What is personal branding (and why should you care?)
Have no clue what personal branding is? You’re not alone.
When you work around something day in and day out, it’s easy to forget that not everyone understands what you’re talking about. This is something I’m reminded of on a daily basis, specifically, every time I introduce myself.
My standard introduction used to be: “Hi, my name is Leslie Friedman and I’m an image consultant who specializes in personal branding”.
Forget knowing what personal branding means, most people couldn’t make it past image consultant. “What exactly IS an image consultant?” is a question I began to answer so many times that I added a little extra phrase to my introduction.
“Hi, my name is Leslie Friedman and I’m an image consultant that specializes in personal branding. Which basically means that I help people leverage their appearance to be more successful.”
This not only happens when I throw out the term ‘image consultant’ but when I talk about personal branding. I incorrectly assume that most everyone knows what personal branding is, when actually, the exact opposite is true. If you’re one of those people, this article is for you.
I’m staying away from any industry jargon or other confusing terms to simply explain what personal branding is, and of course, why you should give a damn.
So, let’s get started shall we?
The concept of personal branding has been around for less than 20 years. It all started when this guy, Tom Peters, wrote an article in 1997 for the magazine Fast Company about this radical new idea- if companies can have brands, then so should people.
A brand is what makes a company distinctive and recognizable. Just think of Starbucks or McDonald’s. Not only do you immediately think of the products these places sell, but you also see the golden arches and green medallion symbols from the logos. All of these special little things that go into making a company recognizable, help create its brand.
Peters proposed that people could have similar brands. They too could have all those ‘special little things’ that go into making them recognizable as a person. Famous people are pros at this. Think of Beyonce, Steve Jobs, or even President Trump. My guess, is that most of you could recognize these people instantly if you were given a verbal description of who the person is/what they’ve done, or if you saw them. You could do that for the same reason that you could identify Starbucks or McDonald’s if you heard someone describe them or if they showed you a picture. These celebrities and companies have done the same thing- created brands around themselves. They decided what they wanted to be known for and then made sure their actions, words, and appearance all reflect those attributes.
I know what you’re thinking, “I’m not a celebrity, and I don’t want to be one..so why should I care? Why should I go through the effort of developing a personal brand? What’s in it for me?”
Here’s the thing; you don’t have to be a celebrity (or even like the person) to learn from what they’re doing and use it to help you.
Essentially, celebrities are using personal branding techniques for job security. The longer that person is in the spotlight and people know about them, the higher the chance they’ll be able to sell products, etc. Far less people would buy Beyonce albums if she wasn’t popular and people didn’t know who she was.
In the same manner, we can use personal branding to make us more successful. What do you want? Job security? Money? The ability to travel? A family? You can get pretty much anything you want by adjusting your personal brand.
Here’s a side by side example with an actual brand, a celebrity, and a ‘normal’ person, to help you make the connection.
|Company/Person||Goal||Ways to achieve goal|
|Beyonce||To sell albums||Works to become nationally recognized and remains in the spotlight|
|Walmart||To sell low price goods||Spends lots of time sourcing goods that are less expensive for its stores|
|A 5th Grade Teacher||To help students learn||Shows up to work on time and is focused on doing their job|
Your brand (personal or corporate), is the set of characteristics you/your company is uniquely known for and exhibits through their actions, words, and appearance.
Keeping their end goals in mind, look at the chart below and see how each company/person from above uses specific actions, words, and appearances to achieve their goals.
|Beyonce||Makes music and goes on tours||Talks about herself as a celebrity||Wears ‘news worthy’ ensembles|
|Walmart||Sells low cost items at its stores||Advertises to specific target markets about their deals||No frills stores are clean but not fancy|
|A 5th Grade Teacher||Help students one on one to learn material||Builds up students with her/his words||Dresses appropriately to teach students|
It seems really simple, right? If Walmart wanted to sell expensive products to the ultra-rich they wouldn’t sell low cost items, advertise to everyday people like moms, and have a basic store. Likewise, if a teacher didn’t really want to help students they wouldn’t care about showing up on time, actually teaching, and wearing clothes that don’t distract students.
Our reputation, or how we want to be known, needs to make sense with our end goals and needs to be supported by our personal brand. We all have a personal brand. We all have traits that make us uniquely who we are. What we don’t always do, is focus on developing and nurturing that brand.
We go through the motions and do what we’re supposed to because that’s what our boss and HR want us to do, but we don’t often think about how we could be using everyday things like actions, words, and our appearance to get ahead.
If our desire is to travel, maybe culture awareness is a strong characteristic that we embody.
If our desire is to make a lot of money, maybe a strong work ethic and go-getter attitude are what we are known for.
If our desire is to find a spouse, maybe dressing a way that shows your value will attract the right person.
Essentially, your personal brand is the process of creating and managing your reputation.
Personal branding isn’t a difficult concept, but it does take a decent amount of self-awareness. What do you want? (even if it’s just for the next 5 years) How are you being perceived right now? How do you want people to think of you? Once you start exploring these questions, you’ll be on your way to cultivating an incredible personal brand.
I know creating a personal brand isn’t easy. You may want to start, but have no idea how. That’s perfectly normal. So, normal in fact, that I created an entire e-course (including a 20+ page workbook) that walks you through creating your unique brand step by step. This is for anyone who wants a helping hand through the process, and is serious about really developing a brand that will help reach your goals. Sounds good? Click the button below to get instant access to the beginning of the course (for FREE!).
Questions about personal branding? I’d love to hear them! Comment below.
Obsessed with your success,