What on earth is a personal brand?
When people say, “I want to build a personal brand,” the first thing they think about is numbers. Number of Twitter followers. Number of Facebook Likes. Number of blog subscribers. Building a meaningful personal brand is about so much more than just social media numbers.
Everyone has a personal brand, whether they’ve been intentional about what it portrays or not. Clearly, some personal brands are more effective than others, which is why it is important to your success to be deliberate in building the brand you want. Building a personal brand means providing so much value in one or more areas that people begin to associate your name with the idea of what it means to be successful in that space.
“When your brand is strong, you become a thought leader and an influencer.”
Building a personal brand takes a lot of work, but if you are ready to dive in, here are a few recommendations that are tried and true:
1. Always be authentic and impeccable with your word. As the adage goes…it takes years to build a reputation [insert brand here] and five minutes to destroy one. When people can rely on you to be honest, even when it might not be what you want to hear, they will rely on what you say as credible. When you have credibility, people listen and seek you out. Being impeccable with your word isn’t always easy, especially when you are not in agreement with the majority. Those who learn to frame messages that go against the flow in such a way that they are heard for what they are saying, as opposed to the fact that they are disagreeing, will begin to guide the conversation. That is how influence is seeded.
2. Give more than you receive. Sounds like a cliché’, but the reality is when you over-deliver, you build a reputation of excellence. Be consistent in this model and you will be among the first recognized for promotional opportunities or special projects. You will be the ‘one’ others will want to work with and emulate. More importantly, you will be delighting those you work with and for, which can only be a good thing.
3. Be mindful in how you communicate. It is well known that people with effective verbal and written communication skills have an easier time conveying their ideas, as well as the ideas of others. If you have worked on a team in school or at work, who is always selected to present the outcomes? I can assure you, it is the person with the strongest communication skills. Developing strong communication skills is something everyone can do. It takes education, practice and the discipline to put it in place on a consistent basis. If you want to be heard, become a compelling communicator. Words are a form of action and have power…use them wisely.
4. Be a good listener. I feel like I should repeat that statement. Most of us are not focused listeners who are seeking to understand (thank you, Stephen Covey). If you want to build healthy relationships, learn to be an authentically good listener. Shut off the voice in your head that is constantly thinking about how you will respond. Face the speaker, be still, make eye contact, smile, and pay attention. If you plan to repeat back part of what is being said to you, you will listen much closer. That’s a great way to trick your mind into shutting off the overactive disruptive voice in your head. Practice listening with a friend. You will be amazed at how it will improve the relationship.
5. Know when to use electronic communication. It’s easy and often feels safer to communicate via email or text. No doubt, it’s faster. However, the risk of misinterpretation is one that can impact your personal brand negatively. Never choose email or text to discuss something controversial. It is always best to check your emotions prior to responding to a message that triggers an emotion. My recommendation is to write a draft without filling in the sender box, walk away for a few hours, maybe 24 hours if you are angry, and come back to it. Chances are you will delete it and choose to speak to the sender instead. To ensure you understood and you are being understood, face-to-face is always the best option. These traps can damage relationships and reputations. You can always apologize, but you cannot take the words away.
6. Create your ‘presence’. This isn’t about expensive clothes, haircuts or fancy cars. What creates your presence is how you carry yourself. You make an impression before you say anything. Do you walk with an approachable confidence? Are you dressed appropriately for the occasion? Are your clothes neat, clean and pressed? Do you smile when you enter a room? People will always assume your smile communicates that you are pleasant, while no smile is difficult to read and can mean many things. It is much more effective to create a presence you have control over.
7. Build a strong network. Having a personal brand that reflects you as an interested learner, will better equip you to build a strong network. Being deliberate in who you want in your network will help you surround yourself with people you want to spend time with and who are like-minded. Positive people who have strong personal brands are great to have in your network as you begin this journey in creating your own. If we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with, shouldn’t those people be well-chosen? I personally love having a diverse group of people in my network who have a variety of perspectives that are often different than mine. It allows me to challenge my assumptions and always makes me better.
There is no one or best way to build a strong personal brand. Making the decision to do so, creating what you want the outcome to be and creating a list of things you want to focus on is a great beginning. Ultimately, taking that plan and having the discipline to implement it into every day will keep you on your own personal trip to success.