It’s difficult isn’t it?
Creating a compelling brand identity for yourself, one that is powerful enough to pull your audience to you, and give them a reason to follow you, look up to you.
But, what’s a personal brand really? Let’s start from there!
A personal brand is the perception that your audience has of YOU. It is how they see you and what they feel about you. You, as a person, and you, as a business owner, a leader. Personal branding is all about building your reputation, creating an image of yourself for the outside world and marketing yourself as an individual. Essentially, your personal brand is the story that’s told about you when you’re not in the room.
But it can be difficult to think of yourself as a brand, and many entrepreneurs or professionals make the mistake of thinking that it’s all about tooting your own horn. But it’s so much more than that.
It’s about shaping perceptions, shaping your career or your business and being intentional and conscious about how your customers see you. In short, it’s simply good business.
Let me tell you a story.
When Apple was working on its first iPod, the engineers came up with a prototype that Steve Jobs thought was too big. He wasn’t convinced by the explanation given by the engineers, that if the device was made smaller, all the necessary components wouldn’t fit in.
So Jobs walked over to the fish tank and dropped the prototype in it.
As it was sinking, they could see air bubbles appearing. When it reached the bottom, he said, “Those are air bubbles. That means there’s space in there. Make it smaller.’
If this story made an impact on you, if it shocked you or surprised you, then it has achieved its goal.
But what does this story really do? It tells us how we should perceive Steve Jobs. Just the fact that it is out there means that the brand wants to shape his image in a certain way.
And what way is that? This story made an impact on us because Steve Jobs behaved in an unexpected manner. We don’t expect a CEO to behave like that. But Steve Jobs did. This highlights the values that are so important to Jobs as well as Apple: minimalism, risk-taking and innovation.
And now, we get to the big question! How do you even go about building a brand for yourself?
What are the exact steps you can take to get your personal brand in place?
Well, you are in luck because that is exactly what I will be sharing here!
The first one is, dig deep and find your ‘why’!
Your ‘why’ is the bedrock of your entire brand. It is your purpose, the reason that you started the business in the first place. And the one thing that keeps you excited about it, year after year, and gives your business and brand the necessary focus and direction.
Need more clarity?
Think about some of the people you know and follow!
As in the example above, Steve Jobs has a very powerful ‘why’. Innovation and the ability to get cutting-edge technology into the hands of people across the world.
Heard of Gary Vaynerchuck? He went from being nothing to a multi-million-dollar brand. His ‘why’ is helping to make it easy for other entrepreneurs to achieve what he has achieved.
Chris Do is an Emmy award-winning director, designer, strategist and educator, and the founder of The Futur. His ‘why’ is helping other creative professionals, especially solopreneurs, overcome their challenges and become successful business-people.
The next step is to find out what sets you apart in your industry, i.e. your positioning!
This seems to be a pretty big ask, doesn’t it? In fact, for many it’s difficult for them to pin-down one thing that helps set them apart, especially when you are operating in a crowded industry.
Well, the secret here is to either focus on the one aspect that your competitors aren’t talking about or not talking about enough, or to niche down to such an extent that your target audience helps set you apart.
A client that I was working with was a life coach for mothers. Was that a unique industry by itself? No, not really.
She helped stay-at-home moms build a career for themselves and working mothers balance their home and professional life. Still not enough for a good positioning.
But, being a single mother herself, she could serve other single moms. Now, we were getting somewhere!
Single mothers had their own unique set of challenges and not many coaches could really identify with them. But thanks to my client’s background, she could position herself as a ‘life balance coach for single mothers’. Super-specific and her problem of an ideal target audience was also sorted out!
This gets us to our next step. Identifying your target audience.
Who do you serve? A loaded question, and can be difficult to pin down, and the answer definitely isn’t ‘everybody’. The trick here is to niche down as much as you possibly can. Still sounds difficult?
Well, as in the example above, in the beginning, my client’s audience was all women. We narrowed it down to mothers, and then further narrowed it down to single mothers, between the age of 25-40.
When in doubt, just do this. Think about the pain point that you are solving. Then think about the Smallest Viable Market that you can serve. Once you get to that, even if it makes you nervous to narrow your audience down so much, just go with it. This is the audience that will actually give you your maximum business.
After this, create your brand framework.
Your brand framework consists of your brand personality, your story, your mission, vision and your value foundation.
What’s the personality of your brand going to be? Is it questioning and innocent, like a child? Is it fun and mischievous, always up to no good? Is it a teacher, an educator, who wants to make sure your customers get the knowledge and help they need? Your personality will direct your communication, messaging and your marketing, so make sure it’s a 100% accurate.
Your story is exactly that, your story. It’s about your journey, your beliefs, your ideals, what made you get into that particular business, and so on. And while your brand story has to be about you, it also has to be about your business in equal parts. So, think about how your journey aligns with that of your business to start writing your story.
The mission, vision and values of your brand are the very heart and soul of your brand. They will drive your brand, and will direct the actions of your business and its internal culture. So, it’s important to ensure that they are in line with you, as a person and what your long-term goal is with your business.
And lastly, decide on your visual identity, your message and your communication.
Your visual identity comprises of your logo unit, font, colours and tagline, and it should be based on the positioning of your brand. It’s not a decision that you can take just based on what colours you like.
Your message and communication are based on your brand personality and your audience. So, ensure that you keep that in mind while deciding the tone of voice, the way the message is delivered and the platforms you choose to be on.
The Bottom Line
Contrary to popular belief, a personal brand is not only for those who have their own businesses. It’s also a tremendous asset if you have a job, and are very specific and intentional about your career trajectory. Your seniors, bosses and colleagues already have an impression of you. It’s up to you to make sure it’s the right one.
And for those who have their own business, your brand is your number one asset, outside your business, and will be the one thing that will outlast all your businesses and will help you create your tribe.
Hi, I’m Amruta!
I am a brand strategist & coach, and I work with business owners and solopreneurs to build a focused, long-term brand strategy. This eliminates all the confusion and guesswork from their marketing and sales, ensuring that they get fantastic results by spending a lot less money.
Over the last 12 years, I have worked with multiple businesses to either build their entire brand from scratch or streamline their existing brand.