Lifting the lid on personal branding

Because no one does exactly what you do in the exact same way you do it! 

Not everyone is or can be a thought leader, major influencer or big personality. But everyone can be relevant, authentic and the best version of themselves. Similarly, everyone can build visibility and credibility as a subject matter expert in their field. Standing out, owning your value, genius and power is available to all. But it has to be the real deal, not fabricated fluff or smoke and mirrors.

There is a lot of hype swirling around that you must sit on a pedestal of self-grandeur and hoopla, which is nonsense. We observe this zeal on social media and it’s mostly counter-productive to authentically communicating and leveraging a personal brand.

There is also much confusion about what constitutes a thought leader. A thought leader is different to a leader (but they are not always mutually exclusive). Thought leadership is defined as being truly innovative, creating and holding unique solutions, ideas and concepts.

Influencer branding can also be different to being influential and having influence. We all influence in some way shape or form – be it at micro or macro levels. The notion that everyone has to be a powerful influencer with 10,000+ followers is illogical.

Thriving in business is challenging, and even more so since the internet revolution. We are drowning in content, digital overwhelm and an ocean of choices. Grabbing a solid chunk of our sector’s $$ pie is both harder and easier than ever before.

But a strong and enticing personal brand is vital to stand out in that ocean – especially for service businesses. It is the strategic marketing differentiator to grab that chunk of pie and hold your own because “No one does exactly what you do in the exact same way you do it”.

In his 1997 Fast Company article “The Brand Called You”, Tom Peters challenged us to harness the significance of personal brands alongside the importance of big business brands. Tim wrote:

“If you want to grow your brand, you’ve got to come to terms with power – your own. The key lesson: power is not a dirty word! In fact, power for the most part is a badly misunderstood term and a badly misused capability. I’m talking about a different kind of power than we usually refer to.

“It’s not ladder power, as in whose best at climbing over the adjacent bods. It’s not who’s-got-the-biggest-office-by-six-square-inches power or who’s-got-the-fanciest-title power. It’s influence power. It’s being known for making the most significant contribution in your particular area. It’s reputational power.“

In essence, personal branding has been in existence for eternity. Even back in the horse and cart days, people dealt with those they knew, liked and trusted.

We all have a personal brand. School teachers, tradespeople, CEOs, university students, store managers, TV celebrities – no one is exempt.

Perception and experiences of that brand can be negative, neutral or positive. And those perceptions have a long bow based on many factors. We cannot be everything to everyone and we won’t resonate with all – and that’s okay.

One of my favourite mantras is “Your vibe attracts your tribe”. Embracing this ethos reduces stress, empowers confidence and guides positioning your value. Getting in touch with your own vibe, though, starts with self-awareness, mirror work and a bucket of courage. After all, you want to be a powerful magnet to your ideal clients.

The impact of identifying, communicating and managing a great personal brand can be immense. However, many people respond to the concept very poorly. You will observe this on websites, LinkedIn profiles and other channels of opportunity to speak up and communicate. The three poor responses are:

  1. Ignore: head in the sand – no information, excuses and fear to be seen
  2. Neutral: boring, vanilla tone, no gravitas or differentiation
  3. Over the top: hyperbole, self-aggrandizement, look-at-me presence.

There are five key elements that make up Brand YOU, and which culminate in how you are perceived and experienced.

Your motivations, values, personality, equity and visuals are displayed and woven into all written, media and verbal communications. And ultimately you must check what other people say about you. Doing this may uncover a few “ouch” moments if there is a disconnect between rhetoric and reality.

Diving into each element can be pretty confusing and confronting. Many people seek assistance with the equity content as they grapple with seeing their genius and impact on others with clarity. There is a huge line between overt bragging and championing skills and outcomes. And I promise that everyone has numerous golden unique selling point (USP) nuggets, purpose and style that no one else shares. They may be simple, complex or multidimensional.

“In essence, personal branding has been in existence for eternity. Even back in the horse and cart days, people dealt with those they knew, liked and trusted.”

Those unique nuggets hold the key to your brand differentiation. And it’s that differentiation that needs to be powerfully communicated in a way that is authentic to you. Be engaging and real, and don’t forget storytelling has a big part to play in sharing your story and value.

An extra aspect around your values, goals and passions is to reflect on the clients you do and do not want to attract. Who and what brings you joy and satisfaction is just as important as who doesn’t. Getting clear here gives an edge to your communications that instinctively repels those you don’t wish to attract and draws more of those you do.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being real and authentic. The metal needs to meet the road at all times. Congruency and trust in brand consistency is important.

We are not perfect humans and sometimes we can go off-brand. But we need to strive for a 90 per cent consistency rate. Overall, the personal brand promise will benefit business enormously in attracting and retaining ideal aligned clients.

And a great personal brand will maximise ROI of all other social media, digital and marketing activities. So be daring and fearless. Step up and out as the authentic and best version of Brand YOU.

Sue Parker, Founder, DARE Group Australia

This story first appeared in issue 22 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine.