Personal branding is the art of using content creation and thought leadership to create a brand around yourself and your professional expertise. Many of the most well-known businesspeople have built successful personal brands just from talking about their passions and developing an audience.
For example, Elon Musk’s personal brand is so powerful that the value of Bitcoin can be affected by a single tweet. Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk built an entire career around his personal brand, starting out as the CEO of a wine store and going on to become a bestselling author and marketing consultant.
But what exactly is personal branding in business? And why should you consider putting it to work for you? Let’s dive on in and take a closer look.
What is personal branding?
When we talk about personal branding, we’re talking about the art and science of influencing the way that the general public perceives a person. They usually do this by positioning themselves as an expert in their field. For example, Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com has positioned himself as the go-to guy for consumer finance information in the United Kingdom by dominating discussions on the subject.
Developing an effective personal brand can increase your credibility and help you to develop your career, bringing in new business and allowing you to charge more for your services. Many people with powerful personal brands end up being offered publishing deals and earn huge sums from delivering keynotes at conferences or working as business and marketing consultants.
The idea of personal branding is relatively new, although business branding dates back hundreds of years. In many ways, it’s the rise of blogging, social networking, accessible self-publishing and other related technologies that have made personal branding possible.
Suddenly, personal branding was no longer just for the elite. In fact, it could be said that everyone has a personal brand, whether or not they’re aware of it. All anyone needs to do to get an idea of someone else’s personal brand is to run a quick and easy Google search for their name. And so if you’re not already aware of the way that other people perceive your personal brand, that’s a pretty good place for you to start.
Personal brand examples
We’ve already used Gary Vaynerchuk as an example, and he’s the perfect archetype of a new breed of entrepreneurs that have built a career out of their personal brands. Other examples include marketing guru Neil Patel, Kindlepreneur Dave Chesson and ProBloger Darren Rowse.
Perhaps the most iconic marketer to have developed a personal brand is Seth Godin, the pioneer who popularised permission marketing and who’s sold millions of books on the subject. Godin’s writing alone is so powerful that he’s largely avoided being active on social networking sites, focussing his efforts on the channels where he’s able to achieve the greatest results.
And perhaps the greatest example of all is that of Oprah Winfrey, the first lady of personal branding. As well as being so iconic that people know who you’re talking about just from a mention of her first name, she also has a super recognisable signature and has become a meme. Oprah’s personal brand is so strong that has the ability to change people’s actions with her words alone, as well as their lives with her shows and the charitable work that she does.
In fact, pretty much any celebrity that you care to name has spent time developing their personal brand, which is how they’re able to be celebrities in the first place. We’re talking about everyone from the Kardashian family to Elon Musk.
And let’s not forget social media influencers, the people who are able to build a community around their personal brand and to use that brand to shape the world around them. Here, we’re talking about everyone from teenage TikTok users to Instagram models and successful YouTubers.
How to build a personal brand
1. Find your uniqueness
The most important first step for building a personal brand is to identify what it is that makes you unique. Why should people listen to what you have to say over anybody else? In most cases, this uniqueness will come from your professional experience or something that’s happened in your life. For example, an accountant might be unique for being a British native who has experience of the French tax system. They could then build a brand around this, helping ex-pat Brits to file their tax returns.
2. Identify your target audience
The next step is for you to identify your target audience, by which we mean the types of people that you’re hoping to speak to. Knowing who you want to reach is important because this will impact the messaging that you use and the outlets that you focus on. For example, if you’re hoping to reach old age pensioners then it’s unlikely that you’re going to want to use Snapchat or to write using slang. Knowing your target audience will help you with everything else that you do.
3. Focus on pain points
Pain points are the things that keep your audience awake at night, and in an ideal world, you’ll build your personal brand around the fact that your company is able to solve them. If you run a local gym, for example, then pain points might include not being able to lose weight or wanting to work out but not knowing how to get started. You can then build a personal brand around answering those questions.
4. Establish visual and verbal identities
This is what puts the “brand” in “personal brand”. The goal behind establishing visual and verbal identities should be to create consistency so that whenever you share written or visual content, people can immediately tell that it’s yours. Done well, your visual and verbal identity can say more about you than you might have thought possible, and it will tie together everything you do so that no matter where people consume your content, they’ll know it’s yours.
5. Create content
Content creation is the single most powerful thing you can do to establish a brand. It will help you to showcase your authority as a thought leader and provide fodder for search engines so that people can find you. This is also where you’ll be able to provide your solutions to those pain points that you identified, and it will allow you to put your visual and verbal identity to work. Content comes in many different forms, with most high-profile individuals turning to full length books and video content.
6. Cultivate a community
Creating content will help to take you to the next step, which is to start cultivating a community. Here, we’re talking about the people who regularly interact with you and consume your content. Even though you’re building a personal brand for business, these don’t necessarily need to be active customers, although it helps. The goal here is to get your community to do your work for you, spreading the word about your personal brand on your behalf.
Now that you’ve established a personal brand and started creating content and building a community, the next step is for you to find a way to make money from it. This could mean running advertisements, selling merchandise or even working as a consultant or public speaker on an hourly rate basis. Different people have different approaches to monetising their personal brand and so you’ll want to do some experimentation to see what works for you.
8. Measure and improve
The final and arguably most important step here is to measure the results of your branding and content creation efforts so that you can see what works and what doesn’t. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t so that you can continue to improve your personal branding and to make more and more money out of the work you’re doing. Good enough is never good enough – there will always be room for improvement.
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Now that you know a little more about the art and science of personal branding, the next step is for you to put what you’ve learned into practice and to start developing your own personal brand. The good news is that with the insights we’ve shared today, you’re in the perfect position to get started.
Of course, if you’re still struggling with personal branding, there’s nothing wrong with bringing in some outside help. For example, we can match you up with an agency that can help you to develop a visual and written brand identity and creative assets like logos and websites.
We specialise in helping to connect clients and agencies, acting as the middle man so that you can find the services that you need at an affordable price point. And so if that sounds like something that you’d be interested in, be sure to get in touch! We look forward to speaking to you.