politeness, like you’d talk with acquaintances or people you see regularly at conferences and networking events. These aren’t your “best friends” but you know enough about each other to chat about your daily lives. How open you will be is up to you. There’s no right or wrong way to do this.
You can be authentic just by writing about business, and occasionally offering an opinion. You can be authentic, even if you have a pen name or choose not to use your full name for privacy/security reasons.
Authenticity is an attitude, It’s a means of expressing how much you believe in what you are sharing – and how you feel it can help others. To think about your brand statement, answer these questions:
- When your clients and interested prospects hear your name, what 3 words do you hope come to mind?
- What is your “brand you” style or tone of voice?
- What is the #1 area of expertise of “brand you”?
- What does “brand you” care about most or stand for?
- What name will you use for “brand you”?
Step 3: Produce, Curate, Share
Once you know who “brand you” is, it’s time to step out into the world. You can do this by:
- Stake your social media claim – Register your names on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and start posting.
- Start a blog – Register your name as a domain name and start a blog. If you aren’t technically savvy, use WordPress.com or Blogger.com. Both are free, and will allow you to register a domain name quickly as part of the account setup process.
- Produce, curate, share – The heart of “brand you” comes from producing and sharing useful information that entertains or helps people. Producing content is the art of writing blog posts, taking photos, or creating audios and videos. Curation involves collecting resources produced by others to help spread the word. And sharing means promoting both your own content and the content of those you find valuable through your social media channels.
Creating a personal brand isn’t just for attention seekers or wanna-be celebrities. Everyone has a personal brand, whether they take actions to shape it or not. Sure, choosing to nurture your “brand you” is risky, but the alternative is obscurity. Do you want to stand out or be ignored?