Do you feel invisible? Do other people always seem to get the job? Or maybe you’ve got the job, but there’s so much more that you can do?
You’re having a crisis of personal branding. And we’ve all been there.
In the UK, we’re blessed (or cursed) with a natural inclination towards modesty. And, so, building a personal brand may feel a little alien.
There’s an element, of course, of blowing one’s own trumpet, and a lot of our trumpets have been muted by a society that discourages the “show-off”.
Building an epic personal brand is more than just telling people how brilliant you are. In truth, that’s quite a turn-off, isn’t it?
Show that you’re brilliant. By being brilliant.
You come across as insecure if you feel the need to blow hot air about yourself. The world thinks you’re insincere if you endlessly bleat on about being the best at everything; only for your actions to belie that claim.
In this article, we’ll be exploring what makes an epic personal brand, so that you can increase your job opportunities, your networking power, your desirability, and become a go-to source of information in your field.
We’ll be considering visibility, accessibility, social media representation, becoming a value proposition, networking and more.
What is a brand?
It seems like a daft question, but if we’re going to start building our profile, we need to recognise what makes a great brand.
Who are you thinking of?
Nike’s “swoosh” and Apple’s bitten apple are instantly recognisable. A strong brand doesn’t require an introduction – we already know them.
When you walk into an Apple Store, you enter a space-age, spacious, well-designed machine – the staff is laid-back, friendly, perhaps a little superior, trendy, a bit arty.
These are the exact attributes most of us think about when we consider who Apple is as a brand. Everything has been perfectly, consistently constructed.
What do Richard Branson, Madonna, Mark Zuckerberg, Stephen Fry, Katie Hopkins, Elon Musk, Jeremy Corbyn and Nigella Lawson all have in common?
Well, it would be an interesting party-list with all those egos bouncing around the room; but what they all have is strong personal branding.
Their reputation precedes them. And, although you can’t necessarily make everyone love you, you can make everyone recognise that you are a thought-leader.
It’s about being in control of how you present yourself to the world.
Recognising Erving Goffman’s theory of the “Presentation of Self” is a good starting point when constructing an epic personal brand. Sociologist and social observer, Goffman, untangled social interaction into a dramaturgical, performance-based observation thesis.
He posed the question “Why did you just laugh at your boss’s joke?” and went on to theorise that we “perform” a favourable image of ourselves and each performance is pliable, depending on who the audience is.
We all unconsciously perform in this manner. We present ourselves in such a way as to make the person standing in front of us, like us, respect us, fear us, love us, hate us, ignore us or desire us.
It’s basic branding. And we do it all the time.
So, we’re going to look at ways in which you can be consciously in control of how the world perceives you.
1. Be visible. Be accessible.
What the internet says about you is what you are.
Let’s just let that sink in.
Even when you’re networking in the real world, your online presence is likely to precede you. So, make sure that your online presence is favourable.
Visibility online these days is essential – especially in entrepreneurial circles. Developing an incredible social media presence is critical.
Perhaps you should take down those pictures of you drunk at that party. And those not-so-favourable comments about a certain celebrity.
Making your social media profiles public, and making yourself contactable, are essential when constructing visibility.
Think about Stephen Fry – he was an early adopter of the Tweet. He’s responsive, witty, charming and presents his innermost thoughts most eloquently in just 140 characters. He shares articles; he shares his thoughts: he provides us with an insight into his life. And, as a result, we feel like we know him.
Social media is two-way traffic; embrace interactivity. Conduct live Q&As on social media – Facebook Live and Twitter Live are excellent platforms to engage with followers.
Provide insight into you as a person; not just as a single-minded workbot. Share your weekend activities. Let the world know what you enjoy when you’re not working, almost as much as showing what you’re doing when you are working.
Avoid controversy! Respect it, because it doesn’t respect you unless you behave in a way that warrants respect.
Respect others. When people share your comments, acknowledge that they’ve done something for you. When people contact you directly, respond. And thank them for reaching out.
Social media can destroy a carefully constructed personal brand in a millisecond. Consider social media as part of your job, as opposed to an extension of your social life.
Making yourself visible and accessible is key to developing a personal brand that endures. Show the world a little bit of the real you.
2. Become a thought-leader
You might not become a thought-leader overnight, but everyone has to start somewhere. Your speciality IS your brand. Make yourself the authority in your field.
Demonstrate that you have expert knowledge of your industry. Write articles and blogs (or pay someone to write great blogs for you if you’re a little untrusting of your own grammar). Publish them on your website. Make sure they’re Search Engine Optimised.
Stay up-to-date on the latest trends in your field and be the first one to talk about them. Share breaking news stories first.
Know your competition and stay one step ahead of them. Be supportive of your competitors and hope that they’ll be supportive of you in return – you never know, they might offer you a job.
Constructing a personal brand is about sharing your knowledge and being the authoritative voice in your field. Volunteer to speak at conferences, using your web-presence to justify why you are the person that people listen to. Run webinars and live chats – share advice and theories based on your branding manifesto; all the while, making yourself visible and accessible.
After a while, people will see you as the go-to authority, and they’ll come to you. Journalists may start asking for your opinion; you might find yourself becoming a reliable source for quotes. People might just start offering you jobs.
This takes time, of course. But there’s no time like the present.
If you’re stuck in a rut and feel that you aren’t getting anywhere, take control of your own destiny and construct a web-presence that gives you authority.
3. Networking is 2-way traffic
Single-minded self-promotors are a little exhausting, aren’t they?
We’ve all been at the receiving end of a colleague at a networking event who plays the room like a pinball machine. They make you feel about as important as a chocolate teapot. They give you their spiel, thrust their card into your face, show you their teeth and leave you – dazed, like something’s zapped all of the energy out of the room.
And then they move on. Doing exactly the same thing again – like you’re no longer there.
Wrong. You’re still there, and you can see EXACTLY what they’re doing. They don’t listen. And that’s the crux.
Effective networking should be 2-way traffic. Listen, and you’ll be listened to. Make your relationships reciprocal – give other people opportunities and opportunities will come your way.
Recognise symbiosis. Mutuality. Accessibility.
Secure your reputation as a positive force: someone who listens, responds and adds value.
4. Become a strong, value proposition
Sometimes we need to give ourselves a good, long look in the mirror and practise a little gratitude. That means focusing on the positives.
Acknowledging our faults and weaknesses, of course, is important. Delusion drives us down the path to nothing but madness (to significantly misquote Shakespeare).
How many times have you looked in the mirror and seen nothing but grey hair or wrinkles, or spots, or scars, or wonky teeth? The bad things totally overshadow the beauty beyond the grey hair and the wrinkles.
We might find it impossible to talk about our great points, but we ALL have them.
Recognising them and presenting them as value propositions is what creating an epic personal brand is all about.
The stuff that makes you a thought-leader is the stuff of value. Consider what makes you unique and valuable? It might be your experience; it might be your knowledge; it might be your tenacity.
Once you know what your value propositions are, let people know about it.
Arrogance. No. Humbleness? Somewhere in between. Remember – accessible, responsive, authoritative, valuable.
5. Become a trusted source
Can you see how these things tie together? That’s what a brand is. Unified.
When you publish strong articles; when you become a responsive networker in the flesh and on social media platforms; when you offer solutions rather than problems: people start to trust you as an authority.
Share industry news and information on your blog. Develop a mailing list and offer your advice and insight through weekly newsletters. Regularity is vital, because it reminds people that you’re there, you know what you’re talking about, and you care.
Who do you go to first when you have a question?
I bet 90% of us will say “Google”. There are other search engines available, but we go to who we trust. And we trust who is always there.
We rely on a brand that provides a decent service, time and time again.
6. Give back
Apart from the personal gratification you might gain from helping others, giving something back helps to reinforce your personal brand. There’s something a little vulgar, perhaps, about donating to a charity and then telling the world about it; but if you do support a charity, there are financial contributions and contribution-in-kind.
Support good causes; offer your services for free. Public endorsement provides excellent visibility for them. And great PR for you.
You can highlight your work for other institutions on your website, issue press releases on their behalf and support their fundraising activities through your contact list. Becoming a patron or trustee of an organisation that supports the good of others is priceless in terms of the goodwill you receive in return. People remember acts of selflessness.
7. Define yourself through a mission statement
This is all about developing an “elevator pitch” that cans your uniqueness in as few words as possible. Define your objectives in a way that projects your core values.
Dave Kerpen, the founding CEO of Likeable Local, says “If your mission statement is longer than the Lord’s Prayer, think about shortening it.”
He goes on to suggest that the best type of mission statement should fit on a bumper sticker. Think of some of the most memorable slogans:
Probably the best lager in the world.
Soft, strong and very very long.
Live well for less.
Every little helps.
The founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, once commented that “your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. That’s a little terrifying if you give it too much thought, but it really sums up the potential for your personal brand to define who you want to be.
The world loves a trier – so just trying to be a better person (by nature of what that requires), makes you a better person.
Become your slogan.
8. Own your own name
Your name is your currency, so a bit of ego-surfing is permitted here. Google your own name in an “In Cognito” tab, so that you get as accurate a view of what the world sees when they Google you as possible.
Take a deep breath and find out what the world says about you. The chances are it’s not very much. So, this is a good, blank canvas to start. If you do find anything bad, aim to flood it with tonnes of good.
The power of word of mouth is incredibly valuable, so finding out how the world perceives you is essential if you’re aiming to develop your brand.
Buy your name’s domain – JohnSmith.co.uk. It’s the best way to gain control over your online reputation. Optimise your SEO content so that you’re on the first page of the SERP.
Include a professionally shot photograph of yourself wearing a smile like it’s a permanent feature of your face. Post content that reinforces your brand authority and provide people with the opportunity to learn about you and your values.
Provide your audience with ways of getting in touch with you. And respond.
So, there you go – eight accessible tips to develop an epic personal brand that will reinforce who you are, inspire authority and get you recognised.
Watch the opportunities roll in.