Confession: I used to hate the idea of a personal brand.
When I first learned about the term, it felt awkward and unappealing. A personal brand appeared to be professionals picking a few words they wanted to be – like bold, direct, and mysterious – and morphing into a professional, “cartoon-like” caricature of themselves to embody these characteristics.
Thankfully, personal branding in today’s day and age is different! As the business world has transformed into a more inclusive environment, there’s much more acceptance of authentic personalities and styles.
What this means for all of us is that there is no longer any pressure to be someone we’re not … and we can grow more comfortable and confident in expressing who we actually are.
Why’s this important? We all need a brand to distinguish ourselves. Think of your brand as your reputation.
Look around: everyone’s doing good work. Consequently, having a strong work ethic is not enough. To differentiate yourself, there needs to be more to who you are. In other words, if you’re not present in a meeting but someone mentions you, your brand would be the words others use to describe you.
As an example:
- Teresa is a trailblazer
- Jeremy knows how to lead through change
- Addison is our DEI champion
Now, you might already be thinking of a few key terms you’d like to be known for. And while you can’t control how everyone sees you, you can use personal branding to nudge people in the direction you want. So, how do you influence those descriptors?
Verify Reality of your Current Brand.
First, take the time to think about 2-3 words that best describe you. Then, go to trusted colleagues and ask them to identify 2-3 words that best describe you. Next, compare these two lists. This exercise will give you awareness of what your current brand is. Furthermore, it provides you insights into how to better build your brand.
Understand the Direction to Develop Your Brand.
As you look at the feedback from others, you may discover that your current brand descriptors don’t quite align with your authentic aspirations. Perhaps you’d like to be known as a sustainability champion, team builder, or leadership expert, however, you are not currently known for this. A great way to move in this direction is to continuously develop your wisdom in these areas (listen to podcasts, go to conferences, read white papers), while pulling these descriptions into your social media profile and sharing related content in your posts. An authentic brand has congruence – what‘s on the inside is true to what‘s represented on the outside. Demonstrate your expertise gained – don’t just tell people you have it.
Imagine Coca-Cola when it first launched – it didn’t have the brand sentiment (or equity!) that it has right now. The brand has grown on us because its demonstrated consistency and quality time after time.
Think of your brand the same way – be consistent, and demonstrate quality for what you want to be known for, time after time. And be patient. Personal branding takes time to develop … and a bit of time for others to catch on. But if you start today and make conscious choices of how you want to show up, you’re well on your way to influencing your brand.
With my personal brand, I incorporate my descriptors into the LinkedIn bio and spent time building my “about” section. Equally important, I curate and create content related to what I believe reflects my authentic aspirations and what I want to be known for. Connect with me on LinkedIn to get a feel of how exactly I do this.