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We all know the term “personal brand”—but how often do we stop and consider what that term actually means?
It’s not just the image you put out to the world, or even the values you stand for. It’s more complex than that. As someone who’s spent the past decade speaking about personal branding, I spend a great deal of time reading and thinking about the concept, especially how to help guide people through developing their own personal brand.
Here are a few quotes that have been resonating with me lately.
Let’s start off with a working definition of “brand,” in order to better understand how it can translate to the personal branding level.
“I believe that ‘brand’ is a stand-in, a euphemism, a shortcut for a whole bunch of expectations, worldview connections, experiences, and promises that a product or service makes, and these allow us to work our way through a world that has 30,000 brands that we have to make decisions about every day.”- Seth Godin, entrepreneurship guru
While Godin is clearly talking about product and service brands here, if you replace those two words with “person,” this quote easily applies to personal branding, as well.
Your personal brand isn’t just what you portray to the world: it’s the promises you make. The expectations others have of you. What the experience of working with you will be like. In other words, it’s every aspect of who you are as a professional.
When you consider it in this light, it’s impossible for a person not to have a personal brand—so you want to make sure that you’re the one in control of it.
What’s the unique promise your personal brand is making and how do you back it up?
“I would define [a brand] in two ways: from the sender’s point of view and from the receiver’s point of view … From the receiver’s point of view, I think a brand is a promise … a promise of what you can expect if you use the product or service, or if you engage in the experience.” - Daniel Pink, cultural critic and author
This unique promise is what you bring to the table: your expertise, your vision, your skills, your specific way of seeing things. It’s critical to remember that these are things you must be able to deliver on.
My unique promise is that I help brands succeed in the digital age. From my speaking engagements to the work I do through my agency, all of my professional efforts are in the service of fulfilling that single promise.
And how do I back it up? I’ve built a successful business, have a roster of happy clients, and have been fortunate enough to share my knowledge with audiences around the world, and see how it resonates with them.
But perhaps more importantly than that, I’m committed to learning and growing that knowledge each and every day—and that’s part of my personal brand, too.
A personal brand is essentially a story. What’s the story behind your personal brand, and how can you keep the conversation around it alive?
“There was recently a wonderful study done on garage sales. When people go to a garage sale to buy something, they actually feel very satisfied about the interaction. Most of the time, it’s because the object they buy comes with a story—a very real, personal story about where the object fit into someone’s life. Whether it’s real or not, you connect with that person through the object. So when you take the object, your purchase of it is more satisfactory.”- Dori Tunstall, design anthropologist
Over the past decade or so, storytelling has become a deeply important aspect of branding and marketing. Stories are how we understand the world—they’re an integral element of our humanity.
As Tunstall says, items that come with a story are far more satisfactory purchases than those that are simply bought off a shelf in a store. And the same is true when it comes to developing your personal brand. Who are you, and where did you come from? How did you get where you are today? Your identity and your journey are what people will connect with. Make sure you share them!
What are your deepest values and how does your personal brand communicate and take a stand for them?
“There is a ‘badge’ value to brands that is probably both good and bad … If you take a very Buddhist perspective on this and notice that you have this inclination to badge yourself in order to feel worthy, then that is certainly a problem. You may still be able to take a Buddhist approach and consider badging yourself only with things you’re a fan of. And that would be okay, I guess. Then again, thinking about Buddhists— they wear the robes. That’s basically . . . a brand. It’s an impossible irony to avoid.”- Alex Bogusky, advertising rockstar turned conscious consumption champion
Many people feel reluctant to develop their personal brands for fear of being overly self-promotional or even self-commodifying.
For those concerned with this issue, Alex’s reflections can offer a way forward. Because it’s impossible to escape branding altogether, the question becomes not one of if but of how—of how your personal brand can represent a principled stand for your deepest values.
What kind of world does your personal brand invite your audience to cast their vote for?
“[O]ur material choices as consumers are no longer trivial. They are now amongst the most important choices we make. They have consequences well beyond our own selves — they have global consequences. They have consequences on our economy, on the community we live in. In a sense, [our purchase decisions] cast a vote for a certain kind of world…when you drive a Nissan Leaf, or a Chevy Volt, you’re saying to the world, ‘These are my values. This is the kind of world I want.’”- Malcolm Gladwell
In the same way your personal brand can represent your deepest values, it can also function as an invitation to your audience to take a stand for the kind of world they want to live in.
After all, the truth is that people are drawn to specific brands because of what it allows them to say about themselves. Just like Gladwell says, when you choose to drive a hybrid car, you’re telling the world, “I care about creating a sustainable future.”
It’s important to realize that when people choose to work with you, hire you, or share your content, they’re making a similar statement. What kind of world are you inviting people to vote for?
Developing a personal brand with intentionality and purpose takes time and effort, but using these questions as a guide can help. For more, read my post “7 Things You Can Do to Build an Awesome Personal Brand.”
June 4, 2019 at 03:01PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs