More than ever we are bombarded with “stuff.” People, products, entertainment, and information, all competing for our attention at a dizzying rate. It has become so demanding that we are forced to take shortcuts when deciding what to pay attention to and what decisions we make.
So where does branding come in? Brands aid in the decision making process. Based on your collective knowledge and cues about a particular brand, you are able to make an assessment of whether that brand aligns with your needs (or not) much quicker. Successful brands do a really, really good job of knowing
1) who they want to speak to, 2) what those people want, and 3) what you have to offer. In short, they make it easy for people to choose them. Which is exactly what your personal brand needs to do.
Building Brand YOU
Whether you are actively thinking about your personal brand and the reputation you want to build or not, your personal brand is already being defined by your actions and behaviours. Fundamentally, brands are about trust. How you behave, interact, and deliver on your promises adds up over time to create your personal brand (which is really just another word for your reputation). So how can you approach defining your brand?
1. Define what makes you... you
This can take some soul searching. But what are your passions? What specific skills do you have? What do you value? Before you can tell people what makes you different, you need to understand what actually makes you different.
2. Determine who your audience is
Determining what makes you unique is a first step, but unless you also determine who the people are that you’d like to connect with and why they might care, you’ll just be talking to yourself. A venn diagram is helpful in illustrating this:
Key to this is not just thinking about who but why they may care about what you have to offer. Knowing the why will help you shape how you convey your brand.
3. Decide where your brand is going to live
It’s a given that your brand will be conveyed through your personal interactions with people (this is usually when people get the best sense of who you are and what you stand for). What’s harder is communicating your brand in other channels (social media, your resume, an email, etc.).
A word of caution here, trying to separate your “personal” and “professional” brands is challenging at best and confusing to your audience at worst. The internet is vast, the world is small, and trying to build two fragmented brands is challenging. If it is not something you’d want a potential partner or employer (for instance) to find, don’t put it online.
Now go forth and craft the story of you!