A powerful personal brand speaks to the masses about who you are, what you stand for and what you can deliver. It may feel a bit ego-centric to focus on, especially if you believe your work should speak for itself. Here’s the thing: think of all the brands you love and champion and how they make you feel. Those brands have successfully connected with you by building on key values you share. Now think of your personal brand doing the same thing. Not that big of a stretch now, is it? True, this is no easy feat which is why we brought in Peter Rodriguez, CMO at Brand Igniter Inc, for some insight into getting down to the branding of it all.
First things first, get your personal brand story right. That means understanding what your personal brand is saying about you so you can begin sharing a personal brand statement with others. Peter calls this step setting up a framework for your personal brand to avoid misconceptions. Look at the whole picture: online and offline to see what’s missing. Your audience, aka your coworkers, friends, family, that funny neighbour across the road, are all paying attention one way or another. If information is missing, they’ll fill in the gaps for you and create their own story.
Prepare to believe in the hype of your personal brand awareness and most importantly, be strategic. Get down to how you want others to perceive you and expand it beyond your job title. That’s right, there’s a difference between a personal brand and a professional brand. Some want to believe they’re the same, but Peter sees this as limiting yourself to what he calls the corporate cloak. A personal brand works outside the lines of any job title or company you work for; it’s a transferable message. Think of not just your hard skills, but those soft skills too and connect them to your values. What do you want people to recognize in your brand identity?
The reason why we do not pay attention to our personal brand is that we're always wearing a corporate cloak. — Peter Rodriguez
Once you figure out a strategic framework for your personal brand, it’s time to put together a brand promise or personal brand statement and be prepared to deliver. No one is happy biting into what they thought was a chocolate chip cookie and discovering it was raisin instead. The disappointment is felt in every bite. Your personal brand needs to carry through or else it’s delivering a different kind of message than the one you wanted.
Remember to keep in mind that brand recognition means opportunity. The stronger your personal brand, the more you’ll be sought out one way or another. Pay attention to these interactions no matter the setting. Have you set yourself up as someone who pays attention to details in everything you do? Or as a team player that motivates and rallies to get the job done? Lean into what you’ve promised in everything you do so it’s more than just talk. Peter reminds us that a personal brand lives in the mind of our audience. You may have a terrific online presence, but if you can’t deliver your personal brand outside of that, then that’s the impression you’ll leave. If you did something well, make sure to speak to it as a brand statement example.
Let’s play a game! Starbucks or Tim Hortons? Nike or Under Armour? Whether or not you have a preference, you had a moment of consideration for both. You considered the brand and then the product to make a decision. Although it’s not a direct competition, a personal brand will face similar scrutiny from time to time. It’s important to note that your personal brand might not be for everyone and that’s okay. Really, breathe in and let it go. Just like some people have a particular way of drinking their coffee, some will have a particular way of reacting to your personal brand.
That’s why staying relevant is another important note in Peter’s book. By staying relevant to a particular audience, you avoid sending your personal brand statement to the wrong crowd. You don’t want to waste their time or yours. Find the nook of people who have common interests, problems, and ideas to get your personal brand working at its’ best. It may even inspire you to evolve to another playing field you hadn’t even considered before. Think of some big brands that have had to redirect at one time or another; are they the same brand? Yes, but they’ve evolved and that comes down to knowing who your audience is.
Every brand from time to time gets a refreshed look or feel but the values behind that brand don’t change. This is what Peter calls the purpose or backbone of your personal brand. It’s the ‘why’ of all you do and represent. Most often or not it’s something personal. Keep that in your back pocket so to speak and ready to go when it’s time for a reminder. Your personal brand’s purpose is the force that will drive you forward on cloudy days. They’re bound to happen and with your brand purpose in hand, you’ll be prepared to brave the storm.
If you need help pinpointing this, Peter suggests a writing exercise. Start with a list of all your motivations and then tie it together with a headline. Keep it simple or keep it long. Refine it again and again if need be until you reach that point where you’re happy with it. At the end of the day, it’s your personal brand, not anyone else’s. As long as you believe in it, then others will too.
When all is said and done, a personal brand will be recognizable from a mile away. Whatever strategies you use to communicate it is up to you, but the bottom line will tell your story. Get to know your audience to set up your message and be prepared to bring it. If someone doesn’t connect with it, no big deal. You know what you’re about and are staying in the now to stand out. Feel like a professional rockstar and don’t forget your purpose along the way.