As Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Your personal brand is the sum total of what you do, how you do it and why you do it. It’s not something you can fake. It’s authentic and deep-seated.
If you get it right, your personal brand will make you stand out from the crowd, shine a spotlight on your expertise and enhance your value. You’ll have an energy and a buzz about you that people can’t help being drawn to.
So how can you build your personal brand?
For starters, don’t make the mistake of thinking your personal brand is all about you. It’s not. Your personal brand is not about your work experience or your personal accomplishments. Your personal brand should be about other people, specifically what you can do for other people.
Start by asking yourself a few questions: What needs can you address? What are the areas where you can offer the most value? What makes you different from the rest?
With a little thought and planning, you can build your personal brand from scratch. Just follow these five steps:
1. Discover your opportunity.
Passion is not enough. You might have a passion for rock climbing, or playing the ukulele. But having a passion does not automatically translate to recognition and success.
Instead of focussing on your passions, study the needs of the people in your circles. What are they trying to achieve? What are they struggling with? What are their frustrations?
Think about how you could best help these people.
Dig deep into who you are. Identify what you can bring to the table. Evaluate not just the skills and experience you’ve acquired but also the values that guide and inform you.
Study your competition. Can you serve a need that in an area that doesn’t have lots of competition?
If there’s lots of competition wherever you look, don’t be discouraged. Can you serve a need in a way that’s distinctive and noteworthy?
You’ve identified your opportunity when you’ve found a significant need that you can serve, in a way that sets you apart from the competition.
2. Know your audience.
Everything starts with your audience. Find out as much as you can about them. This includes standard demographic data such as what jobs they do, how much they earn and where they live.
Equally, if not more importantly, you need to know what their beliefs and values are, their hopes and dreams and the challenges they are facing.
Talk to your audience. Take them out for a coffee or set up a Skype call. Study them by reading what they’re saying on relevant social media, forums and review sites.
Is your audience more interested in quality or value? What’s more important to them, making a difference or making money? What public figures do they admire?
How much do your audience know about what you can offer them? Will you need to educate them for them to appreciate your value?
Identify who your core audience is. Don’t try to appeal to everyone. Identify which audience segments are most likely to become long-term customers and advocates. These are the people you should focus on.
3. Craft your message.
In Hollywood, budding filmmakers learn to prepare an “elevator pitch” to sell their movie ideas to busy studio executives. The key is to summarize their idea in a short, memorable phrase that could be pitched even if they had to do it in an elevator.
For example, the movie Alien was initially pitched as, “Jaws in space.”
You want to tell your audience about what you do, about what makes you different and exciting. But they probably won’t have time to listen to your life story.
Instead, you should create a short message that sums up what you’re about in a way which connects with your audience. Keep it simple and memorable. Think of it as your elevator pitch. Your message should reflect the people you serve, the values that you embody and the results you achieve.
If you have any testimonials, study them. What were the things about you that people valued the most? Observe the exact phrases people use when talking about you. Often, these are the precisely the phrases you should use when describing yourself.
Use your message to brand yourself on your professional profiles. Most importantly, embody it in everything you do.
4. Hone your uniqueness.
Maybe you can do something highly useful that very few people can do. Well, that’s your unique quality, and you should tell your audience about it.
But perhaps there are plenty of people who do what you do, and you’ll be competing for the same audience. Being able to demonstrate a point of uniqueness is your key to success in a competitive market.
The most obvious point of uniqueness is to be the best. There are many ways of being the best. Find out which way plays to your strengths. Are you the most experienced, most creative, most efficient? Do you excel at customer service?
If you can’t be the best in some way, becoming more specialized can make you unique. For example, instead of offering a marketing service to small business owners in general, you could offer a marketing service targeted at chiropractors.
And don’t be afraid to be controversial to stand out. If you hold different opinions from the others, don’t be afraid to voice them. Just stay away from topics that are likely to cause offense, like religion and politics.
5. Define your values.
Authenticity is the cornerstone of personal branding. Your authenticity is what allows your audience to trust you, to engage with you, to tell their friends about you. Being authentic is about having stated values and being true to them.
So what are your values? You should include business values, such as driving innovation or personal accountability. You might also add ethical values, such as care for the environment.
How you speak and write is also a reflection of your values. Are you serious or informal? Do you address the layman or expert? What are your cultural reference points?
Guard against inconsistency, such as saying one thing and doing another, as this will cast doubt on your values and undermine your brand.
Keep your values at the heart of everything you do, as you interact with people, network on social media, or publish blog posts. Wherever and whenever you engage, ensure you do so in a way that shines a light on your values.