Have you ever wondered what’s the drive force behind the success of today’s biggest mega stars? Take Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o; Jennifer Lopez, the late Steve Jobs and the ‘Queen of all Media’, Oprah Winfrey. What’s the root of their success? Is it their drive, talent, beauty, innovation or business savvy? Although these qualities attract media, high visibility and keeps them ‘trending’, all mega stars have one common thread, an ace up their sleeve that might not be clear to you but is fundamental to their careers, it’s their Personal Branding.
For your reference, here are some of the most essential elements to the concept of personal branding:
- CREATING YOUR PERSONAL BRANDING: Have you ever thought of yourself as a project, as a company, or as a brand? If not, start doing it today. Everyone is a brand and you are your best asset! The key to your success is defining the brand called ‘YOU’. The term ‘personal brand’ is believed to have first appeared in an article written by Tom Peters, renowned author and management guru. Peters wrote, August 1997 in Fast Company Magazine, “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me, To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called YOU.”
- PERCEPTION: Personal Branding is about how we perceive ourselves and how we allow others to perceive us.
- DISTINCTION:How do we stand out in the crowd? What value do we add to other people’s lives? What tools do we utilize to market or publicize ourselves? Personal Branding is the key that defines your niche, targets your audience, builds your network and/or community and launches the message of your movement. Branding ‘YOU’ can optimize the value of your reputation and increases your worth.
- CONSISTENCY: Consistency is key, so be sure to maintain it throughout all your efforts, from public speaking, to online blogging and social media, to networking, personal web pages, and any other content you put out to the world. Just keep in mind the following words: CLEAR, CONSISTENT, TRUE IDENTITY, VALUE and IMPACT.
Now get started. Here is a simple checklist to help you along your path of forging your personal brand:
- FIND YOUR TRUE IDENTITY: Can you answer the following questions?:Who am I? Where am I going? What makes me unique or different? Clear answers to these questions help you establish a strong identity, and you must always stay true to yourself. Once your identity is forged, you must believe in it firmly, in order to sell it to others. Believe in yourself, envision your goals and place yourself in the path you want for your brand. Also remember, your identity and set of beliefs will determine your actions and should be
- FIND YOUR PURPOSE: Purpose is what moves you every day of your life. Do you have a powerful reason to wake up every morning? If you do not, you have not found your purpose. Solid brands are built upon a central purpose or set of core values, and you should model your personal brand in the same way. By identifying your purpose you can find your vision, which is what you hope to achieve by fulfilling your purpose. Then you should ask yourself what’s your ‘why’?
- THE POWER OF ‘WHY?’ The ‘power of why’ is one of the most powerful tools to succeed. Why do you do what you do? What is your ultimate reason for living or at least the drive force of your career? It might be a strong desire to make a difference, change the world, add value, impact the lives of others, or simply improve the quality of the lives of your family. Whichever is your ‘why’, you should keep it on your mind at all times. One thing that personally has helped me keep my ‘why’ alive is creating a video with pictures that I can watch as often as possible. I add pictures of what moves me, such as my family, my husband, my friends, my team, my accomplishments, my trips, and the awards I have received. Also, some images of things my heart desires, since it is great to visualize what we want. This keeps you in alignment with your why, your purpose, where you came from and where are you going (you can make this video in a beginners editing program like iMovie). I learned this some time ago at a conference from top Business Coach, Bill Walsh. I cannot reiterate enough how important it is to know your why in enabling you to succeed and to take your personal brand to the next level.
- BRAND YOUR VOICE TO ESTABLISH AN AUDIENCE: After defining your identity, purpose, vision and ‘why’, now we need to direct our brand voice to a specific audience. The brand voice is not what you say but how you say it, and how you communicate your message to your target market. A brand voice should be distinctive, recognizable and unique. It embodies and expresses your personality, your set of values, what drives you, and what you want to share with the world. It is all about consistency. For your brand and voice to stick you need to incorporate it in all your aspects of you life: business cards, mottos, taglines, bios, social media, hashtags, blogs, portfolios, conversations with strangers and friends, etc. What’s the point of a brand if no one knows about it? Once it is out there you need an audience to see it. How do you build followers or supporters? You should attend networking events as much as possible and start creating mutually beneficial relationships with new contacts. Also, designing and launching your own digital platform is essential to directing your audience to the right place. This could be a blog or a website. If you haven’t already created one, which reflects the ideology and personality of your brand, claim a domain in your own name for consistency and visibility. Create great contagious and shareable content in a variety of media including text, video and images in order to keep your followers coming back for more. Lastly, be aware of what content you share and from whom.
- THE CONTENT YOU SHARE (AND FROM WHOM): Content creation and what you share in your social media channels, blogs, website, reflects who you are, what you stand for, your interests, and what you believe in. This is why content should be shared strategically. It is very important to know your audience and to keep yourself relevant, and consistent to your brand. This also gives you credibility and builds your reputation by showing that you are always up-to-date with the latest news and trends in your industry of choice. This does not mean that you should ‘mix personal with business.’ It is always important to keep separate pages for this purpose, but we should always be aware of what we share on our own personal pages. Image is everything and certain behaviors or content can harm you, close doors for you and/or ruin your reputation. A big example: the tweet made by Former Public Relations Executive, Justine Sacco before getting into a plane to Africa, which read: ‘Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!’ This was a very offensive and hateful comment, which totally ruined Sacco’s image and personal brand. It also cost Sacco her job. It is very contradictory because a Public Relations Specialist is about shaping and preserving the images of their clients. In Sacco’s case, she did not even know how to preserve her own image. This is why we should be aware what content we share.
- Be honest with yourself and with others: It is very important defining our values. Honesty is a great asset to anyone’s personal brand. People tend to be prone to a little exaggeration when they meet someone, but try to never misrepresent yourself by making false statements, or by trying to claim that you are an expert in an area you do not know anything about. Let your skills, expertise and work speak for itself. Oprah never called herself ‘The Queen of All Media.’ People recognized her with that title after she built her brand with a vision, a purpose, a why, values, and goals. It’s all about being as authentic and genuine as possible. This creates a transparent, clear, approachable and trustworthy relationship with others and takes you back to step one, ‘stay true to yourself’. Remember, that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
- Image Selection– Part of your personal branding should be the images that you portray. You want people to know who you are. It is great to have professional headshots and close-ups in your social media profiles, in your portfolio and websites. People want to see faces before they follow a person. Also, it is very important to be careful with what kind of pictures you share. Pictures can speak a thousand words. An image can ruin years of hard-earned reputation and credibility in mere seconds.
- Personal Development – Knowledge is everything. Never stop learning. The more you know, the more you’ll grow. Always try to keep up-to-date on your area of expertise. Learn new skills or enhance the ones you possess. It is beneficial to attend workshops, conferences and other events. If you don’t have much time to attend, there is no excuse, you can take relevant online workshops or courses; read relevant articles and books, and even nowadays you can watch tutorials on you tube and in other platforms. If you want to take your brand to the next level, you must find time to excel within the areas that can further yourself and develop your personal brand more.
There you have it, an easy-to-follow set of instructions on creating a knock out brand for yourself and communicating it to the world effectively and with a purpose. Use the results of this self-exploration to create a vision of what and who you are, and how to accomplish the goals that will spring naturally from such an analysis. Always remember that you are what you project outward and that you should portray your brand in all aspects of your life. We all have many skills and abilities to share with the world around us, but they will amount to nothing if we do not create a cohesive brand for the world to see and follow. Overall, if you want to accelerate your personal branding and be seen as a leader, and expert in your industry or niche create authority on and offline, these steps are just the building blocks to your amazing success.