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What is a Personal Brand?

In the earlier days of advertising, a brand was product produced by a particular company under a specific name. For example, Tide is a brand of laundry detergent manufactured by Proctor and Gamble. That company also makes Bounce, a brand of fabric softener.

Now, it’s not enough for your product to have a recognizable brand. As the leader of a company that offers goods and services, you also need a personal brand. In today’s culture, many companies are recognizable by their leaders’ personal brands. Think of the Apple brand, and you think of Tim Cook or Steve Jobs. Walmart is synonymous with its founder, Sam Walton. And you can’t see a Nike swoosh without thinking of Michael Jordan. See what I mean?

So what exactly is a personal brand? And how do you develop a good one? Great questions. Let’s look at the answers.

What Is A Personal Brand?

A personal brand is the connection of your name with your company and/or your values. It is the image or impression others form about you based on their interactions with you. To illustrate this, let’s try an experiment. Think of person you admire in business or in your personal life. Now, what comes to mind when you think about that person?

You may have thought of the company they own. You might have thought of past encounters. You might have even pictured this person’s face. You likely thought of words that describe the person: smart, ambitious, creative, sly, honest, wise, generous, gifted. All of these thoughts—from past encounters to character traits—form a personal brand.

The good news (or maybe bad!) is that you already have a brand. People have already formed an impression of you based on encounters with you—in person, on social media, in articles, at your company. Collectively, those encounters form your brand. Those behaviors, actions, and character traits are what people think of when they hear your name. You may or may not like your personal brand, but you can change it. Your brand is dynamic, meaning every interaction with a person alters how they see you

What Is My  Personal Brand?

The best way to discover your personal brand is to ask others. That’s because you may think you’re presenting yourself one way, but it could be perceived differently than you intended. You can create a simple, anonymous survey to assess how people see you. There are several online survey generators like Survey Monkey (which Ramsey Solutions uses a lot), Google Forms, Typeform, Survey Gizmo, and Survey Planet. Some of these sites are free to use; you’ll pay for others.

When you create the survey, keep it simple and easy to complete. Also, assure your work team (or friends) that the answers are anonymous. You want honesty, not flattery. Here are some sample questions to ask:

  • What three adjectives would you use to describe me?
  • On a scale from 1–10, how well do I:

    • Lead our team
    • Address conflict
    • Give adequate feedback
    • Give others credit
    • Give adequate support to team members
    • Encourage collaboration
    • Live out the values of the company
    • Communicate my instructions
    • Offer positive feedback
  • What qualities do I need to develop, eliminate or improve?
  • What motivates me?
  • What are my three strongest attributes?
  • What are my three biggest weaknesses?
  • How do I waste time?
  • What am I known for?
  • How do I react when something goes wrong?
  • What am I most excited about?

Don’t forget: This is a sample list. Do not ask all of these questions! Keep it simple and easy to complete, remember? Once you have received feedback from team members and friends, you need to determine what you want your brand to be.

How Do I Develop a Personal Brand?

Your personal brand development needs to be strategic, so you need to think through some questions to get to the impression you want to leave with others. The answers to them will give you insight as to your ideal brand. Here are some questions to start with:

  • What do you want people to think about when your name is mentioned?
  • In what content areas do you want to be perceived as an expert?
  • What qualities or character traits do you want linked to you?
  • What are your core values?
  • What makes you and your business unique in the marketplace?
  • Who do you admire and want to be like?
  • What is your superpower—the one thing you can do with little or no effort?
  • What strengths have others called out (acknowledged) in you?
  • What skills do you enjoy using every day?

Once you know how you want to be perceived, you can create goals to move toward those character traits and skill sets. To help you move in the right direction, there are several actions you can take:

1. Be authentic.

Branding is all about authenticity. It is a reflection of who you are, what you believe, and what you stand for. You don’t want to create a fake persona because people will see through the deception eventually, and when they do, they will dismiss you as a phony. And nobody wants that.

2. Keep improving yourself.

While you need to be genuine with people, you don’t need to ignore areas in which you can improve. If you lose your temper easily, you need to learn how to handle yourself better. If you hate processes and details, be willing to listen even when you’d rather shut down.

3. Continue learning.

If you still think a fax machine is cutting-edge, you’ve stopped learning. When it comes to the marketplace, an innovator can become a dinosaur quicker than you can say “public pay phone.” The minute you think you know enough is the minute your brand dies, so don’t let that happen to you. Take classes. Ask for help. Read online. Become a part of an online community. Go to training. Stay curious.

4. Get your voice out there.

You can’t build your brand if nobody knows who you are or what you offer the business world. Write articles for online outlets that cater to your industry. Comment on other blogs. Do public speaking on a regular basis. Use social media to you advantage by adding a unique and thoughtful voice to current culture. If others disagree, that’s okay. Be willing to engage in banter without getting defensive. If you can’t prove your point of view without vilifying the other person, something is wrong.

5. Use data to your advantage.

Cold, hard facts make you sound more authoritative and educated. When you come across a new study or a new piece of helpful data, share it on social media. Use it in speaking gigs. Refer to it when you network with others. When you do, though, make sure your research stays up-to-date. Research moves quickly, so you could outdate yourself without even knowing it.

6. Collaborate and network.

Build relationships with others in your business arena. Offer to write guest blogs for them. Show respect for them by sharing excellent content they produce.

7. Be purposeful on social media.

Every tweet you post matters. So does every status update, photo and comment. In a world where the media never stops, your statement could be picked up and republished around the world within seconds. And if the current political climate has taught us anything, it’s that you can destroy your personal brand with a single careless post. Remember, the message is just as important as the medium.

8. Stay true to you.

Your voice is unique in the business world. Stick to that. Don’t try to copy someone else’s tone or approach. Don’t try to match their graphic treatment when marketing your company. People and consumers want to see consistency across the board in what you say, do, produce and show. If you’re inconsistent, people won’t trust you or your company.

Remember, you already have a personal brand. You have to decide whether it’s the impression you want to give people. Ask questions and get input. Determine where you need to improve. And set goals to make those changes. It’s your brand, so making it work in your favor is up to you.

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