How to Launch the Personal-Branding Process
As a brand builder, you will need to define the qualities, character, promise, core message, and essence of your brand. Every step is essential to your personal branding success as well. But personal brands benefit from the following additional considerations.
Map your starting point
Creating a personal brand begins with productive navel-gazing: What do you want people to believe and trust about you? What’s your idea of success? What will it take to get your personal brand image from where it is to where you want to be? As part of your self-searching, take these steps:
Choose an idol.
Follow what internationally acclaimed personal branding coach Liz Goodgold, author of Red Fire Branding and DUH! Marketing, calls the “cheater route” by picking a celebrity you’d like to emulate. “I wanted to be the Suze Orman of branding,” she says. Jimmy Fallon wanted to be the next Dana Carvey. Who do you want to be — or be like — and why?
Assess your core competencies.
After you name your role model, list the attributes you want to replicate, indicating which strengths you have in the bag and which you’ll need to acquire. Personal brands reflect who you are; not who you want to be. To get where you want your image to go, you need to become the person you want people to believe you are.
List five words you’d like associated with your image and then determine how well those align with what people currently believe about you. Look through recent compliments, testimonials, endorsements, and recommendations, pulling out words others use when describing your strengths.
If you work for a firm that does formal reviews, look through recent evaluations and pull out the positive descriptors. Then ask people you know and work with to quickly name the first five words that come to mind when they think of you. Find the words that others use frequently. Whether they’re the words you want to be known for or not, they represent what people believe about you.
If the words people use when describing you are in line with those you want associated with your image, pat yourself on the back; your personal branding effort is off to a good start. If not, your first goal is to redirect your brand image from where it is to where you want it to be.
Redirecting an off-target personal brand image
If those you need to influence hold erroneous or outdated beliefs about you, it’s your job to help them connect the dots between what they currently believe and what you want them to think and trust. You can’t expect them to make a leap of faith on your behalf.
Al Franken connected the dots as he migrated from comedian to senator by explaining to voters that politics and comedy have a lot in common: both help people and make lives better.
Whether you’re orchestrating a career U-turn, breaking into a new arena, or overcoming current misperceptions, realize that people aren’t going to simply abandon their beliefs about you. You have to build a bridge to transport their opinions from what they thought to what you want them to believe.
Differentiate yourself from the crowd
Competition for every job opening, freelance assignment, or plum opportunity is fierce. What makes you stand out?
What do and don’t you do? No one expects you to excel at everything, and if you say you do, you lose credibility from the get-go. Take time to list what you do better than those you’re competing with. Also list what they do and you don’t. Your lists will lead you to a definition of the market niche you serve. They’ll also lead to a more powerful personal reputation.
What about you turns heads? What makes someone pull your résumé out for closer review? What makes you a good source for a news story? What makes people want to meet you? Find the accomplishment, the ability, or the entry on your resume that sets you apart — that makes you cool and makes others want to learn more — and build your personal brand statement, your social-media description, and every personal introduction around it.
What makes you recognizable and memorable? When people describe you, what do they say? When they see you, what do they expect? What about you looks and sounds meaningfully different? Johnny Cash was the man in black. Mark Zuckerberg is the hoodie-wearing CEO. Hillary Clinton describes herself as a “pantsuit aficionado.” Each has developed a presence people have grown to expect and trust. What’s yours?
Whether online or in person, in writing or over the phone, present yourself uniquely and consistently to acquire the brand strength and trust you seek.
Set personal branding goals
Developing a personal brand is a lot like entering coordinates into a mapping app. You have to know your starting point, and you have to know where you want to go.
Following are examples of personal branding goals:
Establish yourself as an expert in your field.
Enhance your visibility and reputation within your community or industry.
Differentiate yourself based upon your unique style and talents.
Gain influence in social or business arenas.