What is Personal Branding?

Personal branding is the process of creating an engaging, robust professional image. In the same way that corporations need a memorable message, your personal skills and expertise do too. It’s a way to showcase what makes you, you. 

Creating your personal brand is non-negotiable regardless of whether you’re a freelancer or the CEO of multiple companies. You can think of it as a polished first impression.

Why is Developing a Personal Brand Important?

Building a personal brand establishes a consistent, memorable picture of who you are. It provides depth that a static headshot and media blurb cannot. Cultivating a great personal brand puts you in control of how your story is told. This is especially important for those in the public spotlight, but since recruiters rely on social media more than ever during hiring, it’s useful for everyone. 

Personal branding gets you noticed, and it gives you a head start in gaining the trust of your target audience. People want to connect with people, so curating your personal brand both online and offline puts you head and shoulders above the competition.  

6 Steps to Start Creating Your Personal Brand

1. Determine your personal brand vision and values

Before you can market yourself, you have to know yourself. It sounds cliché, but it’s impossible to authentically build a brand if you don’t take the time to outline your vision and values. You want to create a good first impression with your brand.

What do you stand for? Where do you want your branding to take you? What are the best parts of your personality and knowledge to showcase? 

For example, Gary Vaynerchuk always says, “family first“. That’s an integral part of his personal values, so it carries over into his branding. He knows what’s important to him, and it allows him to prioritize how he moves forward. You don’t have to be like Gary Vaynerchuk (in fact, he expressly says to do what works for you), but you do have to clearly define what’s important to you and how it will drive you forward.

The key here is to remember that you’re not crafting a public-facing “representative.” Your brand should be a true-to-life (but slightly larger-than-life) reflection of your true self. Personal branding doesn’t work if you try to build a foundation based on something you’re not. 

2. Choose your niche

When building a business, the conventional wisdom is to specialize and then specialize again.

The same is true for building a personal brand. Now is not the time to paint in broad strokes and let strangers fill in the blanks. Decide what your strongest attributes are, then keep narrowing them down until you get unique selling points to craft your brand around.

It’s tempting to try to be as broad as possible when developing a personal brand, but that will stunt your growth. People often say they want to keep their branding open-ended in case things change in the future. While this seems reasonable on paper, it’s a career-killer in practice.

Growth and development are critical aspects of being human. Research shows that authenticity is extremely important to audiences, so let them see your evolution.

Specialize your brand until it’s specific and unique to you. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and human.

3. Build your online presence

If you don’t already have a personal website and LinkedIn profile, you should make those your top priority.

In the past, LinkedIn was a limited platform that had very narrow uses. However, they’ve recently introduced many changes that make it a much more dynamic social platform. If your profile has been languishing (or you’ve been dragging your feet creating one), now is the time to start leveraging the platform. 

If you do have a great LinkedIn and website, then make sure you have a polished, active account on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok as well. 

For examples of what I mean, check out accounts from public figures like Richard Branson and Alexander Kraft. These are two very different people who are extremely successful in their respective niches. They both have Instagram accounts that showcase their particular brand aesthetic in a cohesive way that’s easily recognizable. (i.e. – Branson’s adventure-loving “rugged” appeal versus Kraft’s more refined, couture persona.)

Across all platforms, make sure that your message is consistent. Here are a few tips: 

  • When possible, use the same easily recognizable headshot (and keep it updated!)
  • Make every profile robust and engaging. Don’t skip any sections
  • Strategically showcase your expertise. Yes, you might be an excellent graphic designer, but if you’re marketing your SEO blog writing skills, that should be your focus.
  • Be consistently active.

Optimize Your Website

First, invest in a domain that reflects your personal brand as closely as possible. Using your name is preferable, but if that’s not feasible, choose something easy and memorable. 

Next, make sure your site is attractive. If dynamic storytelling isn’t your forte, hire a branding expert’s services. They can help you weave high-ranking keywords into natural, engaging storytelling that tells readers who you are, what you do, and why they should trust your expertise.

Remember that creating a personal brand is all about your narrative. The best stories are the ones that are compelling, emotional and relatable.

Leverage Social Media Accounts

These days, it can be hard to separate personal social media from your overall online presence. Because of this, you must remember that every bit of your online content now feeds into your personal brand.

If you want to have truly “personal” accounts, be sure to wholly separate them from your online presence. Use an unrelated email and handle, and be sure to keep those accounts locked down and limited to only people you know in real life.

4. Develop a dynamic content strategy

When creating a personal brand, the most-repeated advice is consistency. People should be able to immediately recognize that the content they’re viewing comes from your brand.

It’s also important to remember that consistency doesn’t mean cookie-cutter. It comes from using an established “brand voice” and a familiar style. For instance, you never have to wonder if an ad is for Apple or Tiffany. Both brands have a distinct aesthetic and voice that immediately communicates who is speaking. 

The same concept applies to your personal brand. Your brand should utilize a dynamic content strategy across all channels that strikes a balance between a recognizable aesthetic and what the user preferences are for that platform.

You don’t have to develop a totally new strategy for every outlet, but you need to make sure your posts fit naturally with each platform. Gary Vaynerchuk has turned the concept of a dynamic content strategy into an art form, and anyone can learn a lot from how he and his team are able to create more than 30 pieces of high-quality content from a single keynote! 

5. Produce valuable content for your target audience

Don’t put your “premium” content behind a paywall. The best way to earn trust and establish authority in your field is to provide genuine value for the people who are interested in what you do. 

Remember that valuable content reaches beyond simple text posts and short videos on social media. Explore new forms of content marketing, both online and offline. Create online courses. Schedule public speaking engagements. Host or make guest appearances on a podcast. 

Not only will you boost visibility and reach a more niche audience, but you will prove that you’re a thought leader who cares about elevating others. 

Value yourself, but don’t immediately try to monetize everything you do. Provide value, and value will come back to you.

6. Build a community

Likes on a post don’t translate to genuine connection. Developing a personal brand should include building a community of like-minded individuals who connect on a meaningful level

As you refine your brand, you will attract a specific group of people who share your beliefs and are as passionate as you are about your values and mission. 

Online and offline connections are both valuable strategies for establishing a community, so don’t hesitate to create in-person meetups, LinkedIn groups or dedicated group chats via sites like Discord. 

In Summary

Let’s cover a few important takeaways from this post so that you can dive into perfecting your personal brand:

  • Start by clearly outlining your vision and values. Write them down or create a vision board, so it stays in front of you always.
  • Remember that you’re not trying to be liked by everyone. You only want to attract a specific intersection of people who share your values. Build a brand that appeals to those people, and don’t worry about the rest.
  • Your online reputation makes up the bulk of your personal brand. Build strongly, carefully and consistently.
  • Stay agile across online platforms and have a dynamic content strategy that plays to the strengths of each site.
  • Value comes in many forms. Instead of only focusing on monetizing your brand, start building a foundation of thought leadership and genuine value. The money will follow.
  • Create a community online and offline that supports you and each other. This is how you will sustain success long-term.

For most of us, the essential components for creating a personal brand are already established. We know who we are, where our strengths lie and what we stand for. The key is to understand how to leverage this information in a way that propels us forward.