In an age when anyone with an internet connection and the right content can reach an audience of millions, personal branding is officially a priority.
But even if you aren’t looking to be the next big influencer, your personal brand still matters.
Whether you’re working for a business or running your own, branding yourself correctly can give you a huge leg up on the competition.
When you consider that 70% of employers research candidates on social networking sites and 92% of people trust personal recommendations over other forms of marketing, building your brand might just be the career boost you need.
Whether you’re skeptical about the value of branding yourself, not sure how to start branding yourself or have already begun building your brand online, there’s a lot to learn about how to get your personal brand right. Which is why we’ve put together a few tips to help you create a brand that works for you. Ready? Let’s go!
What Branding Yourself Means (And Why It Matters)
To start, let’s clear up a few things about what personal branding is and isn’t.
Personal branding isn’t just talking about yourself non-stop. Like branding a business, personal branding is more about your audience than it is about you.
What branding yourself really means is finding the right messages, materials, and mediums to engage the people you’re looking to reach.
Whether that audience is customers for your side-hustle, other members of your industry, or companies in your field will determine what kind of content you need to create to connect with them. By building an effective personal brand, you can leverage that connection to secure more sales, thought leadership placements, and job opportunities.
But why do you need a brand to do this? Why can’t you just “be yourself” online?
Simply put, because the key to being remembered is being consistent. Think of it this way: if people can only recall an ad 50% of the time 24 hours after seeing it, what are the chances they’re going to remember you?
The Rule of 7 in marketing says that consumers need to see an ad seven times before they can remember it. The more consistent you are with your personal brand’s messages and materials, the better chance your audience will remember you. If you’re all over the place, it’s harder for people to form a cohesive impression of who you are (and why they should care).
Creating a Personal Brand Statement
Before you can start building out materials and messages for your brand content, you need to do a little self-reflection—with a personal brand statement.
When businesses are branding themselves, they create three core principles that act as the foundation of their brand identity: vision, mission, and values. The same goes for when you brand yourself.
Vision is your ‘what’. Ask yourself, what is the big goal you want to accomplish in life. Want to make AI accessible? Make people laugh? Create world peace? There’s your vision.
While having an all-encompassing vision can be inspiring, it’s not always practical. That’s where your mission comes in. Your mission is how you’re going about accomplishing your vision. Usually, your mission will be directly related to your career—but your side hustle or hobby can be just as important.
Values are your why. They’re the core beliefs that drag you out of bed in the morning to work on your mission and vision. Take some time here—the things that truly motivate us aren’t always obvious (just ask any psychologist).
Bringing these three together into a personal brand statement that captures your mission, vision, and values will give you the basis for your core messages. It’s these core messages that you’ll be able to use in social media posts, customer outreach, thought leadership, your personal website, job interviews, projects at work, and anything else you might do.
To get philosophical with this part of personal branding, if you want others to know you, you must first know yourself.
Building Your Brand Strategy
After a little self-reflection, it’s time to start planning. There are a lot of components that go into creating a cohesive brand strategy, but we’re going to focus on these five: goal, audience, messages, channels, and content.
Your personal branding strategy needs to start with a goal. What are you looking to accomplish? Why are you going through the process of putting together a personal brand? Consider what you’re really looking to do with your personal brand—whether that’s becoming an industry influencer, growing your business, pivoting your career path, or just staying recruiter-ready.
Once you know what you’re looking to get out of your personal brand, start considering who would be the best audience to help you accomplish this goal. If you’re not sure who you’re trying to reach, you won’t know how to create messaging that engages them.
You need to be targeted here. As much as you might see bigger as better, the rise of micro-influencers has taught us that having a smaller, more active audience can actually be better for brands.
Which brings us to the next step, once you know your goal and your audience, it’s time to decide what to say. Your brand messaging will be based mainly on your mission, vision, and values, but it needs to be tailored to your goals and audience.
Brands are built with their audiences—create messaging that speaks to yours.
Having a few core ideas you can use to direct your engagement efforts will keep your brand focused on who you are and what your audience wants. By aligning both, your audience receives something of value, while helping you get closer to your goals.
Next, you need to choose the right channels to promote your personal brand. These channels will be based around a combination of everything we just discussed. Where your goals, audience, and messaging come together is where you’ll find your ideal channel.
Aside from providing a place for people to share their vacation pictures, political opinions, and pop culture criticism, social media is also providing a place for people to build their brands. With more than 3 billion social media users active in 2019, it’s fair to say there’s an audience for everything—no matter how niche.
Big social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are the usual suspects, but that’s not where the search stops. Other sites like Medium, Vimeo, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Myspace (yes, it still exists), might not be top of mind, but depending on your audience and message, they might be even more impactful for building your personal brand.
But don’t just limit yourself just to social media. Building a website or creating a newsletter for your brand can help you grow beyond the limits of third-party sites. It also provides you with real estate online that you can truly own—outside of any social network.
Last but not least, the type of content you create for that channel also needs to be considered. If you’re in any way considering video as part of your personal branding strategy—which you should be—look into the video hosting or linking capabilities of various channels.
Different channels also have different image requirements, limits for text length, and other constraints. As you build out your materials, design them with your chosen channels in mind to ensure they always look their best.
If this all sounds like a lot to consider, that’s because it is. But the more work you put into creating a targeted personal branding strategy, the more likely you are to actually engage the audience you’re looking to reach.
Personal Branding Materials To Get You Started
Now that we’ve talked about finding your brand and your strategy, it’s time to get out there and bring your brand into the world. By building a brand identity for yourself, you can start building recognition through repetition. The more you focus on repeating the key messages and visuals of your brand identity, the easier it will be for your audience to remember you.
If you’re looking for how you can get started, here are some materials you might consider creating:
- Central messages - what ideas do you want to be known for?
- Voice - what aspects of your personality do you want to highlight?
- Logo - how would you capture your brand in a logo design?
- Color palette - what colors enhance your messages?
- Typography - what font suits the words you say?
- Shapes and imagery - what’s the look and feel of your brand?
When you look at successful examples of personal branding—like Neil Patel or Kylie Jenner—you’ll notice a cohesive look and feel to the content they produce. Whether it’s Neil’s signature orange, or Kylie's ever-present pout, having a defined brand identity is what makes their posts unique. That consistency also makes their posts identifiable at a glance—something invaluable on social media’s infinite feed.
Whether you’re blogging on your personal website, posting an article on LinkedIn, or creating a post for Instagram, using these brand elements consistently will help to differentiate you stand out from all the other content your audience sees online every day.
Go Brand Yourself
Now that you know how to go about branding yourself, it’s time to get to the hard work of actually doing it. But as you build your brand there’s one thing you should keep in mind: your brand won’t be static, because neither are you.
As you grow and your goals change, your messages, materials, and mediums will too. To help you and your personal brand reach your full potential, be prepared to revisit this process about once a year—to create a personal brand as dynamic as you are.