Business Guides

Personal Brand: Why You Need One and How to Establish One

There are certain phrases or terms that seem to come out of nowhere to become part of our daily vernacular. “Personal brand” is one of those kinds of phrases. Although it has been around for years– since 1997 to be exact – it has become a current buzz word for a way to make yourself and your business stand out in a troublesome economy.

Personal Brand: Why You Need One and How to Establish One

Personal branding was coined by Tom Peters

Personal branding was coined by Tom Peters in an article “The Brand Called You” which was published in Fast Company magazine in 1997. In this article, Peters explains that it is not just big companies with big advertising budgets that need brands, but all of us.

“Today brands are everything,” Peters wrote, “and all kinds of products and services—from accounting firms to sneaker makers to restaurants—are figuring out how to transcend the narrow boundaries of their categories and become a brand surrounded by a Tommy Hilfiger-like buzz.

“Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, 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.”

When Peters first wrote about branding, the internet was still in its relative infancy. Today, however, your personal brand tends to reflect the information that’s available about you online, mostly on social media platforms. As we set out and move up in our careers, today’s competitive marketplace demands that we craft a statement that defines who we are and what we do. Having this statement – this brand – can be crucial to your success. And this is not a one-time deal. A good personal brand, when it is managed and updated as you yourself change, can continue to serve you as you change and grow in business.

Personal brand is a way to put your reputation

Socrates is credited with writing “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” A personal brand is a way to put your reputation – at least the one you desire — in writing.

A company’s brand is not a logo like Nike’s famous Swoosh or McDonald’s recognizable arches. A brand is more about character and commitment. It may not even state what the company or individual does.  Let’s look at few examples:

  • The National Football League: “To be the premier sports and entertainment brand that brings people together, connecting them socially and emotionally like no other.”
  • Virgin Records: “To be genuine, fun, contemporary, and different in everything we do at a reasonable price.”
  • Google:  “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
  • Coca-Cola: “To refresh the world, to inspire moments of optimism and happiness, and to create value and make a difference.”
  • McDonald’s: “To be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat.

Susan Chritton, the author of the book Personal Branding for Dummies, (published by For Dummies, 2012) describes a personal brand as a promise.

“Your brand promise is your unique promise of value you make to your target market that your brand will fulfill. It is the essence of what you have to offer and guides you in how you will live your personal brand. It clarifies and communicates what makes you special–what makes you different from other people. Crafting this promise requires understanding your values, interests, strengths, and personal qualities and using them to distinguish yourself.”

A personal brand then can also be viewed as a personal pledge. For successful entrepreneurs, your personal brand and your business brand blend to become one and the same. So where do you start in creating a personal brand?

First, you need to do some real thinking about what your skills and strengths are. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What do you want to reveal about your way of doing things?
  • What main impressions do you want to leave with your clients and employees?
  • How would you describe your character?
  • What do you enjoy doing?

Now work on creating a one-sentence statement that tells people who you are. Here are a few examples:

From a business recruiter: “I help people to transform their businesses, their careers and their lives.”

From an author and editor: “I help thought leaders write great books in just 90 days.”

From a career coach: “I inspire people to transform “stuck” career management plans to vibrant opportunity creating strategies. “

From a drive-through coffee company:  “We’re all about being positive and lovin’ life.”

Secondly, create a brand name.

This name can be but does not have to be uber-creative. It could be as simple as your name or your name combined with your profession. You want your clients to be able to find you and know who you are you, so keeping the name simple can be effective

Third, find and secure your online turf.

There is a chance your brand name (even if it is your real name) is already “owned” by someone else. Find out if it is available, and then buy the domain name and secure the Facebook page, Twitter account, and Google+ account. On LinkedIn, you must use your real name, but you can feature your brand name and your personal brand statement prominently in your profile.  Keep your LinkedIn profile fully fleshed-out and up-to-date.

Next, set up a website and/or a blog.

Put some time and effort into your Home page and About Us page and use it to promote your personal brand. Add a short bio at the end of your posts. Don’t feel you have to post content 24/7. Concentrate on quality rather than quality. Use you posts to build your audience and your reputation as someone who knows what she/he is talking about.

To save valuable time, think about using a social media management service to keep your social media platforms updated. There are many free choices out here, including Hootsuite, Twazzup, and Social Mention, to name a few.

Be thinking of the fact that you are selling yourself with every post. Don’t be afraid to ruffle a few feathers with your opinions if that’s what you want. Be creative but be truthful to who you are. Don’t try to create a phony persona. It will end up coming across as just that – phony.

Always think of your clients and your potential clients – as your audience. Cater your posts to what you think they would like to read. Watch for any inconsistencies in tone between all your social media accounts. Strive for a consistent feel to all of them that reflects your personal brand.

Lastly, ask for support when you need it. Getting the word out about yourself and your new branding is critical to success. Seek advice from others — both in your industry and in other industries — who have successfully branded themselves. Ask them to take a look at what you have created and to give you feedback. The key here is that you realize that you don’t have to take their advice if it doesn’t feel right. Creating a personal brand is one place it truly is “all about you.” So feel free to go with your instincts. You know yourself better than anyone else, after all.