Building a personal brand takes time, and needs to be done step by step, piece by piece, both online and offline, and day by day within the industry and niche in which you operate, but the results will be well worth the effort.
The benefits will include having more influence, other people wanting to work with you, becoming more credible, being able to charge more, being seen as more of a leader and gaining a loyal following. Most importantly it’s about making you memorable and compelling to those you interact with, which in turn will open doors to new opportunities.
Start with your strengths, values and mission
People with strong brands are clear about who they are, what they value, what their strengths are and what their mission is. They know what they know about and who they can help.
It’s no use you just knowing your strengths and your mission, other people need to know them to. So clarify them, for example on your ‘about’ page on your website or blog, communicate them in your posts and across social media and online profiles, and seek opportunities that allow you to showcase and demonstrate your strengths.
If you’re unsure what your strengths are, ask those around you what they think of you. There are various online tools such as SurveyMonkey that you can use to allow your friends and family to answer your questions anonymously. What do they say are your strengths? Which of these strengths can you put centre stage?
Now look the part
This isn’t about being a supermodel, but it’s about looking the part and walking the talk. And out of all the things that make up a personal brand, image is one of the most important. If you think about your own experiences, chances are you’ve drawn favourable or non favourable impressions of someone based on the first few seconds of meeting them, even before you’ve EVER spoken to them.
First impressions happen in the blink of an eye (studies show people reach conclusions other people out in less than a second on things such as attractiveness, likeability and capability). And this occurs with first impressions of you, as you go out and about in the real world AND the impression you make online.
I’m a sucker for insisting that people who have, or who want to build a strong personal brand and be known in their industry as the best at, or a leader at, or someone you can really trust, or someone who is really talented, and those who want to be paid thousands to speak at events, must have a good-looking website or blog and great photography.
Increasingly in today’s world, the first place people are going to meet you is online (and even offline, the very first thing people are going to when they hear about you and your services, or about your talents, is look you up online).
Audiences are increasingly visual, preferring to look at pictures than read words. You only have to look at the runaway success of Instagram and Pintrest to realise how much people enjoy looking at pictures.
The good news is that whilst you might have a hundred things to say in words, pictures can get the message across just as well. You can say ‘I’m successful, I’m confident, I’m a leader, I’m stylish, I’m a foodie, I’m friendly, I’m approachable’ all through words, but what a lot to read! If you have a great photographer you can say all of that in a single image and get the message across instantly and you should use these images across everything: your website, your social media, your business card, your publicity.
More of you
Whatever you’re doing online, put more of yourself into it and let’s see you in action! Action shots are great. Let’s see you talking at an event in your niche, sitting on the front row at a fashion show or showing up outside Downing Street to talk to the PM.
Ok so it doesn’t have to be that impressive, but action shots provide instant visual proof and confirmation of your expertise and knowledge – and again they do so at a glance without the need for words (although you would still write words around your images). If you meet someone you admire, get a photo alongside them and write a blog post about it. If you’re at an event that serves your niche, get a photo of you standing by the entrance. It’s all about showing you are living and breathing whatever it is you are blogging about. You’re showing up. You’re connected. You’re a genuine part of that world. Behind the scenes imagery giving glimpses into your world works well too.
Authenticity is a huge buzzword in personal branding. The official definition of authenticity is ‘Real or genuine, not copied or false. True and accurate. Made to be or just look like an original.’ In the business world, brands are destroyed when it turns out they have lied about what they offer.
And it matters hugely in personal branding too. We, whether that is us as individuals or us in groups, are really good at spotting when something is fake. We get a funny feeling about a person, start to wonder if they are quite all there, we know something is off and we might start taking what someone tells us with a pinch of salt. The easiest way to avoid anyone getting these feeling about you is to not try to be something that you are not and to genuinely be, behave and act like yourself.