Apple, Coca Cola, and Kate Spade: They’re all brands, and well-known ones at that. As such, simply hearing one of these company’s name is enough to inspire an entire idea of what their business represents. You know their values, personality, and identity—just from the way they portray themselves to consumers.
And I know it can seem strange to think of yourself in this same context. After all, you’re a person, not a product. But—rest assured—as a professional, you definitely have your own brand to uphold.
Needless to say, you undoubtedly want your brand to send a positive message about who you are, what you’re capable of, and what you’re all about. But, how do you accomplish that? How can you establish and foster something that seems so intangible and subjective?
Here are five steps to build your own personal brand. Follow along, and you can be proud of the reputation and identity you share with the world.
1. Understand Yourself
When a company identifies their brand personality, they didn’t just create it on the fly. It’s a strategic, well-thought out decision pieced together to be truly representative of who they want to be. Your own brand should work the exact same way.
Jot down a few adjectives that describe the way you’d like to be perceived by others. Do you want to be seen as polished and professional? Quirky and creative? Friendly and approachable? Corporate and serious? Focus on how you want to be viewed by others. This will guide all of the decisions you make in regards to personal branding.
Jot down a few adjectives that describe the way you’d like to be perceived by others.
Additionally, you should also take time to think about your target market—or who you want your brand to resonate with. Customers of your business? Industry peers and professionals? Potential employers? Ironing out these details ahead of time will make the rest of the process that much easier.
2. Market Yourself
Ask any well-known company, and they’ll quickly explain that a brand really means nothing if you don’t market it. It’s not a “build it and they will come” situation. In order to establish a well-known identity, you need to take initiative and promote it.
Just like a company markets their product or service, it’s up to you to market yourself in order to truly build a positive (and recognizable!) personal brand for yourself.
So, set up a personal website or portfolio that showcases your accomplishments and your work. Conduct a social media audit to ensure you’re upholding your brand online. Create business cards. Get professional headshots taken. Pull together the pieces of the puzzle that will accurately portray your identity and message in the world.
3. Offer Distinct Value
People are inherently selfish. We typically don’t interact with a brand unless we’re getting something from it. And, in a professional setting, this rule also holds true for people. We want to extract value from the people we engage with—whether it’s a new beneficial relationship, access to new skills or expertise, or even a career opportunity.
This concept is important to keep in mind when building your own personal brand. In order to establish a positive professional identity, you should plan to offer a distinct value for others.
In order to establish a positive professional identity, you should plan to offer distinct value.
Create awesome content for your own blog or website, or contribute thoughtful articles to an industry relevant publication. Say yes to speaking engagements or other opportunities to share your knowledge. Lend a hand with a nonprofit or a board that could benefit from your expertise. The more value you can provide, the stronger your brand will be.
There’s an important reason you’re working so hard on building your personal brand, right? It’s to give people the best sense of who you are. In the end, a brand means nothing without an audience to receive and interpret it.
I could preach about the benefits of networking all day long. But, it’s extra important when fostering your own brand. Attend networking events, conferences, seminars, get-togethers, and meetings in order to shake hands with other professionals.
Rehearse your elevator pitch ahead of time, and put your best foot forward when interacting with others so you leave a positive impression on everyone you meet. Remember, the same marketing principle holds true: Word-of-mouth is really the best form of promotion. And the only way to achieve it is by meeting plenty of your peers.
Brands aren’t stagnant. They need to constantly be tweaked, reevaluated, and improved. So don’t plan to establish your own personal brand and then allow it to collect cobwebs.
Take a look at this Apple advertisement from the 1990s:
It’s vastly different from the sleek and streamlined brand identity they’re known for today, isn’t it? They’ve adapted and changed with the times in order to continuously refresh their messaging and personality.
Your personal brand needs to do this exact same thing. Remember to constantly evaluate your brand and make any necessary tweaks, adjustments, and improvements. Much like your own evolvement, branding is a fluid process, leaving room for continuous growth and change.
It can be somewhat counterintuitive to think of yourself like a smartphone, a handbag, or some other product. However, whether you’re job hunting, starting your own business, or simply trying to foster a positive reputation, branding is just as essential for your own professional identity as it is for a product.
Follow these five steps, and you’ll be well on your way to establishing a brand identity that’s just as polished as you are.