Branding is all about image. Tom Peters, an American business writer and author of In Search of Excellence, first used the term in 1997 to describe the concept of self-packaging. Today, personal branding is a way to market one’s self or career as a brand and establish a specific image or impression of your business or expertise in the minds of others. It is particularly important for women entrepreneurs and businesswomen who want to stand out from the crowd.
The tricky part is, how do you establish a personal brand that’s effective and will benefit your business or career? Below is a list of ways to help you make this a reality.
Include a Personal Story
Your personal story is what makes you unique. Who are you; where do you come from; what sets you apart? People learn from storytelling; the emotional and human connections involved have a powerful impact, especially to those who can relate to your story. Your first step on the road to establishing an effective personal brand is to answer all of these questions and more. You must be able to tell your story and then use what you’ve learned to represent your values and explain your expertise. Making your personal brand relatable through your experiences will make it more meaningful and memorable enough that more people will take notice.
Make it Authentic
You can’t promote yourself as someone who’s authentic unless your actions are aligned with what you preach. Authenticity isn’t something you force, but it is something you have to be conscious about in terms of building your personal brand.
For example, if you genuinely advocate helping the environment—whether it’s through educating or selling products or services—be sure that what you provide are pro-Mother Nature. This means avoiding selling or promoting things that might harm the environment. People like authenticity because it demonstrates who they can trust. If your personal brand shows authenticity, then you will certainly be more credible to more people.
Consistency plays a major role in packaging your image. For example, if you have a presence on multiple social networks, each should contain core information that makes it easy to recognise you and your brand. Use the same profile picture, the same logo, and specific colour schemes. A consistent dress style or outfit can also help make you instantly recognisable.
Consistency is also an indication of integrity for many people, and it must be reflected with what you do or say as well. Constantly changing opinions or stances on different topics or having conflicting views can have a negative effect on your personal brand and lead to more people trusting you less.
The issue of visibility covers two areas. The first is getting your brand out there—market and promote yourself online and in person. Use social media platforms and, if possible, arrange or attend targeted events where you can connect with more people and introduce yourself. You can also use paid promotion techniques such as engage a PR specialist if you really want to jumpstart your personal brand, but if you’re already active in the community, socially-engaged, and giving interviews and presentations, it may not be necessary. The other issue of visibility is that you must always assume someone is watching. Avoid doing things that might be detrimental to your image online and offline. As they say, a personal brand or image may take years to build but a single mistake can ruin it in minutes.
Spread the Word on Your Expertise
Expertise is what makes people get and stay engaged. This is the primary reason why they’ll want to hire or work with you. Position yourself as an expert. You might create a blog or guest post on other websites and regularly post articles related to your area of expertise. Educating and public speaking are other good ways to get your messages out. Participate in discussion groups on social media channels as well and through webinars so you’ll reach more of your online audience.
Don’t Forget Respect
Sadly, in today’s world, treating other people well is not all that common. Remember, running down competitors doesn’t build you up. Being rude to a Personal Assistant means you may get stonewalled next time you want to talk to her boss. The co-worker you disrespected in your last job? He or she might be the person who decides whether or not a new company hires you today. Follow the basics with everyone: be polite, return emails and phone calls promptly, show consideration and listen carefully. Also refrain from spreading rumours and false news, especially about your competitors. Remember, it’s always better to have rivals that respect you instead of enemies in your industry. And never burn bridges!
Katie Bressack, health coach, corporate wellness consultant, and American Express OPEN CEO BootCamp ambassador, noted in an interview with Business News Daily that “It takes time, energy and focus to truly create a personal brand. Entrepreneurs must not only become experts in a particular field or subject; they must also be able to sell themselves by creating their own unique value. Rachael Ray was always a great cook, but her real success started when she took things to the next level and let her personality shine through her craft.”
Women are sometimes socialised to believe that they shouldn’t self-promote. As a professional woman, however, who and what you are is critical to your success. You are the face of your business. As Bressak says, “When you speak about things that truly matter to you, you develop a sense of authenticity with your audience that can’t be matched by any formal training.”
Once you have developed your personal brand, own it!
If you need expert advice our guidance in creating a personal brand, Behind Closed Doors has the tools to help you build one that’s both effective and authentic and will help take your business or career to the next level.
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