How to Build a Powerful Personal Brand
Personal branding is a hot topic, but it can also be a confusing one. You’ve probably been told many times that you NEED a personal brand. But you’ve probably also wondered things like:
- Why is a personal brand so important?
- What does it take to create a personal brand?
- Is having a personal brand cheesy?
- I’m not famous, nor do I want to be! Why do I need a personal brand?
Until recently, brands were more commonly associated with products and services. As the founder and creative director of DesignGood, a design agency, I’ve spent almost two decades creating brands for businesses and organizations of all kinds. Even if you don’t want to start a business on your own, though, you still need a personal brand to achieve goals like landing a job you want or getting a promotion. In today’s article, we’ll chat about what makes a great personal brand, and what that means for you as a professional!
What Is a Personal Brand?
First, a quick refresher on DesignGood’s definition of a brand:
A brand is everything someone thinks about when they think about you, your work, your business, your services, or your product. It’s what you look like, it’s what you sound like, and it’s how you make people feel.
Great brands clearly communicate what you do, who you do it for, and what you’re so great at it. They also communicate your experience, expertise and what people can expect from working with you. Great brands are unique. They’re memorable. But most of all, they’re authentic.
Your personal brand is everything that others think and feel whenever or wherever they encounter you as a professional. It’s everything that makes you who you are. It clarifies how you’re unique.
Your brand comes through in your personal interactions. Your brand also represents you even when you aren’t there, which is why it’s so important for your brand to look, feel and sound like an extension of you.
Here’s something that might surprise you: You already have a personal brand. Even if you don’t think you do! Other professionals are already drawing conclusions and making decisions based on their perceptions of you.
Building your personal brand means getting intentional and deliberate about the messages you send others, no matter where they encounter you – in person, at meetings, at events or on LinkedIn.
So how do you start creating a personal brand like that?
Building a Personal Brand That Gets Results
When DesignGood works with our clients, we get to know their business inside and out before we do any brand-building work. That means asking a lot of questions. Their answers give us the information they need to create a brand that’s unique to them and that helps them accomplish their goals.
We adapted some questions from our process that will give you the insights you need to shape your own personal brand. Again, a great personal brand clearly communicates what you do,
who you do it for and what people can expect from working with you. This helps them envision hiring you, having you on their team and potentially promoting you to a position where your skills have a chance to truly shine. So let’s start with the things you want others to know about you:
- What do you consider your expertise?
- What are you GREAT at helping people with?
- What education or training enables you to get the results you create? What pivotal events or experiences made you so good at what you do?
- What are you most passionate about doing at work, and what tasks do you enjoy doing most?
- What makes the experience of working with you different?
- What beliefs and values influence your work?
- What are the outcomes people can expect from working with you?
- What do you want people to think and feel when they think about you?
- What is your specialty in your current role? What skills, tasks, and projects are you best at? And are these a part of your current position?
Defining Your Audience
Just like a business, you also have a target audience. For a business, the target audience is the people they want to have as customers or clients. For you as a professional, your audience depends on your current situation and the goals you have for where you want to go next.
- What does your audience need from you?
- Think about what your audience needs and wants, and their pain points. How do you solve them? Here’s an example:
If you’re looking for a job right now, one of your key audiences is the managers who could hire you. What do they need, and how does that align with who you are and what you can bring to the position? You might answer things like:
- Managers for the positions I’m seeking want a strong communicator, and I have lots of communications experience.
- They also want someone who’s comfortable with international clients, and I’ve traveled extensively overseas.
- Like me, the companies I want to work for care about volunteering, and public service.
An important reminder: This process is about being yourself. Brands and people that are uniquely themselves stand out. Authenticity and connection are so valuable, and after branding hundreds of companies over the last 20 years, I’ve found that they’re still the secret sauce.
Know what your audience needs and match that to your skill set.
Bringing It All Together
After we get to know a client, we take them through an exercise to create their Foundational Brand Language. This is language that allows them to quickly and meaningfully communicate with their audience. A big part of Foundational Brand Language is the Brand Positioning Statement.
Your Brand Positioning Statement sums up what you do, whom you do it for, why you’re so effective and the outcomes your audience can expect from your work together. It becomes an invaluable reference you will use again and again in communicating your personal brand.
To inspire you, here a couple of examples of Brand Positioning Statements from DesignGood clients:
- Path & Purpose Therapy (Berit Benson): “As a licensed clinical social worker, I help motivated and engaged young adults and millennials deal with the everyday challenges of modern life. With an approach rooted in self-acceptance and self-awareness, and a comfortable, friendly style, I help clients find balance in the highs and lows of living and see struggles from a new perspective. From anxiety and depression to chronic illness, relationship issues and life transitions, I teach clients how to move through the recurring thoughts and habits that hold them back. Using the tools gained in therapy, clients learn new ways to make decisions, take action and embrace a rich and meaningful life.”
- Heidi Carter: “As a money mindset and performance coach, I help driven individuals transform their relationship with money to elevate their earnings and welcome in their next level of inner and outer wealth. I lead driven women and men on a spiritual journey to release themselves from the limitations of their past conditioning, break through barriers and shatter their income records. Using art and creativity as catalysts, I teach my clients how to rewrite their personal money stories and open themselves up to their own power and biggest dreams. Once my clients master the art of connecting with money as their business partner and friend, they come to understand they are always financially rewarded for their strides in service and leadership. Additionally, they begin paying closer attention to their finances, and make conscious changes in their spending, saving and investment habits. With the deepest support they’ve ever experienced, they begin to take more risks and create a higher level of achievement. Through my proven approach, I guide my clients into developing a sacred relationship with themselves and money, and help them boldly attract even greater success and financial abundance.”
To create your own brand positioning statement, spend some time with the questions we talked about earlier. From there, you should be able to develop a clear understanding of your personal brand.
Using Your Personal Brand
The first step to putting your personal brand into action is thinking about the different places that people will encounter it. If you are focused on two different audiences right now (for example, your current manager, plus companies where you are looking for a job), you might need to make lists for each. For example …
- Your resume
- LinkedIn and other social channels
- Your company intranet profile
- Your personal website
Choose one item on your list to focus on first. For example, LinkedIn is a good starting point for job hunters. So how can you use your LinkedIn page to bring your brand to life – to show more of who you are and what makes you unique? Here are a few examples
- Your brand: Detail-oriented
Demonstrate it by: Having polished and professional-looking cover and profile photos.
- Your brand: Project management expert
Demonstrate it by: Sharing insights from your experience and resharing content from other project management experts.
- Your brand: Writer with an original voice
Demonstrate it by: Creating and sharing posts to showcase your writing style.
What Personal Branding Really Means
Whatever your brand is, and whatever your goals are, here are a few final key truths to remember.
- Be authentic. A successful personal brand isn’t about choosing the “right” buzzword, photo filters, or anything else. It’s about being who you really are so that you can connect with the people and opportunities that are right for you.
- Be choosy. You don’t have to be on every social network or at every event to have a successful personal brand. When you know who you are, the audience you want to reach, and the messages you want to send, you’ll also know where to focus your time and attention.
- Be consistent. Your personal brand is more powerful when you reinforce it. For example, if your resume says you’re a “design expert,” it should also look great (and so should your social feeds, business cards, etc.)
- Lead with what you love. Passionate people are engaged people. When you’re doing something you love, it shows. That’s why it’s so important to know what you love doing and what you’re good at – it’s the essence of your personal brand. It’s what allows you to authentically connect to professional opportunities that match your strengths and skills.