What is a personal brand? & how do you build one

By Hannah Kingston

Thursday October 1, 2020

illustration-of-man-telling-a-story

A personal brand is how you promote yourself to the people in your industry and further afield. It a unique combination of personality, skills and experience that you bring to the table. Essentially, it’s the way you want the world to see you.

Creating a personal brand can at first seem like an intimidating or almost strange exercise. You might be thinking that creating a personal brand is something that only famous people need to do, indeed a lot of celebrities have whole teams of people working on how the world perceives them.

Did you know that creating a personal brand can actually help you in your career path, even if you are not a celebrity?

A personal brand helps you to position yourself as an authority in your industry. It helps you to elevate your credibility, and differentiate yourself from the competition. Working on your personal branding can ultimately advance your career, increase your circle of influence and make a larger impact at and outside the office.

So, how do you build a personal brand?

Creating a personal brand doesn’t require a team, it’s something that you can craft over time, but there are some things that you should bear in mind before casting your net out to gain more exposure.

Identify what genuinely interests you

If you want to become a  respected expert in your field, you are going to need to pick a topic or subject matter that genuinely interests you, because ultimately, you will be embarking on a long journey to get to where you want to be. You need to be genuine and part of crafting a personal brand is finding what truly interests you, and making it your mission to get other people to see that passion. When we think about personal branding, we might think about influencers selling products on Instagram, or celebrities advocating for certain organisations or products, but this also extends to the public sector and government. What is your passion and ultimately how can you position yourself as the trusted person within your department?

Find a niche within the niche

Anyone could say that they have an interest in education, infrastructure or the environment. If you are truly dedicated to building a personal brand, you need to find the niche within the niche and get focused on your area of expertise. It makes it easier for others to call upon you for public speaking gigs, panel talks and podcasts. It also helps you to build your narrative and reach a more engaged audience.

Be consistent in your branding

Think about a few public figures you admire. Can you pinpoint what makes them successful? More often than not, you’ll find it’s the fact that along with their passion and great ability to communicate, they are also consistent. They don’t make contradictory claims or change their mind about what matters most to them. They have a niche subject that matters to them and they are dedicated to telling their story in a linear way. A simple everyday example of remaining consistent as an example would be that John Smith, who works in the health sector has long been an advocate for vegetarianism, he is seen as an expert on the subject matter and is often invited to offer his insights in the media. John has been advocating for vegetarianism for five years, suddenly at his next panel talk, he says that the best diet for health is eating mainly meat and few vegetables. Changing your messaging after consistently building on it is confusing for your audience, and where possible should be avoided unless you know that your change of heart is somewhat permanent. A personal brand that works is one that stays consistent.

Find a platform

Your platform doesn’t have to be social media but it can definitely help. To keep your personal brand consistent, try to map out a content calendar of sorts and always remember to be careful with wording. Social media can be great for visibility but it can have its perils too. You want the voice you are using on social media to be true to you and what you believe in but be careful. If it helps, know that most marketing teams will debate on the right tone and way to say something to their audience so you should do the same. Other than looking after your own content, make sure that you are properly reading any statuses before liking or retweeting them as that can get anyone into hot water fast.

Outside of social media, you can find other platforms such as public debates or panel talks and apply to speak on them, a little goes a long way so keep trucking along on putting yourself out there and making connections to help build your brand.

Make a positive impact

Making a positive impact can involve volunteering, donating or highlighting an organisation that is doing something for the greater good. You can make a positive impact by doing something philanthropic or becoming a mentor. Doing something selfless makes you feel good, but it also makes you look good. Doing positive things for others as well as projecting positivity within your personal brand helps you to build positive associations with the version of yourself that you are using in a professional setting and at home.

Keep reading: 10 ways to upskill in your current role 

Keep reading: Here’s why emotional intelligence matters at work

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