THE BLOG

Personal Branding and You

02/20/2013 08:41 pm ET | Updated Apr 22, 2013
  • Susan Chritton Author, "Branding for Dummies"; Advisory Board Member, Wardrobe for Opportunity

What do people think of when they think about you? Are you thought of as intelligent, trustworthy, and reliable or do people associate you with poor quality work and someone who is always late? You have a personal brand whether you know it or not.

Wardrobe for Opportunity is a part of my personal brand. Through my connection with WFO, people understand my love for community service, my willingness to commit to a cause that I believe in, and my deep need to make a substantial difference in the world.

So what exactly is a personal brand? Very simply it is your reputation. Your personal brand is the legacy that you leave; it is the way others remember you through your actions, your expertise, and the emotional connections that you make. Your personal brand becomes the promise you make about who you are and what you do that is strengthened every time people connect with you or your business. Personal branding is the strategic process of building a positive set of experiences for the people who need to know about you.

Personal branding is about expressing your authentic self by allowing you to be the person you are meant to be. The process of personal branding will help connect with your unique promise of value and employ it in the world. Your personal brand acts as a filter to help you make decisions that are congruent with who you are and what you stand for. It identifies what makes you unique and clearly communicates your individuality to the people who need to know about you.

Having a personal brand sounds like a great idea, but how do you get one? If you're serious about developing your personal brand, you will need a very clear road map to get you there. Here are the steps to guide you through every stop along that map. Think of this process as your own success story that is waiting to be written!

Know your brand

To begin the process, you need to spend time up front studying yourself and figuring out what you really want. Only with a strong sense of yourself can you undertake the steps to build a personal brand.

1. Define who you are. Getting to know yourself and understanding what is important to you is your first step. The beginning of any branding process is being able to clearly define the brand. In personal branding, the product is you! What are your needs, values, goals, passions, vision, strengths and unique characteristics?

2. Spot your target audience. Your target audience is the people you want to know about you and can include clients, community groups, or your current boss. You promote your personal brand to your target market so that your brand has a specific direction.

3. Get to know your competitors. In order to have a strong brand, you need to know who your competitors are and who is competing in the same market niche as you are.

4. Craft a personal brand profile. This all-important tool gathers all the data that you collect about yourself, your target audience and your competitors into one defining document. The personal brand statement acts as your compass to guide you in the way you want to be seen.

Communicate your brand

After you know your brand, your next challenge is to communicate it clearly, concisely, and consistently to the people who need to know about it.

1. Craft your story. You will want to tell your story so that it is appealing to others. The most common way you tell your story is through your personal commercial.

2. Brand your communication tools. Your personal branding tools are your letters, resume, professional biography and presentations. Your communication tools need to answer the question: Did I represent myself the way that I want to be seen?

3. Communicate your brand online. You make an impression online in much the same way that you do in person so you will want to merge the world of social media with your personal brand.

4. Create a communications plan. This plan sets forth your communication goals so that you're sharing your brand on your own terms and not leaving anything to chance.

Manage your brand ecosystem

Your brand ecosystem encompasses every element of your life, from your clothes to your professional colleagues, and influences how your target audience perceives you and whether it wants to learn more about what you're offering.

1. Your image: Whether you like it or not, what you look like on the outside does matter. Your image needs to match your personal brand so that you communicate something authentic about yourself at first glance.

2. The appearance of your branded materials: From business cards to your website, you want to create a consistent visual image for your brand that makes the right impression on your target audience. You want to select images, colors and fonts that create the visual effect that expresses your personal brand.

3. Your network: The people you associate with are important to your brand as they factor into the impression you make on your target audience, as well as your ability to make connections.

4. Your performance in your current workplace: Personal branding is not just for entrepreneurs. A strong personal brand will mean success in your work.

Personal branding supports and enhances your work. Your best success comes when you recognize your own gifts and are able to represent your personal brand in all that you do. Your personal brand helps you make the most of what you've got to offer by understanding who you are and what sets you apart from every other person on this planet. It helps you navigate the direction of your life. Be your best self in all that you do and to make it your personal brand.