Branding isn’t just for companies. Professionals each have their own story to tell and goals, skills, and expertise to share. In today’s increasingly digital world, a personal brand is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s expected.
Sep 9, 2023
Social Media Marketing
A personal brand is, in many ways, similar to a corporate brand. It is who you are, what you stand for, the values you embrace, and the way in which you express those values. Just as a company’s brand helps to communicate its value to customers and stand out from the competition, a personal brand does the same for individuals, helping to communicate a unique identity and clear value to potential employers or clients.
Personal branding is essentially your story, which will play an important role in establishing or boosting your career. In fact, an overwhelming 85 percent of hiring managers report that a job candidate’s personal brand influences their hiring decisions. Your personal brand should highlight your strengths, establish a reputation, build trust, and communicate the unique attributes that you bring to your current (or desired) industry. Cultivated well, your personal brand will signal to employers whether or not you’ll be the right fit for an open role.
In order to build a personal brand that accurately reflects your personal and professional identity, you first need to know who you are. Be introspective, and create a list of your personal strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself:
In which areas of work do I excel?
What motivates me?
What characteristics have others complimented me on?
Which projects have others had to help me with repeatedly?
Which roles seem to drain my energy?
Which projects can I spend hours on without feeling overwhelmed or tired?
If you’re struggling to answer these questions, ask friends, family, and co-workers how they would describe you. Once you’re more aware of the different facets of your personality, you can decide how best to brand them.
Keep in mind that many people struggle to choose a specific niche because they don’t want to limit themselves. Realize that your personal brand, like many corporate brands, will change as your career grows. The best strategy is to choose a particular area you’d like to focus on and let it evolve over time.
Before you begin the process of developing your personal brand, the first critical step is to identify the specific audience you are targeting. Are you looking to connect with other thought leaders within your industry? Or are you hoping to capture the attention of a key decision-maker at a specific organization? Perhaps your focus is on attracting the eye of recruiters in your field? The sooner you can define who your target audience is, the more streamlined and effective your branding efforts will be. Understanding your audience is not just about knowing who they are but also about grasping their needs, preferences, and the platforms they frequent. Once you have a clear picture of your audience, you can more effectively craft your narrative.
Knowing your audience will guide you in determining the kind of story you need to share—whether it’s one of expertise, innovation, or overcoming challenges. Your audience will also inform where you should disseminate this story. Should it be via LinkedIn articles, industry conferences, or targeted social media campaigns? Your personal brand can be viewed as a reflection of who you are today; and also a roadmap of where you to go. In addition to understanding your existing skills and competencies, try assessing your strengths and weaknesses and how your personal brand factors into your own personal development. By doing this, you’ll uncover the skills and traits that make you distinct, as well as the areas where you need to improve or gain new knowledge in order to advance. Forecasting where you want to be in five or 10 years—and the attributes you want to be known for—can help you better determine what steps you need to take in order to get there.
With a well-defined audience, you'll be equipped to create a story that resonates, choosing the right tone, content, and channels for communication. This dual approach—knowing both who you are reaching out to and how best to reach them—will make your personal branding endeavors far more effective and impactful. 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 easily with visual cues. Consider carving a niche, and then take it even further by creating a unique niche within your niche. The best personal brands are very specific. 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. When it comes time to hire a speaker or something similar, your narrowed-down brand will be what they remember.
There’s an easy way to have an original personal brand—and that is to be genuine and authentic. People are likely to see right through a disingenuous act. The more obviously a brand is a copycat, the more the audience will call out the perpetrator for it. In many cases, individual influencers can see measurable growth after they begin communicating more authentically in everyday posts. Your personal brand should be an easy daily filter that you create content around and smoothly engage your audience in communication on your niche or relevant topics. One of the most common approaches is to be a master of your craft, skillset or industry before starting a personal brand. Your content and the unique value will help amplify who you are.
Being consistent is very similar to having a narrow focus—it’s 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 to establish similarity. Working in a corporate context should narrow the realistic creative freedom for your personal brand and allow for you to easily establish a consistent identity. Don’t underestimate how tiny inconsistencies can derail personal brand effectiveness. Creating a helpful framework like writing a list of unique themes can help you expand your creative horizons in a corporate environment where users can also struggle to differentiate themselves enough between colleagues.