I keep hearing a lot about how I should build my own personal brand. How does one go about doing that?
-- Clint M., Wisconsin
1. Create a presence.
The key to a great personal brand is awareness. Create a presence in key places that are relevant to your industry. These places could include a personal website, writing for a trade magazine, or expanding your social media presence. Use the tools to further the goals of your personal brand.
2. Find your niche.
In order to develop your own personal brand, you have to figure out what makes you special and unique in your marketplace. As an entrepreneur, you have to create your own story and then use various mediums to communicate it, such as a blog, social network profiles, magazines, radio stations, and other mediums that your audience is paying attention to.
3. Consistency is critical.
Choose what you stand for. Are you a health and fitness expert? Are you a social media expert? Are you a legal expert? Once you pick your niche, write content that pertains to it consistently. Also, stick with that niche. Would you rather go to a pizza place or a pizza/bagel/deli/sushi place? Don't send mixed signals. Being laser focused is way more effective.
4. Still have a day job? Don't write about your company!
Newsflash. Big brands are finally starting to realize how valuable your personal brands can be. Just look at Forrester Research who last year decided that their employees can blog about their work, but only on the company website. While you're building your personal brand to support your side hustle, don't write about your current job. It's about empowering you, not your current employer.
5. The Brand that is YOU
Building your own brand requires authenticity. People can sniff inauthentic branding even through the Internet. Make sure that whatever brand messaging you're putting out is true to who you are. If the copy, look and feel of your brand represent who you truly are then you can confidently stand behind it.
6. Spread your name.
Build your personal brand by demonstrating your authority in a certain area. There are numerous online tools that can help you do so. Participate on Q&A sites such as Quora, Stack Exchange, Aardvark. Publish a blog and comment on others using services such as Disqus, Intense Debate, BackType. Set up a personal Facebook Fan Page, Twitter, LinkedIn and About.me page.
7. Communicate your brand early and often.
Your personal brand is the essence of who you are. Start with a review of your life details: goals, social contacts, web presence, professional endeavors and internal philosophies. All of these things govern how you are perceived. Assess where you are currently and, most importantly, where you want to be. Make a quality decision each day to be the best person you can be through definitive action.
8. Communicate YOU clearly.
Ask yourself a few questions: Who am I? Why am I doing what I'm doing? What do I REALLY think is important in life? What is my personal philosophy? How am I a walking representative of my beliefs? Answer these questions and then communicate the answers clearly to the world. That's all there is to it.
9. Hi My Name Is ...
A brand is your identity to the world, it should embody who you are and what your company is about. A mission statement will help get you started. Once you can define yourself in words, a visual representation such as a logo should be next. Ask are you going for the corporate look, like J.Crew, or are you fun, like Old Navy -- two examples of distinct brands in the same market.
10. Develop a strong social media presence.
Create a Twitter and update it regularly with tweets relating to industry news, and follow notable people in your industry; make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date; join list servs and LinkedIn groups that are relevant for you, and be active in them.
11. Bloggity Blog McBloggerson
Step 1: Discover who you are. Step 2: Brainstorm how your knowledge and experience can help or entertain people. Step 3: Carve out a sliver of a niche and put your blog in it. Step 4: Create consistent, high-quality content that helps or entertains people. Step 5: Find other people like you and network with them. They'll look at your site and spread your brand for you.
12. Own your name online
Use a tool like knowem.com to make sure you can brand yourself across online networks with the same name. Try to use either your real name or a surname that is based around your niche or area of interest. Whatever name you choose, make sure you own the dot com domain name first.
13. Live your brand every day.
Your personal brand is you. Everyone you talk to, network or work with is a chance to build your brand. Every day is a new opportunity and you are your own brand's walking billboard so be real and authentic. Everything you do is a reflection of your brand so make each and every day count.
14. Become the ambassador for one message.
Success today lies in being a niche expert, not a generalist. Pick one specific message and create a sound bite to repeat over and over again. Look at any good marketing campaign and you will see this idea in action. Obama's "Change We Can Believe In" became the heart and soul of his campaign. If he had picked 10 different ideas/slogans, he probably wouldn't have won. Do the same with your brand.
15. Develop an angle and build upon it
Ambiguity is costly and easily forgotten. Choose a theme that is unique and be sure all of your content is consistent. Schizophrenic brands don't last because they loose trust from their market. Start with reflective thinking: What brands do you like? Why? What ad campaigns do you still remember? Why? Is there a word/phrase/concept/emotion that represents you? Keep it simple.
16. Images, words and actions -- what images represent what you do?
(Whether product or service) take a piece of paper and list 10 images that come to mind. Choose your top three and, eventually, one. Next, you could show your customers your lists and ask them for feedback. Show your final images to a graphic designer and have a brainstorming session about a logo. In addition, you will want to write out in detail your vision, mission and personal goals statements.
18. Identify your unique selling points.
Every individual has a unique set of skills, expertise, and interests. What sets you apart from others in your industry? Clearly communicate your unique selling points in everything you do (online and offline) and integrate those points into your elevator pitch.
20. Let go!
In order to build an authentic personal brand, let go of any preconceived notions you have of what is "acceptable" to post on Twitter and Facebook. Many people fall into this trap of writing tweets and posts that are so cookie-cutter-like that they appear to not have any personality or personal brand at all online! Create a presence that is unique and match your posts accordingly!
21. Do great work.
A personal blog and other things can compliment a personal brand, but make them secondary to your core work. If you work hard and build something exceptional, people will take notice with or without a blog and other personal brand components. So take pride in what you do, do great work and your personal brand will begin to build itself.
-- Nick Cronin, ExpertBids.com