When you last searched for a new job, how did you find the process? Was it hard work to get interviews? Was it nerve-wracking going through the interview stages and knowing there were several people at least as good as you going for the job?
What if you had a head start? What if your personal brand meant that the job opportunity came to you and you already stood head and shoulders above anybody else suitable for the role?
Personal branding can help take the complexity of the job market out of the equation, it can help you progress in your career faster and can even pave the way to becoming your own boss.
Looking at it from a different perspective. Are you working in a role that is merely comfortable or perhaps even something you don’t actually enjoy? It is all too easy to move through life in a comfortable manner, with a comfortable job that pays the bills. It is also frighteningly easy to get stuck in a job that you really don’t like, but that props up a comfortable life.
It doesn’t need to be this way. Increasingly, there are more opportunities for everyone to have a career and life that they love and for those things to come to them rather than having to search for them.
Personal branding is a way to both find your purpose and to attract a career and life you love. It’s important to stand out from the crowd and growing a personal brand around what you are great at, what you love doing and what solves people’s problems will help you do just that.
If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to be growing your personal brand. The internet has found its feet and is being used to its full potential. Personal brands are becoming increasingly important in making a success of your career now and in the future.
The question isn’t “should I be growing my personal brand?” anymore, it is “how do I make sure I grow my personal brand so that I don’t miss opportunities?”.
What is a Personal Brand?
We are familiar with company branding, it gets shoved down our throats every day! But personal branding is usually overlooked, yet just as important.
“All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.“Tom Peters for Fast Company
If you consider the example of Richard Branson, you don’t automatically think “Oh he’s that guy that works for Virgin”. It’s more likely the other way round. Virgin is known as the company that Richard Branson owns. He has spent a lot of effort creating his personal brand so that it stands on it’s own two feet, not propped up by his company.
When you, or a potential future employer or customer, look online for your full name, what do you find? Possibly a lot of other people with the same name ranking before you, but when you do find yourself, is it positive? Is it accurate? Is it interesting?
When someone walks up to you at a conference and asks what you do, what do you tell them? Do people walk up to you in the first place?
Personal branding is a way of making all of these scenarios work out positively for you. It’s a foundation that if you get right will underpin everything you do in your career and life. Growing a personal brand is one of the most powerful tools for success in the modern world.
Ultimately, a personal brand is meant to show the world that you are an expert in your field, but also that you are authentic, credible and valuable.
It is about being visible to the right people and making sure those people have a good feeling about you being the person that can solve their problems.
Why is Personal Branding Important?
When you work for a company and just do what is required of you it limits your company and yourself. Companies are not foolish to believe that their employees will show them loyalty these days. They know you will have ambitions, they just want to get the best out of you right now.
By growing your personal brand you become an important person in your industry. This benefits both you and the company you work for.
It is important to see yourself as a brand, not just a cog in the machine. If you become the known expert in your field then you will automatically start building connections. The modern route to success is dependent on your connections, it’s very hard to do it on your own, and why should you?
If your personal brand precedes you then you will find it easier to get a new job, start your own business or get more customers.
Having an online presence through your personal brand is a vital element in ensuring people know about you. Everyone uses the internet to reinforce their opinions (or create them in the first place) and if you can be the person they find to guide them then they will become a fan.
If you build up a tribe of fans then you have so much potential to go in whatever direction you wish with your career. You even have a customer base to start your own business if that’s what you want to do.
How To Start Growing Your Brand
It starts right now. Just an understanding that you are no longer an employee or a business owner.
You are a brand.
What is your personal brand telling the world right now? Look yourself up on Google. What do your search results tell you about yourself?
“Personal branding is about managing your name — even if you don’t own a business — in a world of misinformation, disinformation, and semi-permanent Google records. Going on a date? Chances are that your “blind” date has Googled your name. Going to a job interview? Ditto.“Tim Ferriss
There is always room for improvement, no matter how much effort you have put into your personal brand but it is good to see where you are starting from.
Recognise that there is vast potential to become known and that from where you are now, it is simply a case of growing your brand one step at a time. It’s not a big and scary mission, it’s simply a case of growing your brand one step at a time (yes, I just repeated that on purpose!).
It will be a long road to reach influencer status, but it’s a never ending road and every day your brand will be bigger than the day before.
So what should you actually start with? Yourself.
Looking at Yourself
Regardless of whether you want to build a brand around what you are already doing or something completely new, you need to believe in what it is that you do.
If you are trying to promote your brand when you don’t even believe in what you do yourself then the authenticity just isn’t going to be there. Do you work in an area that you are really passionate about and are proud of?
A simple way to start building your brand is to find your passions, values and strengths. If you can define these well and understand them then you can find where your ideal industry, niche or micro-niche is and start working towards being that space. As well as looking at strengths, look at your weaknesses and know where you need to improve. As well as your passions, you should know what you would rather avoid doing.
You want to end up as the go-to expert in your field and if that means starting with a smaller field and building up from there, then that’s where you begin your journey.
The way I help people do this is by brainstorming what these things are for them (their values, passions, strengths and weaknesses). We would then distill down to the really core attributes that point towards exactly what they love doing and what they want to be known for.
Find Your Hero
The world is just too big and noisy to just scattergun your efforts at making yourself known. It is important to be specific about what you want to be known for, as you discovered in the last section, but also who you are talking to.
Now that you know your niche, you need to know who is looking for a guide or leader within that niche. The best way to do this is to get inside the mind of your target audience through an empathy map.
An empathy map is a simple exercise that makes you think about the feelings, questions, needs and pain points your target audience (we like to call them our ‘hero’) experiences. You are aiming to know your hero so that you can position yourself as their guide by solving their problems. Think of it as Yoda guiding Luke Skywalker towards becoming a Jedi master (if that helps!)
You will come out of an empathy map exercise with a strong vision of your target that you can continually refer back to as you build your brand and position yourself in your niche.
This is the person you will be writing to when you create content and share interesting ideas.
Build Your Platforms and Promote Your Online Brand
In order to build your brand online you will need to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of your niche and the problems your hero encounters. This requires some form of platform upon which you can offer content.
The usual thought is immediately that you must be on social media getting seen my lots of people and that is certainly something you need to do. First, though it is important to build your hub of knowledge in the form of a personal brand website.
With your own platform you have a lot more control than with social media platforms. You can build up your body of content on your website ‘hub’ and then use social media as your ‘spokes’ that distribute your content widely.
Don’t worry, this does not need to be fancy to begin with. Take the example of Nat Eliason who has a large following, yet a very simple website. If you want to create something fancy there’s nothing wrong with that, but be aware it is not essential.
Once you have that hub platform you can create content that solves the problems you found your hero had in the empathy map exercise. Never stop trying to get feedback from your heroes. Listen to the questions they ask, see what content they prefer, ask them questions directly. They will give you so many ideas for your content that you know will be popular.
If you want to expand your reach then social media is a valuable tool. Use social media strategically, don’t simply dump countless posts without direction.
Not all social media is created equally. It’s important to find the most appropriate for your niche. For example, if you are writing about accountancy then the visually dependant platform of Pinterest will probably not help you out. LinkedIn and Twitter would be more your bag. If you were into fashion then Pinterest and Instagram would work.
Use social media regularly, but be consistent across all platforms that you use. It’s ok to recycle content from your website onto various other platforms, in fact that is a key strategy! It’s also a good idea to use the same photo (professionally taken of course!) of yourself across all platforms so that you become instantly recognisable to those who are looking for you.
Promotion is not everyone’s cup of tea, but is vital to becoming known. If you really struggle with it you can hire a social media manager to deal with a lot of it. There are even ways to automate sharing from your website to social media to make the whole thing simpler.
One thing you cannot delegate that will rapidly grow your brand is networking. Building personal connections will help you create a network of people that know and respect you for what you do.
Create a Community of True Fans
Over a decade ago writer and futurist Kevin Kelly came up with the theory of 1000 true fans that predicted the way online business would go. It basically assumes that all you need to do is gain 1000 true fans, the people that would follow you anywhere, to have the basis of a successful business.
The same can be said about your personal brand. Not only will you have a ready made customer base if you want to start your own company, you will also have a community that will shout from the rooftops on your behalf. With 1000 true fans your brand will be growing all by itself.
“If people like you they will listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.“Zig Ziglar
How do you acquire these true fans? You just keep doing all the things we’ve been talking about, relentlessly, and it will happen.
“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”Steve Martin
At the same time, make sure there is a way for your true fans to follow you and they will sign up for anything you offer.
Your one essential tool for building your community of fans is your email list. This is where your personal brand site really comes into its own. If everyone is being directed to the amazing content on your website and you help solve a problem for them or give them value in some way then they will want to keep in touch to keep the value coming.
They will happily exchange their email on the promise of future value from you. You just need to provide a form on your website for them to do this.
Sometimes you can convert people into fans by offering something in exchange for their email address and then continue to give them value every time they receive an email from you.
Give them consistent value by sending out a regular newsletter that continues to highlight your best content as well as offering additional value in the form of current news, important insights or even something you found entertaining. Sign up to Nat Eliason’s newsletter to see a great example of this in action. James Clear (writer of the book ‘Atomic Habits’) also has a unique and valuable newsletter.
You Don’t Need to do this Alone
Many people build their personal brands by themselves and do a great job, but these people are few and far between. You don’t need to do this alone and there are a variety of ways in which you can get assistance along the way.
It’s important to know that you can ask for help, even if it is just a friend that offers reassurance as you grow. I know it’s sometimes hard to ask for help or to delegate some tasks, but there’s really no reason for this.
There are so many ways you can speed things up by outsourcing. Building a personal brand involves so many different skills and tasks that you are never going to be an expert at everything, unless you are a personal branding coach! With this in mind it is usually a good idea to think about investing in yourself (and your brand!).
Here are just a few areas where delegating some of the process would work really well:
- Building a personal brand website
- Social media management
- Content writing
Aside from the things you can get help with and delegate to others, there is another important thing that you can’t do alone: Networking!
The single most beneficial thing you can do to build your brand is making connections with the right people. That is not to say that you are only looking for the right people, you need to spread your net far and wide in order to catch the fish that really make a difference to your success.
These connections will add up over time and multiply as your brand is recommended by one person to the next. In amongst those people will be like minded individuals that you can collaborate with to grow each others brands and speed the process up.
Build those human connections and your brand will grow exponentially!
Building up a personal brand is an exercise that will reward you long into the future. It may be a slow build-up initially, along with some hard work, but as your brand grows it will start to take on a life of its own (guided by you of course!).
If you are known for what you do (in a good way) then you never need to struggle to further your career. This is when you can make giant strides towards success and achieve things that you thought you could only observe a lucky few doing.
If you want to learn more about personal branding then feel free to get in touch. I am a personal branding coach that has changed the fortunes of many talented people that needed a little extra help becoming an influencer in their industry.