7 Things You Need To Know About Building Your Personal Brand

Last week, I was invited to talk at Marie Claire Future Shapers Live event in Central London about personal branding. I sat on a panel alongside some brilliant women to discuss why we need to be thinking about our personal brands, how to build one, what to do next as well as answering questions from the audience! 

I should have recorded the event as there were so many things said where I thought ‘yes I must share this one with my own audience’! But here’s some pertinent points for you!

You are your own PR agent: All of us have to consider that we are own PR agent of ourselves, leaving digital footprints all over the internet. If you listen to the American digital guru Gary Vaynerchuk, you’ll hear him talk about how many of us even go to places/concerts and events just to take the photos to deploy so we can message who we are (although noone needs to admit that right now!). It is the same as making choices about the outfits we wear to tell people who we are. 

All of us are our own publishers: We are so lucky! We don’t have to wait anymore for newspaper editors or tv producers to agree to feature us! Social media and websites mean we are all publishers. Even if you only have one reader, you can publish to that reader! 

Look the part: Even simple steps like professional photography, a clear vision, a simple website that outlines what you do can have a fast and dramatic impact in how you are perceived and the opportunities you get – and I see this all the time with the clients I work with. They go from ‘nobody’ to getting great opportunities to speak, sit on panels and write for major online brands and the only difference is their online presentation of themselves! 

Stories matter: Look at the success of my friend Vicki Psarias, aka Honest Mum. She is pretty much the UK’s leading parenting/lifestyle blogger, the only one that I know in this space who is making a 6 figure income and getting to do things like be ambassadors for airlines. OK so Vicki is super savvy and very business minded BUT her whole brand is built around the stories she tells about her life and being a mum. You don’t have to be super personal in the way Vicki sometimes is, but you do need to tell stories and share your own experiences. Note to self: I must do more of this!

It is not just about online: The list of where people all the things that can trigger other people into generating an impression about you is unlimited, but just consider these places: your website, your social media profiles, your email signature, your tweets, your Facebook updates, your CV and that’s just online. Add in the rest of the world and people might: speak to you on the phone, see you give a presentation, talk to you on Skype, ask you what you do, note your accent, hear someone else talking about you. Oh yes it’s relentless and if you think about all the ways in which you judge and form impressions of others then all of that is just the start of it. But none of this is that new or a revolution. We all understand the principles of making a good impression. That’s why we all get massive cringe after getting totally rat-assed at the work Christmas party! The only thing that has changed is that the impression you make, if you embrace online, now reaches far more people than you could in the ‘olden days.’ 

Everyone wants a personal branding shortcut: But personal brands take time and patience to build, it takes time to understand your own personal brand and put that out consistently. If I look at my own experience building my personal brand, I’m two years in and yes I have traction but I’ve not ‘arrived’ and all of this is very much a work in progress.

However one short cut that I use with my web design clients is to create for them a mission that is bigger than they can ever achieve. ie if you are a personal trainer, you might have a mission that you can help every mum aged 40 and above have the figure she had when she was 22. In reality you can never achieve this and it doesn’t matter if you do or don’t achieve this. No-one is going to come knocking in 5 years to see if you did achieve it. But like a company mission statement, a personal brand mission statement makes you more easily and instantly understandable and memorable. You’re not just any old personal trainer, you’re the one with the bold mission.

You have to be prepared to have opinions and create content: If you want to be a church mouse and not speak out then you might as well forget about building your personal brand right now. This is thought leadership, and it starts on your own website/social profiles and aggregator sites like the Huffington post and can lead to opportunities in traditional media/commentary on tv etc.

One thing I see all the time is that it’s quite scary for people to believe they are allowed to have opinions, or that their opinions are valid. They say are they allowed to comment as an expert in their industry without having been appointed and anointed officially as an expert to do this? But anointed by who? No great g*d is coming along to grant you permission. Not any more. And even if they were, why bother waiting?

The world has turned on its axis. We now have to anoint ourselves and just get on with it using the new distribution tools at our disposal (ie the internet/social media/podcasts etc).

What’s your view on building your personal brand? Leave me a comment or drop me a line and let me know what has worked and hasn’t worked for you!

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Great summary. This is one I really struggled with. I’m an artist and i felt my ‘brand’ should be all about the work, rather than about me. And that’s tricky too, because my work is constantly evolving. But the more I create and share, whether that be on Instagram or my blog, I can see how all the threads tie together and that constantly evolving is a GOOD thing! I’ve just shared an edited blooper reel to those on my mailing list – I hesitated because it’s not ‘professional’, but someone I spoke with last week said “be personal, not professional” and it made my teenage son laugh so out it went. I’ve already had some lovely emails back. Some people may unsubscribe, but at the end of the day it’s far too much effort to pretend to be someone you’re not. That’s what personal branding is about for me.

    Love the idea of a mission statement! Mine would be to encourage people to enrich their lives with real art and feel confident about following their instincts. Might need to work on the wording, but that’s it in a nutshell – too many people have a sense that original art isn’t for them or feel wary of it, but I’ve seen how much pleasure it can bring people.

  • Honest Mum says:

    Thanks for your kind words about me here Natasha. What an incredibly informative and inspiring day. You’re right that creating a personal brand takes time and that having a broad mission is key. Mine is to help every mum become an entrepreneurial #mumboss (and feel more confident about themselves, in general). That’s what drives me. I want to show others what’s possible and give them the means and know-how to do it. You help so many with your insight into tech and PR and write and share in such an engaging way. I know I will always learn something new when I come to your site or via social/when watch your FB Live. I trust in your voice and that’s the most important part of being a personal brand. Integrity.

    I think it’s normal to feel scared about sharing online, it’s just vital to push through that fear and make a start. Once you film that vlog or write that first post, the fear dissipates and you continue. A psychologist once told me that fear and excitement are the same emotion. It’s easy to get them confused!

  • How interesting – and well timed for me! I was at Marie Claire’s event last year, when it was called At Work Live, and that was where I first learned I could actually control my own “brand”! It was at a talk by Linzi Boyd that blew my mind! Since then I’ve been working on tweeting/instagramming/tagging my name on my blog posts, as well as digging up old social media accounts (MySpace?!) to delete cringey old photos and posts! One year later, I am a lot happier with what you see when you Google my name, but it is still very much a work in progress. Great tip re the bold mission statement – perhaps I’ve been too cautious with mine so far – I might change it to “helping all women work together”! 🙂 Thanks Natasha!