When’s the last time you thought about your personal brand? I’ll be honest, even as a business owner with a bit of a personal platform, I don’t always consider my own brand. But it is important—whether you’re an entrepreneur or the stay-at-home parent (or both)—because it allows you to be proactive about the way you’re seen in the world.
As I’ve grown my own presence, I’ve begun to think more about the concept of personal branding. I think there’s one key element that’s often left out of the conversation around it: authenticity. (And talking about authenticity is pretty key to my personal brand!)
A personal brand is a sort of promotional tool, yes, but it only works if it promotes who you truly are. I want to show you how to create a different sort of personal brand—one that is uniquely authentic to you, your personality, your values, and your work in the world.
Here’s how you can do that:
I think “cultivating” a personal brand is often confused with “creating” one—as if you get to sit down and map out exactly the person you wish you could be, or the perfect person you want people to see you as. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work quite like that.
The whole point of a personal brand is to show people who you actually are . . . already . . . in this moment. Of course, you don’t have to share every deep, dark corner of your life. You don’t have to fess up to every mistake or negative thought. You can (and should) show people the very best version of yourself when possible—but still, it’s important that your personal brand is an accurate reflection of you, and sometimes that means getting vulnerable and sharing the not-so-pretty stuff, too. It means showing all the parts of you that make you worth knowing and listening to.
So the first step in cultivating your personal brand is always to know truly who you are and how you show up in the world. Cultivating a brand that’s authentic to you will not only come more naturally, once you know this, you’ll also attract the people who truly love you and your brand from day one.
Know Thy Audience
If you’ve been in business for even a short amount of time—or if you’ve been reading my work for a while—you likely already know your audience well (and you know why that’s so important!). If you’re an entrepreneur, you know your potential customers: the people who you are hoping to serve and support in your business. But with a personal brand, your audience goes beyond that. Your audience, in this instance, is the community that you want to build. It includes those potential customers, of course, but it also includes future business partners, possibly mentors (or mentees), media contacts, and more.
Your audience is not just the people you serve; it’s also the people you want to be surrounded and supported by in your business. Who are those people? And what are the messages (or products or services) that they need and want from you? So long as those things align with who you truly are, and what you want to offer to the world, you’re on the right track!
Treat Your Brand Like Your Business
What is your mission? Your vision? As a human, a mother, a husband, a PTA president, a soccer coach, a mid-level executive, an entrepreneur—why do you want more people to know who you are and what you stand for? What agenda do you want to push forward?
Much like with your own business, it’s important to consider the “WHY” behind your personal brand. And your personal brand needs its own marketing and promotion, too.
While it’s possible someone will just stumble across your Twitter feed or randomly watch that Youtube video of your local speaking engagement or admire and share your eloquent thoughts from the last staff meeting . . . it’s not likely. You have to be proactive about it. You already know how you want to show up in the world and you know who you want to show up to; now, create your mission and your vision—and the plan to execute them both.
Share Your Thoughts
There’s a term called “thought leadership” and it’s pretty self-explanatory: You distinguish yourself as a leader in your field or industry by sharing new ideas or interesting thoughts on old ones.
Your thoughts don’t always have to be original; you might be agreeing or disagreeing with a popular (or controversial) topic—or, you might indeed have something new to share. No matter what the issue, in order to build your personal brand, you need to share with people what you truly think, what you actually stand for (and what you won’t), where your priorities lie, how you plan to make your industry (or company or team or family) better, and so on and so forth.
This can be done a lot of ways—you might share your thoughts in online articles or during speaking engagements or in TV interviews or on your business blog posts or even in conversations with your fellow neighbors. As long as you have a platform that reaches the right people, you have an opportunity to express your unique opinions and solidify your place (and your brand) as someone who has valuable things to say.
Review and Revise
Remember that your personal brand—much like you as a person—doesn’t need to stay stagnant. It shouldn’t, in fact. You are a growing, evolving person and your personal brand should evolve alongside you. So every six months or so, review your brand and your plan and your community, and ask yourself if there are any updates that need to be made.
Does your personal brand still align with who you are and what you offer? Are you still building the community you want to support (and that can best support you)? What changes do you need to make? What people do you need to meet? Where do you want to be as a person—and a brand—six more months from now?
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These are the same tips I used to get clear on my personal brand, and then I used B-School as a resource to help me crystallize it and put it into action. It helped me more clearly delineate what I had to offer the world that was unique and consistent with my personality and my values. B-School also helped show me how to actually use my personal brand as an authentic marketing tool, growing my platform and my business’ success in the process. If you’re interested in finding out how to put your personal brand into practice, I encourage you to check out B-School, too.
Whether you use the steps in the blog post, B-School, or another resource, I want you to remember this as you build your brand: stay true to who you are, what you think, and what you want to contribute to the world. I think you’ll find that cultivating a personal brand is natural, easy, and fun when you approach it as who you truly are.
What’s the mission behind your personal brand?
How do you want the world (or your community) to see you—and why?
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