I first encountered the term “personal brand” over a decade ago. At the time, I worked with an individual who could always be counted upon to incorporate the latest “buzz words” and concepts into his daily interactions. The two of us were meeting with our boss at the time, and he made a passing reference to the personal brand I had established for myself, which included certain work habits we had been discussing in general terms. After the meeting (and getting over my initial reaction of, “Huh?!”), I went back to my desk and started running some Internet searches to better understand the way in which working long hours, caring about grammar, and having a certain overall love of words had created a so-called personal brand for myself that apparently led other employees to expect to see those qualities in me even before I was formally introduced to them.
What did my search results yield?
My co-workers were right. A person can, indeed, consciously and/or unconsciously create “personal brand” qualities by regularly professing belief in those values and trying to support those words with accompanying actions on a regular basis.
In this instance, I was very fortunate because I was not the least bit uncomfortable with my so-called brand profile, which (while hardly very charismatic or exciting) was nevertheless useful in an occupational environment and had me liking the description well enough to try my best to sustain this image over time.
The lesson to be learned from this message?
Whether you are aware or not, you may already have a personal brand. If you do, learn what the brand is. If you are content with the brand you discover, find ways to reinforce that image in people’s minds. If you are not happy with the perception of you, begin to plot a strategy to create a more desirable personal brand.
Just remember – as is the case with all branding – the one you attempt to create must resonate with others and be consistent with their experience of you. Otherwise, the brand won’t be “sticky” enough to last.
Official Definitions (as found on personalbrand.com)
Personal Brand: “A personal brand is a widely-recognized and largely-uniform perception or impression of an individual based on their experience, expertise, competencies, actions and/or achievements within a community, industry, and/or marketplace at large.”
Personal Branding: “The conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact.”
BTW – Yes, I know the above definitions have some grammatical agreement issues, but using a direct quote means you reproduce as is. (However, I’m including this thought to show you one of the ways in which I can reinforce my personal brand, which includes being a bit of a grammarian!!)
Why Bother? What Can a Personal Brand Do for Your Small Business?
When someone is closely identified with a company, the personal brand of that individual and the brand of the business tend to interact and merge.
For example . . .
When I hear the name of the international corporate conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, I see the face of Warren Buffett, not any of the names and logos of the hundreds of companies owned by the parent. Consequently, Berkshire’s brand has become – at least in part – synonymous with the personal brand of Mr. Buffett (a no-nonsense image based on facts and accomplishments, a brand willing to live by results . . . not expectations, a brand that embodies basic fundamental values, and a brand that is not swayed by transient fads).
Just check out the web site at www.berkshirehathaway.com. Simple. Basic. Not self-Important. Relying upon substance, not style to win audience.
Need another example?
Apple and Steve Jobs. If Microsoft and Bill Gates define the mainstream, Apple and Jobs were the contrarians that carved out a place – in part – by excelling at qualities not associated with the mainstream, including personal style and individual ease of use. In other words, Jobs’ personality merged with Apple’s identity.
Consider the small businesses you have known. I suspect that many (if not most) of these companies have a brand that reflects many of the same qualities as the owner. Therefore, efforts to build your company’s brand can be enhanced by attempts to establish your own personal brand.
How Can You Go About Building Your Personal Brand?
You start by making sure you live the qualities you want associated with you personally. Otherwise, the brand won’t resonate and won’t stick. Then, you can consider taking some very conscious actions to cement your brand:
- Embrace networking. Use every opportunity to meet people and introduce yourself and your brand.
- Grow your online presence. Use blogs, forums, and social media (such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) to create a voice and personality for your brand.
- Ask for recommendations. Testimonials are a great way of creating trust and enhancing the authenticity of your brand.
- Get featured in the media. Position yourself as an expert in your field and make yourself available to reporters. Over time, more and more will turn to you for comments.
- Participate in forums, conferences, and events that feature your area of expertise. Personal contacts of this kind will get your name and face out and into the public eye.
Remember, you must live your brand consistently and practice these strategies regularly. Some people even find the act of creating personal vision and mission statements to be useful. Regardless, your goal is to create an identity that will stay associated with you over time, though you should make sure your personal brand continues to evolve and change as the world does.
Bottom line – A Quote from Pia Silva
“With so much content and so many small businesses popping up online, a brand that connects to a person’s face is much easier to trust faster. It takes less time and effort to build a relationship with a personal brand as compared to a business brand.”