Here is a thing…..you have digital footprint that shapes the way you are perceived by thousands (if not millions) of people you haven’t met.
The debate is no longer about whether you need to have a personal brand. The main question is … will you take control of how it is shaped and cultivated or will you let it be defined on your behalf.
A well cultivated personal brand gives you an edge and leverage in business.
The best entrepreneurs understood unique relationship between their personal brand and business growth. Richard Branson built multibillion dollar companies on this.
So…how you go from zero brand equity to having a personal brand that’s instantly identifiable and trusted?
Here’s how to go about it
What’s a Personal Brand?
In today’s job market and entrepreneurial landscape, you can’t afford to be another face in the crowd. You have to separate yourself from the competition. You have to be more appealing to your target audience and you can achieve it by creating a recognizable personal brand.
Your personal brand is what people know and perceive about you, as a professional and as a human being. The most successful entrepreneurs have strong personal brands, some of which transcend even their companies. For example, Richard Branson, Beyonce, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and so on.
Here in Africa, we have strong personal brands too like Aliko Dangote, Jason Njoku, Alan Knott Craig Jr, and so on.
Building a recognizable personal brand opens professional opportunities to you such as better contacts and clients for your company, Industry recognition and more.
If you’re looking to grow the sales for a company or you want potential clients to associate your personal brand with a feeling of trust and long-term success and satisfaction, then this is for you.
So how do you go about creating your personal brand?
First of all, you don’t really “create” a personal brand. You already have one. Really you do.
Okay go ahead and Google your name. If you’re on Facebook or LinkedIn, your profile comes up on the first page. Perhaps you have written something for someone or you have a personal blog. That will come up next. Maybe you have recently been mentioned in a news article. All of these things are part of your personal brand. This a sample from PC Advisor
Search engines, particularly Google, has a way of indexing everything we put out into the world. The only way to prevent this is to stop featuring anywhere on the internet. This is unnecessary though. What you can do is manage your personal brand so what people see about you is what you want them to see.
The end goal of Personal Branding is to have your name attached to a unique value proposition, build a strong reputation in your industry, and establish trust and rapport with your audience.
So let’s start with the basics.
Developing a Personal Value Proposition
Before you can do anything else, you need to build a foundation first.
Developing a personal value proposition (PVP) will serve as your foundation and will influence your direction, approach, and the decisions you make.
But how exactly do you develop a PVP?
Leadership development coach, Andrew Cooke suggests asking yourself the following questions:
People ‘buy’ you—so how do you differentiate yourself from others? What can you do to attract the people you want, and to be attractive to them?
The bottom line here is that you need to have a clear understanding of:
- Who you are
- What you’re passionate about
- What you want to be known for
- Your target audience
- Strengths you possess
- Your core principles and values
- Differentiating factors that distinguish you from others in your industry
These are the things that will inform the formation of your personal brand identity. Once you’ve finally gotten concise answers to these questions, the personal branding process can truly begin.
Building a presence
Building your personal brand from scratch is tough. Like, jogging across the Sahara tough.
Unless you’ve already got a built-in network, preparing for long days of putting in tons of effort and seeing little dividends, if any. But you have to start somewhere. You have to learn to crawl before you can walk and eventually get to the top.
Fortunately, today, the first way people research you is by Googling you. Meaning, the first place to begin building your personal brand is via the internet.
So here’s your to-do list:
1. Create a professional website (preferably on WordPress) – This will serve as your “home base” online.
2. Start and maintain a blog on your website – You want people to know you’re smart, funny, resourceful, thoughtful etc, right? This is one of the best ways to develop your voice and showcase it to the world.
3. Have profiles on at least three social media networks – Start with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter or Instagram, and gradually expand. But don’t spread yourself too thin to the point where you can’t consistently update.
Here’s a quick tip about choosing usernames: use a format that’s easy to remember, and try to use the same username for all your profiles. Consistency and homogeneity are essential for branding.
For example, for someone called Emmanuel Pedro, EmmaPed works. So does, Emman, Pemman, Peddyman, Emma_P and so on.
The initial stages of launching your personal brand are time-consuming. This is why you should be focusing exclusively on your website, blog, and social media for at least the three months. Thing is, you want to make sure you’re devoting the necessary amount of time to generate some buzz.
Ideally, you’ll gain at least a small core audience for your blog and a few hundred social media followers.
Once you get to that point, it’s time to amp up your efforts.
One of the proven ways to strengthen your brand and continually build momentum is by creating high caliber content. And there are so many ways to go about this. We have Long-form posts where you cover a topic in detail (learn about the skyscraper technique by Brian Dean), Podcasting, YouTube Videos – It has more than 1.3 billion users, Webinars, Slideshows, Infographics and E-books.
Establishing a brand requires you to do one highly important thing – Be Consistent.
According to research, “It takes 5-7 brand impressions before someone will remember your brand.” Whichever mediums you use, it’s imperative that you maintain consistency with your voice, style and opinions. Don’t give your audience dissonance by sounding or looking like two separate people.
Of course, you’ll naturally grow and evolve, but you need to maintain your core identity. Most important of all, you need to be authentic. Phoniness has a way of seeping out of whatever facade you put up.
If you’re a nice guy, be a nice guy. If you’re cynical, be cynical. Stay true to yourself.
Guest-blogging is the major heavyweight when it comes to effective ways to build a personal brand.
Just think about it. If a notable (read authoritative) figure gives you an open door to write on his/her platform, it says a lot about your credibility. It immediately elevates your brand equity. Thus, by leveraging another expert’s inherent brand equity and influence, you can accelerate the growth of your own brand.
There used to be a lot of fear in SEO circles on the potential penalties Guest blogging could bring but Google cleared the air. In summary, they said posting valuable content on another blog is fine as long as you’re not creating spam with the sole intention of earning a backlink.
If there’s a magic bullet to building a personal brand, guest-blogging is it. See it as more of a way to expand your audience and build your brand rather than simply generating a backlink.
You also need to understand that it’s a bit of a numbers game, and you’ll need to reach out to multiple bloggers before you get the greenlight.
If you’re looking to build your brand, then you should be speaking on a regular basis. Speaking engagements are opportunities to be seen and heard. You know what this means – start polishing those communication skills. If you speak in exactly the same manner others do, you will never stand out from the crowd. So, do your homework and make your presentations a pleasant experience for you and your audience.
Speak from a place of knowledge and power. Let them see your confidence. Show that you know what you’re talking about, and answer questions in a way that serves your audience.
Show that you are confident. Some may criticize or disagree with you. The important thing is to remain open to feedback. Thank others for sharing their views, and if the points they raised were legitimate, determine how you can improve and do better next time.
Start small, and keep building. You may not land high-quality speaking engagements right away, but if you keep going, eventually you’ll build your following and get invited to speak at bigger, more notable events and conferences.
Getting free press
There’s a reason why mass media is called one of the most powerful inventions of the 20th century. With just a single report or feature on a national magazine or newspaper, TV station or even Radio, you can shoot up the ranks of credibility and authority.
The hidden message is, Hey for this person to be featured on a news report, this person must be a big deal.
So the key is to do something that is newsworthy. Most people who do get press coverage are either dignitaries or they have achieved something or said something worth reporting.
So what can you do?
One way is to research the current trending news in the media. Then, see if you can offer a contrary opinion. If the contrary opinion will hurt your brand or it’s something you don’t truly believe or agree with as per values, then don’t go down that route.
Contact all the news outlets, traditional and online media, telling them you can comment on the trending news and you have a somewhat contrary yet interesting opinion/explanation of the events. Back up your view, of course, but offer something different because the media likes bringing in something different that will get the attention of their followers.
You won’t get responses from all of them but one or two may respond and get in touch. All you need is one press coverage. And from there, the snowball effect will handle the rest.
What else can you do to get press coverage?
Give a lecture or seminar at a local college or university, or at a conference. The seminar will be a How-To on things related to your industry. You’re looking to help students or anyone that wants to attend how they can get involved in your industry and what they can do to succeed. It’s also recommended that you speak at a local business involved in your industry if possible, but doing it at a university is good for your portfolio to start.
The reason you’re giving this seminar is that you can put it on your profile and use it to gain access to media interviews and other contributions as an expert. Giving seminars and being part of organizations show those in the media that you’re not only an expert, but that you can speak in public and do so effectively; so effectively that a university had you in for a seminar.
You can also write an article for an industry magazine or website.
Build your online presence
Did you Google your name earlier? If you did, and your own online profile wasn’t on the first page on Google, you have a problem. How you appear online is something you should be monitoring on an ongoing basis.
Do you have social media profiles? If so, are they fully fleshed out with all of your information? Do they present you in the best light possible, and make you look professional? Are you using high-quality professional photography? Are you interacting with others and sharing their content?
Do you have a website for your personal brand? One of the best ways to rank in search for your name is to build a website. This gives you considerably more control over your online presence than social media. Try to buy your own name if you can.
Don’t forget to Google yourself regularly to see how you’re coming across, how others might be perceiving you, and what they’re saying about you. You’ll have a tough time building a great personal brand without making a real effort to monitor and tweak it.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the process of launching a personal brand. Those early days are grueling. And there are so many areas to cover that you may not even know where to start.
But when you break it down step by step and check off one thing it a time, it becomes a lot more manageable.
Approach it like a construction of a building. You start with a sturdy foundation (your PVP) and gradually build from there. It’s a process.
And once you finally get to the point where you’ve established a legitimate personal brand, the new opportunities that come your way will be completely worth it. Once people know who you are and begin to identify you with a specific area of understanding or expertise, you’ll be well on your way to becoming the go-to person in your niche or industry.
Feature Image via Brand Quarterly