I am a girl's girl, and have loved dressing up and playing with dolls as long as I can remember. In fact, I still have my very first Barbie. Talk about a girl with a strong brand! From fashion model to doctor, from prom queen to politician, I don't think there is anything Barbie hasn't done! Everyone knows Barbie and knows what Barbie stands for.
Like Barbie, each of us has a brand. Granted, some are more pronounced than others. Your brand is your essence. It is the package that communicates who you are. What's important to remember is that your brand is being built whether you're doing the building or not. Your brand is you, and everything we do adds to our story, our brand. The job you decide to take or the job you didn't get. The way you treat your friends and what you share with others. The skills you learn and the skills you teach.
One of the best ways to brand yourself is to take a look inside. The way you articulate your brand is to know yourself. You must have a clear understanding of your values, purpose, mission and unique strengths and weaknesses. It obviously will evolve but the sooner you start understanding yourself the better. The cardinal rule is to do things that are in line with who you are and you will become a product and person worth promoting.
The Benefits of Personal Branding
Nothing feels better than knowing who you are, living it and sharing it with the world. By branding yourself, you will stand out among friends, peers and competitors, and people will begin to seek you out for your work as opposed to you doing the searching. Building your brand also affords you the flexibility to choose projects that make the most sense and charge a premium for being you. There is always a market for a strong brand, so hard times become much less scary.
So a personal brand can be pretty advantageous. But what do we do about it? That's where marketing yourself comes in.
Personal branding begins with understanding the concept of marketing in relation to consumer wants and needs.
Sometimes when people hear the words "marketing yourself," they say it makes them feel queasy in the pit of their stomachs. Often, it is because they think of marketing as pushing yourself on other people, empty socializing and superficial small talk. On the contrary, effective marketing creates a pull for your expertise. You establish yourself as an expert in your area, and people recognize you for your talents.
When marketing yourself, think of yourself as the "product" and what you can do as the "service." It's your responsibility to identify what expertise you can offer to your "customer." For employees, your customer is your manager and company, and for those in job search, your customer is a potential hiring manager in another company. The challenge is that the workplace and its players keep changing, so the process of building the relationships needed for marketing yourself must be consistent and ongoing.
Steps to Building and Marketing Your Personal Brand
The 10 steps below are not tasks to be checked off as much as they are ways of life. In most instances, the only investment is your time and creativity.
1. Be true to you.
Who is the genuine you? Keep a journal of what excites you, what questions you love to be asked and whose career is inspiring. Branding is authentic. Do not try to be someone else even if you think that's what someone wants. In the short term this could possibly win you business or friends, but remember that authenticity is almost as obvious as inauthenticity.
2. Form a positioning statement.
Once you know what lights your fire, you have to concisely communicate what you plan to offer and how others will benefit. Simple as that. This is your positioning statement: Who are you, how do you stand out and why should others care?
A sample positioning statement is:
Scott is a die-hard adventurer, life-experimenter, writer and learner, in search of the extraordinary. He is committed to discovering your own path to personal freedom and living life on your terms through his writing, coaching and speaking.
Try it. Make it concise. 30 words, 3 ideas, 30 seconds.
3. Become an expert.
To show you mean business, you need credibility and validation. It starts with actually being an expert -- which all of you are -- and continues with being perceived as one. Read books and articles online, attend seminars and courses and events related to your brand. What happens? Your positioning quickly becomes obvious to others.
4. Give back.
Once you have the knowledge, start sharing it. Jump at chances to speak at events. Whether you are at a bar or in the office, if you see a chance to share what you know, do it. Agree to courtesy interviews or coffee -- from young people to seasoned professionals.
Whether it is a book, a helpful website or an article you have read, readily share these with people you have met: clients, prospects, colleagues and friends. Sharing is a testament to the kind of person you are, and shows you are always thinking of what may help others.
My career in PR actually began through volunteer work. I was able to take risks and try things I never had -- like marketing and publishing -- and one thing lead to another. From collecting clothes for victims of hurricanes to assuming leadership positions, no matter how busy you are, find time to volunteer.
5. Engage in social media.
You need an audience, and social media is the most effective way to get one. The key here is consistency, whether it's Facebook or blogging, periodic posts simply won't do the trick. Also be active in LinkedIn, how to videos on YouTube, and Twitter. Think of social media as your voice.
LinkedIn in particular is a great medium to stand out professionally, gain new business leads and attract future employers. Join LinkedIn discussions to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field or to simply network with your target audience.
6. Make your appearance congruent.
A good brand portrays a consistent image throughout every market. The same goes for yours. This doesn't mean your Facebook page has to have nothing but head shots; rather, illustrate your personality through different settings. When in doubt, ask yourself "If I were looking to hire me, would I want to see what I am about to post on my profile"? Be sure all your networks communicate your brand in some way.
And pay attention to your personal appearance. For those of you who do not feel adept at "dressing for the position you want rather than for the position you have," you may want to confer with an image consultant who is responsible for helping people obtain marketing goals.
7. Recognize opportunities to grow and strengthen your brand.
These are everywhere. Maybe you write an article for someone's blog (or write your own blog), send congratulatory letters, speak at an event or serve as a panelist at a seminar. These opportunities not only enhance your social clout, but you become more of an expert and they open the doors to similar opportunities in the future.
It is said there are six degrees of separation between people, but your aim as a networker is two or three degrees of separation. And make it a goal -- meet one new person each day. Speak about your brand with excitement and notice those who resonate with it. Make it a priority to get their business cards for the purpose of following up with a "nice to meet you" email or article. Card Munch is a great app for easily logging business cards.
8. Ask for help.
There is a sentiment in the business world that if you are asking for help, you may seem inadequate. I have learned, however, that asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. And perhaps more importantly, when you ask someone for help it is really giving them a gift. As a rule, people naturally get fulfillment out of being able to help someone else. Many of these interactions will grow into relationships. Nurture them, learn from them and keep them close by.
9. Learn to communicate.
Knock-out communication will set you apart in any setting. Take on projects or volunteer opportunities that push you to be a better communicator. See what posts get the most pick up in social media. Ask questions that require something more than a Yes/No answer, like, "What was the best thing that has happened to you today?" Or "Who is your favorite newscaster and why?"
10. Be remarkable.
Anything short of extraordinary gets forgotten. If you do the nine things mentioned above, you will be well on your way to establishing your brand. Be the most passionate person in the room. Take every chance to stand out and be extraordinary. Building a rock-star brand comes down to doing the things that others won't, and occupying a space in the mind of those around you- your customers and prospects, your personal and professional relationships. Take every chance to stand out and you won't be disappointed -- neither will they.
There is no higher business or personal priority than your brand. It's your core. Your essence. Your legacy. It's the foundation upon which you build your entire professional and personal existence.
If you haven't already, it's time to start building. Because as soon as you need your brand, it's too late. The best time to begin was likely years ago, but the second best time is right now. It is an insurance policy that you will always be surrounded by the people and projects that make life invigorating.
Why not be remarkable and leave a legacy? If you don't, someone else will.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.