Every four years, we get to watch some of the most masterful branding geniuses ever – politicians. Turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper or go online and you can get a crash course on how to build a personal brand and learn how that brand can make or break your professional and personal aspirations.
Whether your goal is to land the corner office, get new clients for your business or even establish personal relationships, it’s important to shape how other people see you.
Nicole A. Thomas knows a thing or two about the power of personal branding. As a marketing and communications strategist for a Fortune 100 company, she has experienced how a strong brand can propel you and how a weak one may hold you back.
“Similar to your energy, your reputation enters the room long before you do. Your brand is not how you see yourself, but how others see you,” Thomas says. “Often, people believe their brand is one thing, and there is a huge gap in perception. Be intentional about living your brand through your actions and interactions with others.”
Thomas says there are many benefits to having a great personal brand. “Your phone calls and emails are promptly returned. People want to work with you. ‘No’ becomes, ‘Let me see what I can do.’’ People will invest in your success, refer new business and recommend you for opportunities.”
So how do you go about establishing your personal brand? In part one of this three-part series, here are five tips for how to jumpstart a powerful brand that’s sure to take you exactly where you want to go.
Know who you are and who you are not – You can be anything you want – including yourself. With every part of our lives being recorded, chronicled and photographed, it can be tempting to mimic someone else’s style. If you’re really an animal-loving vegan, It’s sometimes hard to tell what’s real and what’s not these days, which is precisely why being your authentic self is good for your brand and your self-esteem. People can smell fake a mile away, so just be yourself and let others get to know and love you for your authenticity.
Build a career/professional narrative – Did you grow up nursing your stuffed animals back to health and now you’re a nurse in real life? Did you study your mom in the kitchen and now you run your own restaurant? Was the death of a loved one the impetus for you to become a community advocate? Chances are, there is a funny, touching or tragic story led you to your chosen career path. Everyone loves a story, and getting yours down pat and learning how to tell it in a compelling way makes your more interesting and attractive to other people. So take some time to think about why and how you got to where you are today, and be ready to share your story at the next happy hour.
Develop your brand voice – Every brand has its own distinct voice or flavor. Some are funny, some serious, some snarky. When developing the voice of your personal brand, you first need to decide what your goals are, who your target audience is and what relationship you want to have with them. If you’re looking to climb the corporate ladder (goal), your audience might be company executives, therefore, keeping a professional tone being politically correct might suit you well. On the flip side though, if your goal is to be a comedy writer for a late night talk show and you want to catch the eye of show producers, sarcasm and humor might help you stand out. Know who you’re talking to and how you want them to feel after interacting with your brand, then communicate accordingly.
Add value to others – What do you have that other people want or need? Be the person who has solutions to other people’s problems and your stock will instantly rise. At work, determine what’s important to your boss and to the company, and deliver on those things. If you run your own company, figure out what your customers want the most then make sure they get it consistently through your business. In your relationships, pay attention to the needs of those closest to you, and if it’s within your means and ability, try to help them out. The bottom line is, be a resource for others and your personal brand will be elevated.
Share your opinions – The reality of social media can make sharing your thoughts on any particular topic a little daunting, but in order to be seen as a thought leader, you have to put yourself out there once in awhile. To get started, create a blog or contribute to your company’s blog. Make sure you write on a consistent basis, and share ideas that move conversations forward. Even if you’re writing about sensitive or controversial topics, keep it professional and avoid personal attacks. Save major rants for debriefing sessions with your girlfriends over cocktails.