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When you think of brands, you probably think of logos, colorful packaging and slogans. Brands are not limited to influencers, celebrities and companies, but are for individuals, including you.
Your brand is what people visualize when they hear your name or see your photo online. Your brand is at work when you go to an interview or make a new connection. Your brand can determine your success and consumer reach. If you take an active part in shaping your brand to your liking, it can be a valuable tool to help you achieve your goals.
What is a personal brand?
A personal brand is your story. It communicates the talents and values you represent to clients, colleagues and other professionals. It is the pinnacle of what you do and what you stand for. It exists not only in your online presence, but offline as well.
Why your brand matters
Think of any professional situation where you’ve tried to impress someone, whether it’s job interviews, promotions, or client relationships. These are all examples of when having a well-defined personal brand can help you cultivate powerful connections. When you become aware of your brand, you determine how you market yourself so that you can manage your actions and choices to build credibility and trustworthiness.
Related: The 5 Keys to Building a Social Media Strategy for Your Personal Brand
While a personal brand may seem like a rather superficial concept at first glance, working on your brand can help you become a better and more authentic version of yourself. Having a good understanding of who you want to be as an individual will make your decision-making and choices more consistent and aligned with your values.
The Critical Elements of an Effective Personal Brand
Before we talk about brand building, it’s helpful to build an effective personal brand. While everyone’s brand is unique, there are some integral components of any good brand.
1. Authenticity. You can’t fake your brand. This will only lead to inconsistencies in the way you present yourself, which people will find out sooner or later. So always start this process with sincerity.
2. Values. Your brand values are your characteristics and traits that people associate with you. Depending on your industry, profession and audience, these characteristics may be certain aspects of yourself that you want to enhance. For example, a public speaker may want to enhance his or her cheerful disposition. Meanwhile, a businessman may want to appear intelligent and ruthless. An influencer, on the other hand, may want to build a reputation for being hip and trendy.
3. Integrity. Building a personal brand is not just about achieving success. It’s also about defining and sticking to your principles and not allowing outside forces to compromise your integrity. If you clearly know what you stand for (and are against), you can base your decisions on more than just monetary value.
Related: The Importance of Honesty and Integrity in Business
4. Charisma. You have to distinguish a good brand from the competition. After all, many people are good at what they do. So you have to ask yourself, what makes your story unique? It may seem like a tricky question at first. Only you have lived your life, and only you bring specific experiences to the table.
5. Reliability. You build trust with those around you when you do the work you say you can do and stay consistent with your values and principles. The result is better opportunities in your professional and personal life.
Creating a salable personal brand in 5 steps
1. Find out who you are
Figuring out who you are may sound like a strange proposition. But how well do you know yourself? Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced world, many of us forget to take the time to think and focus on ourselves. To build a solid personal brand, a little introspection is essential.
Here’s a simple exercise to help you with this process. Take a sheet of paper and write down the following answers:
- What am I struggling with?
- What drives me?
- Which tasks cost my energy?
- What do people compliment me on?
As uncomfortable as it may feel, honesty and deep thinking are integral to this. If you’re having trouble answering these questions, ask friends and family for their input. Of course, none of the answers to these questions are set in stone and will change over time as you learn and grow. However, once you know yourself better, you can start projecting an image of yourself and start plotting your career.
2. Think about how you want to be known
Once you figure out who you are today, you can focus on who you want to be tomorrow. Try not to focus too much on the things you want in life, but on the habits needed to be the person who gets those things.
You can start by looking at the industry you want to be in: what knowledge, reputation and talents are needed to succeed there? Think big, but break bigger goals into small achievable steps. That way, you can more easily measure your actual progress later.
Related: Your Most Burning Personal Branding Questions Answered
3. Determine your niche
Your goal should never be to try to please everyone with your brand. It is a waste of your energy and resources. Instead, focus your efforts on defining your niche and work to appeal to your specific audience.
Companies, professionals, clients and recruiters are more likely to contact someone who specializes in solving a specific problem than someone who claims to do a little bit of everything. Think about it this way: If there’s a leak in your house, who are you more likely to call: a handyman or plumber? Sure, it’s good to still work on building broader skills, but a well-defined niche can help you focus on mastering a specific segment of the market.
4. Optimize your social footprint
Once you’ve gotten to know your specific audience, ask where these people can be found and what they’re looking for. Once you’ve answered those questions, you can start building your online presence to meet them. Let’s say you are a graphic designer looking for clients. You would do well to focus on building an impressive online portfolio and promoting it on more mainstream social media platforms.
Wherever you advertise and interact online, remember that consistency is vital. For example, don’t act like a professional on LinkedIn and post drunk and embarrassing photos elsewhere. Make sure that the overarching tone and image you present online remains the same across all platforms.
5. Network like crazy
The purpose of networking is not to try to gain followers. As impressive as it may seem, having thousands of followers won’t do you any good if no one does anything to you. Your real goal is to create connections and promote communication.
Reinvent and adapt your brand
The digital and professional realms are constantly changing and your brand will have to evolve with them. As your body of work grows and you grow as a person, you must adapt your brand to represent who you are. But always remember to stay authentic and unique. Once you learn to harness the power of a well-developed brand, you can move forward in your career with clarity and take the steps you need to succeed.
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