Chances are that you already have a Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn account, perhaps you have a few. Each and every one of these digital profiles is contributing to your personal brand - whether we want it to or not.
For the majority of people maintaining a few digital profiles will be the most you’ll have to think about personal branding but what if you want to become a leader in your field, own a business or perhaps do a bit of public speaking?
Developing your personal brand is essential if you want to be considered an expert in your niche or a master of your craft. Being an expert in a vacuum won’t help anyone. I help people develop their personal branding and I thought it was about time I explained why!
Personal branding is when we start to consciously choose the story we tell others about ourselves.
Even at its most basic level, a photo you post to Instagram or a message you retweet is contributing to how people preserve you. Think of each post as a clue that builds evidence to the type of person you are, what you know, what's important to you and what you believe in.
Branding master Marty Neumeier sums up branding as:
“Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.”
I like to think personal branding is what others would say about you when you're out of the room. In the professional sense it's your reputation.
Experts, leaders, professionals, executives, solopenuners, entrepreneurs, freelancers, thinkers, anyone who has a really great story to tell. Most of the experts I’ve worked with on their personal branding are trying to create change of some sort. They have mastered their niche (be it an industry, skill set, craft or talent) and this has led to revealing gaps that they feel compelled to fill. This could be in the form of creating content and sharing their insight and knowledge or through producing physical products like books, courses or consulting services.
One thing to note is you have to have the goods. It doesn’t matter how fancy your website is, it takes time, effort and energy to build expertise in anything! Most people I work with have spent years building their professional careers before they are ready to invest real money into their personal brand. Just like your reputation, it takes time to develop your expertise to a point where others will care about it.
In researching this article I found this fantastic free ebook from Hinge Marketing called “The Visible Expert” This is one of the very few resources I found that has actual data on personal branding. They identified ‘The Five Levels of Visibility’ which is a great overview and roadmap for developing your personal branding strategy.
Level 1: Resident Experts.
Big fish in a small pond. This is when you're respected within your company and by your clients but have little visibility outside of that world.
Level 2: Local Heroes.
Small fish in a big pond. This is when people are sharing outside of their immediate role. It might be blogging, public speaking or engaging in more community events as an ‘expert.’
Level 3: Rising Stars.
Big fish in a big pond. This is when people have a ‘regional reputation’. You are fairly well known in your industry and are writing regularly about your area of expertise. People will be inviting you to talk as an industry expert. Whoop!
Level 4: Industry Rock Stars.
Big fish in a lake. These are your thought leaders, people who are known across the nation as experts in their niche.
Level 5: Global Superstars.
Whale sharks in a lagoon. These are the big guys - the Seth Godin’s, Blair Enn’s and Chris Do’s of the world. Chances are they are no longer practicing the skills that got them there in the first place but have made a business out of public speaking and selling books! They all write books - this is the number one identifier of an expert in their industry!
Experts make more money. Hands down. No doubt about it.
In some industries, one's personal brand will drastically affect a company's bottom line. If an advertising firm hires an award winning art director, they would expect to pay top dollar for that person and will no doubt get more and better clients from having them on board.
People will pay more for an expert they believe in and trust. When professionals, experts or executives start to share their knowledge through articles and blogs for example they begin to create a community around them. People trust the person standing on the podium at the front of the room.
First you need to decide how far you want to go! If you are currently a ‘Resident Expert’ and want to become a ‘Industry RockStar’ you're going to have to be willing to invest a whole lot of time and money into developing your expertise and your personal branding! Here are are few tips to get your started:
Focus, focus, focus.
You need to find your niche and then find a niche within that niche and dig deep. Being a generalist is the opposite of being an expert. There are only a handful of super influencers who have managed to build successful personal brands around just existing.
The easiest way to brand yourself is to be yourself. We often get the false impression that we need to be like other important people to be successful but when it comes to personal branding, it has to be about you, the real you.
Tell a story.
Like any good brand you have to engage people with a good story. It's how we build trust and connect with others. With personal branding this can be the story of how you got to where you are or the mission you are on to create change in your industry. Personal branding is not a glorious resume, it has to have a story, a purpose for why others should care.
This is so important when you are trying to build a community and connect with others. Imagine if you go to meet someone for a coffee and they just don’t show up. You’d feel let down, right? If you are writing a blog once a week or posting to instagram everyday you have to try and keep it up. People will start to expect it so you have to make sure that you allocate enough time every day/week to produce the content you need to remain consistent. Depending on where you are in your journey you might be ready to invest in a designer like myself to help develop the visual side of your personal brand which will really help with consistency across multiple platforms.
It can be a slow burn building your personal brand. I should know, I’ve been writing this blog for nearly two years and my mail list has risen by 2 people in the last 12 months! 2 PEOPLE! The important thing to remember is that you have to show up to be in the game. If you do nothing, nothing will happen!
Expect blowback and fail forward. The more you put yourself out there the more likely you are to encounter people who don’t share the same ideas as you. This is part of becoming a more public figure. Brene Brown suggests carrying a 1x1inch piece of paper in your wallet that has the names of the people whose opinions actually matter to you. These are the people who will give you honest feedback even when it’s not great! Ignore the naysayers in the cheap seats, they will turn up, they always do!
I’m a brand strategist and designer who happens to specialise in personal branding!
What?!?! I know right!
I’ve been entrusted with people’s personal brands over the last few years and it is really a thrill to help guide, define and grow people's online presence as they become more sought after as experts in their industry.
I team up with the incredible Lucy Rash - word wizard extraordinaire and together help define your purpose or the ‘why’ of what you are trying to achieve. She also produces a pretty mean manifesto and biography that will be put to use on the website and in social media. A strong personal brand strategy with a kick ass website and social media plan could be the difference between remaining unknown or being the next trailblazer in your industry!
If you're just starting out and are still building your expertise, don't fret! My advice is to make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and use it. With Covid killing most of the major networking events we have to lean into online networking. A solid LinkedIn page is a great place to start. If you are interested in talking a bit more about your personal branding, please reach out! You can email me directly.
Here are a few ripper articles if this has piqued your interest.