Personal Branding 101

Quick — describe yourself in fewer than five words.

Could you do it? If not, you might want to consider working on your personal brand.

A personal brand, much like a commercial brand, is a symbol of your unique essence that differentiates you from the crowd. Yes, in one sense each of us really is as unique as a snowflake. But to people in positions of power — hiring managers or clients who don’t have the time to learn your specific nuances — a lot of us have the tendency to look the same.

This is where a personal brand comes in handy.

What can a personal brand do for you? The question is what can’t it do for you. Developing and using a personal brand not only makes you more memorable, but it can help you showcase your best skills and qualities to large groups of people and create a meaningful impact right where you need it.

The best brands tell compelling stories, and that is exactly what your personal brand should do.

There is a lot of complicated advice out there about developing your personal brand, but the essence of that information can be boiled down into one statement:

Your brand is who you are, how you look, and how you act. So how do you start creating your personal brand? Take some time to consider the following questions, and bonus points if you ask friends and colleagues to weigh in.

Who You Are

An essential part of any brand is defining what the brand is, or what it means. What skill or service do you offer, and how is it different than your competition? For example, there’s a big difference between being a self-proclaimed shoe maker and a shoe designer. Both skills have the same essential function — creating footwear — but the latter sounds more refined than the former. Think about how you’re presenting yourself to the world and what adjustments you can make to better align yourself with your intended audience.

How You Act

Your actions, from the words you choose or the decisions you make, have perhaps the biggest impact on the way your personal brand will appear to others. If you look at commercial brands, for example, actions have a bigger influence on public perception than anything else. No matter what the website says or how attractive the commercials are, a company that engages in behaviours that are destructive to the environment or to humans becomes associated with those negative actions. On the scale of personal brands, this means treating others respectfully, using social media intelligently, and performing your job duties to the best of your ability.

How You Look

It’s easy to get caught up in outward appearances when it comes to personal brand, but remember that the visual is meant to be style, not substance. Nonetheless, making a great visual impression can play an important part in telling a compelling, memorable brand story. What does this mean? Don’t skimp on your business cards, resume, stationery, website, portfolio, or even your wardrobe. All of these items are extensions of you, and should ideally serve as shorthand for all that you stand for.

When you know exactly who you are, how you look, and how you act, you’ll be able to communicate your core message to others in a concise, memorable way — challenge yourself to five words or fewer! And when you can get the attention of the people who matter most, you are empowered to share your unique gifts with the world.

Pa Joof