If you’ve read anything or spoken to anyone over the past 5 years, you’ll have heard the phrase “personal branding”.
The problem is that not all the information out there is good. And that’s being generous, actually. Not much of it is any good.
Personal Branding Has Become a Buzzword
And like all good buzzwords before it, the truth of what personal branding really is has been subsumed.
Personal branding ‘experts’ are ten a penny, selling the branding equivalent of get-rich-quick-schemes to anyone willing to listen.
It can be infuriating, because these shady peddlers often do get rich quick by ripping off unsuspecting folks.
The irony in all of this, of course, is that these so-called specialists have completely failed to build their own personal brand.
Which brings us to the crux of the matter.
What Is Personal Brand, Really?
The reason so many people are failing to build their personal brand is that they’re viewing it from the wrong angle.
Personal branding isn’t about self-promotion.
It isn’t about how popular or important you are. Rather, it’s about serving others. Personal brand starts with a commitment to deliver value – serving yourself is a byproduct.
Glen Llopis puts it well. He writes, “Your personal brand should represent the value you are able to consistently deliver to those whom you are serving. Your personal brand is an asset that must be managed with the intention of helping others benefit”.
The Tools Are Not The Message.
Yes, you should be active on social media.
“The people that care about you, you need to connect to them any way you can, everywhere you can, as often you can”, Gary shouts. But, and here’s the point, the tools are how you communicate your message.
They’re not the message itself.
So yes, you should have a blog. Yes, you should be active on LinkedIn. Yes, you should find as many ways to build your profile and connect to people and build relationships as possible.
But if those activities aren’t underpinned by a fundamental understanding of your value proposition, they’ll only ever be hollow.
In short, stop wondering how to get more Twitter followers and start cementing your message. Think about Twitter followers later.
What’s Your Message?
There are two stages in building your personal brand. Defining your message, and then living that message authentically.
The first of these is about uncovering what you stand for. What do you believe in? What’s your cause? What problem do you solve?
The third of those questions is the most critical. You might well believe in many things, have many causes.
However, when you ask which problems you solve, you’re asking yourself where your strengths intersect with your passions. Not just who you want to help, but who you can help because of your unique combination of skills, experience, personality and passion.
Passion Breeds Authenticity.
Building a personal brand means consistency. Consistently delivering value to people. Consistently building your reputation in line with your message. Consistently living your brand.
Imagine a room full of 100 of your friends, family and colleagues. If you asked them about their experience of having a relationship with you, which things would come up again and again?
That’s your personal brand. These are the people who see you most frequently, who populate the pages of your life. Who you are to them is who you are.
So, you can’t not live a brand. Either it’s the brand you want or it’s not, but you have a personal brand either way. And that’s why passion is so important. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible (for the vast majority) to consistently live as someone they’re not. The cracks start to show.
If building your personal brand requires you to consistently live out your message, then that message had damn well better be something you care about.
Distribution and Amplification.
This is where the tools come back in. The blog. The social media accounts. The website. The elevator pitch. The online communities. They’re the means of telling your story, of disseminating your brand at scale.
We speak of the digital revolution as if it’s facilitated personal branding, but personal branding’s been around long before that. All social media does it make it easier to expand your reach.
Which brings us full circle.
The reason so many ‘experts’ are failing is that they do little more than teach you the tools of the trade. They’re social media managers, copywriters and designers, calling themselves personal branding specialists.
Knowing how to distribute and amplify your message is indubitably critical, but you first need to know what your message is. Pin that down, and the rest is the icing on the cake.
Irene McConnell is the founder of Arielle Careers, Australia’s sole digital agency dedicated to branding executives and their leadership teams. Arielle specialises in resume writing, LinkedIn profile writing and online influence management.
Offering a portfolio of products born from our deep understanding of the global talent market overlaid with forward-thinking and reinvented digital marketing capabilities, a passion for words and their ability to capture attention, Arielle processes are tailored to work within executives’ busy schedules, delivering bespoke, painless and professional service, and individualised products that garner results, quickly. Arielle strive to produce engaging and impactful human experiences.