What Is A Personal Brand & Why Should You Cultivate One?
As consumers, most of us have no trouble identifying major brands and what they stand for. We all know that Apple is innovative, Nike is fearless and Lululemon touts a healthy lifestyle (with a side of see-through yoga pants).
Though it might not be as easy to articulate, we identify with celebrity brands as well. One selfie at a time – Kim Kardashian has built an empire on being vain, and Donald Trump is pushing every boundary as he fights to become perhaps the most politically incorrect candidate this country has ever seen (See What PR Pros Can Learn From Donald Trump).
So, what exactly do you have in common with Kim Kardashian and Apple’s proclivity for self-promotion? Maybe more than you think, now that the term “personal brand” is creeping its way into the mainstream consciousness. Carving out your own kind of swagger isn’t just for the rich and famous anymore, and the savviest entrepreneurs are talking about how to develop your brand both on and offline.
Brands Aren’t Just For Companies Anymore.
If you’re like me, developing brand identities is part of your job, not your personal life. You’ve worked hard to find your brand or client’s niche in the market, and you know exactly what it brings to the table. You know who talks about your brand on Twitter and you can easily rattle off the names the top five influencers. Industry news? You’re on it – your inbox is full of industry newsletters and you don’t miss a beat.
For many, this required obsession with brand identity also means building reputation on social media. In a social-facing role, you might be curating content, managing pages or analyzing ROI. Repping a brand on social media is certainly a skill that has to be honed, and at times it can feel like a full time job just to keep up with the changing trends.
It’s clear that you understand what goes into creating a strong brand identity, and why it’s important to set your brand or client apart from others. But have you thought about your own brand as an individual, or as a professional? Your peers certainly are – in just one month’s time, July to August, there have been over 24,000 Tweets mentioning the term “personal brand.”
The idea of curating a personal or professional brand has gone from non-existent to a sizzling hot buzzword. In addition to the droves of people Tweeting about it, take a look at the prevalence of people searching the term “personal brand” over the last ten years. It’s clear that this is an idea that’s gaining traction in a big way.
A simple search for related articles will tell you heavy hitters in the business industry – think Forbes, Inc. and Fast Company – are penning articles on how to master the art of personal branding. What’s the most shared content? A Forbes article titled “Why Developing a Personal Brand is Essential for Every Entrepreneur” – shared over 22,000 times on social media.
So what exactly is a personal brand, and why should you spend time creating one?
You Actually Already Have A Personal Brand.
The things you put out into the universe, whether that’s through social media, networking, or your company website are – whether you know it or not – pieces of your own personal brand puzzle. We Instagram our fancy dinners, share the latest hilarious cat videos on Facebook, or maybe we just lurk on Twitter because we like to read the headlines.
What most of us might not think about is how our social media activity effects how we are perceived, and that not putting anything out there can speak just as loudly. Social media is like a free megaphone for you to amplify your strengths. Why not use it to position yourself as a contributor in your field?
[Tweet “What Is Personal Branding? #ProfessionalDevelopment”]
In a recent article for Fast Company, Elizabeth Segran put it well: “People don’t know anything about you besides what you tell them in conversation, what others say about you, or the content you produce online. And since you have some control over how you will be perceived, it makes sense to devote some time to being strategic about it.”
Strategic – what does this mean? Personal branding experts will tell you that a key to developing your own niche and directing the type of content you’ll put out there is to first determine what you actually know and care about.
Kevan Lee of Buffer Social suggests asking yourself the following questions:
- What is the one thing that everyone says you rock at?
- What are your passions and interests?
- What do you read about most often online?
- Will you still be interested in this particular area six months or a year from now?
The question that I would add to this list is:
- What topics can you speak with authority on based on your career experience?
The internet is a big place. Narrowing your focus to an area that makes you feel passionate and knowledgeable makes it easier to curate content you care about. Identifying what you’re interested in and beginning to research related topics is an excellent first step – and it can also be pretty fun.
Working towards delivering consistently interesting content will show your coworkers, potential clients and future employees that you know what you’re talking about. It might lead to a new business prospect, a promotion – or even just a new project at work that requires a certain skillset.
Read my next post on building your personal brand both on and offline.
If you’d like to follow me on my own personal branding journey (which, I’ll tell you now, will be far from perfect), follow me on Twitter – @NessadeBruijn.
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