What does it mean to have a strong personal brand?
While social media continues to be all the rage, a strong personal brand cannot and does not stand on social media alone. A strong personal brand isn’t found in perfect headshots, sleek design assets, press hits or frequent public appearances.
A strong personal brand is an all-encompassing, 360-degree, ongoing expression of your value in relation to your audience. As Forbes contributor Glenn Llodis defines it: “A personal brand is the total experience of someone having a relationship with who you are and what you represent as an individual; as a leader.”
It’s my personal opinion that if you’re in any type of leadership position, having a personal brand is not a “nice-to-have” any longer. It’s a must-have. It’s not indulgent self-promotion. It’s a mandatory responsibility to benefit others in a way that comes most naturally to you.
Once you can get past the mindset of “Who am I?” and into the mindset of “Who am I NOT to be?”—you will tap into unlimited opportunities that impact your prospective following, fans, employees, culture, community and your bottom line.
The more strategically and intentionally a person develops his/her brand, the larger the audience becomes. And an engaged audience is the single most valuable asset to anyone’s brand.
This kind of impact doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a commitment and an investment. So how do we get there? What’s the foundation?
There are three core pillars to developing any personal brand identity, objectives and strategy.
Know Your Audience
The ongoing expression of your personal brand is a dialogue, not a monologue. If you effectively build an audience, know that you are entering the longest, most continuous conversation of your career. Be prepared to receive feedback, give feedback and relate.
In order to effectively connect with your audience, you have to understand who they are first. This begins with a basic geographical and demographical analysis, but that’s the easy stuff. Understanding who your audience is at their emotional center is critical to grasp as a leader—as their leader.
We all know that no one likes to be talked at, but rather talked to. In order to authentically accomplish this, you have to deeply understand what really matters to them: their deepest fears, their biggest dreams, what keeps them up night and what motivates them to get up in the morning. Understanding how they communicate in real life—their language, tonality, slang and colloquialisms—needs to be reflected in how you speak. Learn what other publications and thought leaders identify with their core messages and then complement (but differentiate) with your own.
Also key: knowing where your audience spends the most time online. For example, the audience that uses LinkedIn all day to network is mostly likely not creating DIY Pinterest boards. Invest in channel research and know exactly where your audience is hanging out—and when—and then go meet them there.
Know Your Value
Now that you know who and where your audience is, it’s time to understand what you’re going to share with them. With a personal brand, your job isn’t to simply add to the noise, but to actually provide value that can help your audience achieve their goals.
The first step in knowing your value is to understand that you have value to give in the first place. And since everyone in this world is unique, there is absolutely no question that you do. Your experiences, whether they stem from running your own business, building a team, launching an initiative or product, building a community, learning a skill or accomplishing a goal, are all inherent derivatives that you can call your own and leverage.
The second step is looking at everything you say, create and do as value. Whether it’s a blog post, a tweet, an email or a quote for the press, be in the value mindset. Be in the generosity mindset.
Critical: Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Sure, you can look to others in your industry as barometers for success. But the truth is, we’re all snowflakes. The simple fact that no one has done what you’ve done, seen what you’ve seen and knows what you know is the biggest commodity you have. Share with purpose and confidence. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions and passions. This will inspire your audience to feel, connect and share.
Realize the more generous you are with your knowledge, passions and expertise—i.e., your value—the deeper loyalty you will build. The ROI of generosity in building a personal brand is unlimited.
Know Your Why
If your personal brand had a “mission,” what would it be? If your personal brand had a “philosophy,” what would it say? Get out a piece of paper and jot down some thoughts. There are no wrong answers with this one; however, it is critical to know why you do what you do. If it’s simply to make more money and have more visibility, then you need to keep digging.
As a 21st century leader in your industry, people look up to you. Your job is to teach new skills and new ways of thinking about business and career, but people also want more than that. They want to feel inspired. They want to feel motivated. They want to feel connected. They want to feel seen and heard. They want to feel.
Without knowing your Why, little else is possible. So take a deep look at what keeps you up at night and what motivates you to get up in the morning. Pour each ounce of that purpose into your personal brand’s expression and touch points. Pretty soon, you will have created more than just an audience.
You’ll have created an entire movement.