You too are a brand. Whether you know it or not. Whether you like it or not. – Marc Eckō.
It’s all about identity.
Coca Cola is a brand. The red can with silver script makes it instantly recognizable. People know that just by holding a can of Coke, they’re making a vote in the Coke vs. Pepsi battle, they’re drinking a formula that’s been considered perfect for decades, and they’re drinking a can of a drink that came from the people who created Santa Clause. Unconsciously, you tie this all into the red can with silver script. A personal brand is like that.
“Your personal brand is a promise to your clients… a promise of quality, consistency, competency, and reliability.” – Jason Hartman.
It’s all about what matters.
“Micheal Phelps” is also a brand. No, I’m not talking about the swimmer; I’m talking about a fictional businessman from Canberra, Australia. The one who doesn’t have his name printed on soft drink labels. If you search his name and city in Google, you’ll see that his brand involves various social media sites and some local news that he personally generates to support his business.
His business is never without competition, everyone shares a name. Fictitious Micheal’s branding, the image he wants to promote, competes online with others who generate content with his name. So there’s this swimmer guy who generates some news… Fictitious Micheal can still compete where it matters. He only has to outperform the other Michael in areas that are relevant to his business. That’s what he wants to be known for, not swimming. Do you know what you want to be known for?
It’s all about you.
You have a personal brand too, everyone does, like it or not. Jeff Bezoz, founder of Amazon says, “Your personal brand is what other people say about you when you leave the room.” It is your reputation.
In business, your reputation is everything. Today it is vital to manage it carefully, especially online. Just look at United Airlines with their latest PR nightmare, thanks to social media. Social media reveals an awful lot about us. So does Google. If I were to Google you, what would I see? Is it the image you want me to see? Is it the kind of image you want your customers, competitors and colleagues to see? You can carefully define your own story and tell others what it is – or you can leave it up to them to come to their own conclusions.
It’s all about standing out.
“In a competitive environment, how do you stand out so you are the one that gets chosen over all of the rest?” – Seth Godin.
When you stand out, it helps your business drum up more business. Your personal brand creates a marketable point of difference for you. It gives your business a personality, a face. Your face! It humanises an otherwise ordinary (also read: boring) service or job description. With an effective personal brand, you are no longer defined only by your role or buried under the usual company advertising messages. You become the signal in the white noise.
It’s also all about trust.
People trust people a lot more than they trust companies. Who do you trust more, philanthropist Bill Gates or Microsoft? If you say Microsoft, you haven’t spent much time on the internet that they helped bring into every home in the world.
Bill Gates was a young, awkward looking nerd when he founded Microsoft. When he was at the helm, he was the face of Microsoft and, seemingly singlehandedly, carried the company to be the most profitable company in the world. He donates 95% of his fortune to charities, and he’s influenced other billionaires into doing the same! Regardless of the industry that Mr. Gates decides his next project will be in, he’ll always be viewed as an expert. That’s the power behind his personal brand. Personal branding creates equity in YOU.
How much do I have to invest in my personal brand?
You don’t have to be Bill Gates to build your brand. People of all ages, shapes, and backgrounds do it on all different scales. It depends on what you want to get out of it. It depends on how big you are willing to play in life. Social media makes it very easy to build a brand at very little cost. Bethany Mota is a prime example.
At just 18 years old Bethany built herself a media and fashion empire all from the comfort of her home in California. It began one day when, bored and lonely, she started making YouTube videos that offered makeup tips and fashion advice to girls just like her. No stylists, no camera operators, no editors, no overheads, just a girl in her room with shopping bags. Bethany now has more YouTube followers than Lady Gaga, more Instagram fans than Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan combined. She makes half a million dollars a year just by shopping and sharing.
Is there a personal brand formula?
Yes, there is a formula in the creation of a powerful personal brand. Broadly speaking, it’s about connecting who you are to what you do, and then communicating that. Bethany Mota stumbled upon this formula accidentally. She did what she loved. She did what she was good at. She made herself visible. She found her target market. She was consistent with her message. And, most importantly, she provided massive value to people.
What can you do online?
The internet has created a level playing field. You have as much opportunity to build your brand there as anybody else. You can position yourself as an expert within a particular field, become a trusted source of knowledge and information, create a network of valuable contacts, grow a tribe, pitch your projects, make yourself attractive to future clients, business partners, employees. You can build an amazing business and you can certainly further your career. Personal branding is about marketing yourself as a brand and being seen by the right people in all the right places.
Personal growth is a by-product.
Paying attention to personal brand also has a personal growth benefit. By working on your brand, you’ll become aware of your strengths and weaknesses. This will open up new opportunities to expand your skill set. Your personal brand is a blend of your skills, passions and natural abilities. These make up your unique value proposition.
When you discover what that is, you can use it powerfully to help others in your work. It’s all very rewarding. While you are building your market value, you are also getting to make a difference.
Can you afford not to do it?
Often people ask me “Can I afford to build a personal brand?” In return, I wonder “how can you not?” In a crowded market place, fitting in is failing. A personal brand helps you stand out from the competition, adds business to your business, and acts as personal career insurance. Oprah Winfrey, perhaps the biggest personal brand in the world, once said, “Do what you love and you will never work another day in your life.” You are unique. Use it to create that brand named You. Then make it work for you.
Sarah Pearce is a professional speaker, business coach, social strategist and author of Online Reputation: Your Most Valuable Asset in a Digital Age.