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About Personal Branding

By Ford R. Myers
President, Career Potential, LLC

In recent years, there has been a lot of conversation about “personal branding.” Some have found the topic confusing or simply irrelevant. Others have embraced the concept, worked hard to develop their own personal brands, and found great success in the effort. There are even certification courses in personal branding, such as William Arruda’s “Reach Program.”

As a career coach, I am primarily interested in what personal branding can do for my clients’ careers. I have found that in a very competitive job market, having a compelling personal brand can be a distinct advantage. The personal brand also provides my clients with an extra dimension of focus, clarity and purpose – all of which elevates their career management results.

Since personal branding first entered our business lexicon, I have given the matter some thought. While not an expert on the subject of personal branding, I have developed the following points for your consideration. I have also included several questions below for you to ponder, with the hope that these will help you develop your own personal brand.

What is “personal branding” and what are its benefits?

The word “brand” is very closely aligned with terms like “reputation” and “presence.” Personal branding is about creating in the minds of others the perception of you that you desire. Having a brand ideally means that you have a recognized “voice” in your field, you know “what you’re about,” and you know where you’re headed. For example, in resume writing, the “branding statement” at the top of the document states exactly what role the candidate plays in the business world and what he or she wants moving forward.

A consultant I worked with in the past put it this way: “You must become known as THE person who does X; as THE person who is the best at X; as THE person who everybody thinks of when X is needed. You need to be top-of-mind whenever people need what you offer!” In personal branding, perhaps more than in any other discipline, perception is reality! And personal branding is all about creating a fine-tuned perception of YOU.

The difference between someone who has a personal brand and someone who doesn’t is DECISION. One person decided at some point to become their brand; the other person never made such a decision. If you choose to develop your personal brand, you’ll need to clearly define what you want your brand to be, and then project that brand in a very compelling and consistent manner. Don’t wait for your personal brand to emerge based on external inputs from employers, co-workers, clients or friends. Instead, be proactive in CREATING it.

Entrepreneurs, independent consultants and freelancers have always had an easier time with personal branding. They typically “get it” and naturally create personal brands to grow their businesses. In today’s world, it is equally important for employees to embrace personal branding because this provides many career benefits. Remember that your job can end or be taken away from you, but your personal brand is yours for as long as you want it.

The idea of personal branding turns some people off because it reminds them too much of selling. But building your personal brand is very different than selling. In selling, you are “pushing” your service or product onto people. When you have successfully developed your personal brand, people are attracted to you like a magnet! They’re “pre-sold” by virtue of your exceptional visibility and credibility. Indeed, having a strong personal brand means that you won’t have to keep chasing after clients, customers or employers. Instead, they’ll be chasing after you – which is certainly a refreshing change!

Personal branding is the act of confidently stepping into your aspirational self before you actually arrive there. Stated differently, your personal brand is who and what you will become when you are at your full potential. You need to fully “own” this persona, invest in it and dedicate yourself to it. No one will buy into your personal brand until you do – 100%!

To be most authentic, your personal brand must be fully-aligned with your core values. This will allow you to articulate your value from your deepest truth, which is vitally important. Be sure your personal brand is consistent across all documents and platforms, in a unified campaign. This effort should be developed and implemented as part of a long-term “personal brand marketing plan.”

To solidify your personal brand, you must build extreme expertise in a specific area of knowledge and skill – more than anyone else. The brand you claim cannot be built on false promises or fantasies. You will need to prove your results over and over again, and earn “brand trust” over time. You will also need to build a portfolio of examples, accomplishments or products to demonstrate your mastery. As marketing author Seth Godin said, “The goal is to demonstrate complete mastery of what you want to do for a living. Get 1,000 people to know, trust and refer you.”

Effective personal branding helps you distinguish yourself as a thought-leader and expert in your particular niche. It clearly differentiates you from other candidates. You can grow your credibility by becoming a speaker, an author, an advisor, a board member or a guest contributor.

Here are some other strategies you can employ in building your own personal brand:

  • Conduct presentations, seminars, interviews, workshops and webinars (and record the audio/video)
  • Create your own web site, and be a guest contributor to other web sites and publications
  • Write articles, blogs, booklets, special reports, book reviews, newsletters, social media posts, books (there is a never-ending need for content)
  • Associate yourself with the most accomplished, inspiring people you can (the true experts in your field)
  • Assume leadership positions in professional associations and organizations, and become an advisor or join boards if possible
  • Continually build your online persona by engaging with others, posting comments, participating in LinkedIn groups, etc.
  • Develop a strong social media presence across multiple platforms that is positive, consistent and compelling
  • Do something noteworthy in your industry, community or organization which may garner special recognition
  • Enter yourself into professional contests or competitions where you have a reasonable chance of winning an award or being honored (and then promote it)

Of course, YOU are the most powerful tool to market yourself. However, to further enhance your personal brand, you would be wise to solicit extensive “third-party validation.” Your mission is to get an “army” of other people saying how wonderful you are at what you do. This includes Testimonials, Letters of Recommendation, LinkedIn Recommendations, Endorsements – and MOST of all, referrals. These referrals lead to one-on-one networking meetings, which is perhaps the most critical channel for brand-building.

How can I identify and create my own personal brand?

The following questions can be very useful in exploring your options and developing your personal brand:

  • What are your core values?
  • What makes you stand-out?
  • How do you differentiate yourself?
  • What do people say about you when you’re not there?
  • What is the immediate response when others mention your name?
  • What is your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?
  • What is your mission or purpose?
  • Where do you add the most value?
  • What is your “right work?”
  • What is your unique talent or gift?
  • What’s your “special sauce” or “superpower?”
  • What do people say is most memorable or unique about you?
  • What skills or abilities come most easily to you?
  • What are you “a natural” at? Where do you “shine?”
  • Where do you truly excel?
  • Where and when have you received special recognition or praise?
  • What is the work that you were “born to do?”
  • What kind of help do people always come to you for?
  • What do you see yourself doing ideally, 10 to 15 years from now?

Conclusion

Building your personal brand can take a lot of time and energy, especially at first. But eventually, the effort pays-off and it becomes much easier! Once you do have an established personal brand, it must not become stagnant. You should continue to develop and nurture your personal brand, as it evolves over the course of your life and career.

Your personal brand also needs to be carefully monitored and curated – much like the public relations messaging of a large company. Maintain your branding behavior and continue following your “personal brand marketing plan” throughout your career, regardless of your employment status. Those employees and entrepreneurs who have consistently done this have realized enormous benefits!

About the Author:
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach and President of Career Potential, LLC. He is author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles have appeared in thousands of publications and web sites, and he has been interviewed on every major television and radio network. Ford has also conducted presentations at hundreds of companies, associations and universities. Learn more at https://careerpotential.com.

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