“Personal brand” is one of those buzzed-about terms many of us use but only in a nebulous sense. We hear people talk about it, how important it is, and how it can open doors for you and cultivate relationships and opportunities. But what really is it, and why do we need to know about our own?
It used to be the mention of the term “brand” conjured up images of companies like Apple, Mercedes Benz, or McDonalds – a feeling and connotation tied to a logo or image. These companies spend billions ensuring their names and brands are seen in the right places, or more importantly, NOT seen in the WRONG places. Now that social media makes every user its own marketer, we are responsible for controlling our own narrative.
The first step in defining your personal brand is to consider the impression you want to make. What’s your goal? What makes you different? On what are you an authority? Next, consider your audience. Who can you help and how can you help them? Don’t try to be everything to all people. Adam Smiley Poswolsky, millennial workplace expert and author of The Breakthrough Speaker, takes it one step further: “Carve a niche, and then carve a niche within your niche. The best personal brands are very specific.” Figure out who you are, who your target is, and where those two things overlap.
Tell Your Story
We’re not talking about shouting your story into the vast social media landscape. The most effective brands tell stories that engage their target audiences. When you create the content you’re sharing on these channels, use your personal brand as the filter on what you post. Establish yourself as approachable and engaging. People are much more likely to interact with a person or brand if they feel part of a narrative, not a witness to a monologue.
Consistency Is Key
The more authentic and niche your brand, the easier it will be to stay consistent. We’re not talking about choosing just one Instagram filter (or none!) and only using that one; this goes beyond what you post on social media. While it’s certainly possible to separate your personal brand from your private life, it’s much easier when they’re the same. Your brand should be a genuine expression of who you are. So for us as professional women, it’s not only our job functions like sales, marketing, or medicine, it’s our values and ideals.
The task of establishing and executing your personal brand is a never-ending one. McDonald’s keeps its customers engaged and interested by changing taglines and promotions, but they always keep the golden arches and the fries. Goldie Chan with Forbes explains, “Creating the right personal brand will not only help you be known in your field and consistently land work, but it could be the difference between ‘Who are you?’ and ‘Thank you for being here’ in your career.”