A ‘personal brand’ isn’t just for Instagram influencers, politicians or CEOs. It’s important for all of us to have a clear idea of who we are at work and how we want to be seen by others. And if your personal brand is authentic to who you are, it means - by default - you’ll be spending more time doing the things that make you happier at work, so that’s a win win.
Being able to build and ‘own’ your personal brand makes it easier for others to know what you stand for, how you like to operate, and where you want to go. And it’s not just about LinkedIn posts and job opportunities; it’s about bringing your best, most authentic self to work and letting that self shine for everyone to see.
Laying the foundations
Your personal brand reflects the things you value, the things that motivate you, and the things you’re great at. But you don’t have to include all of them - they are simply the foundations you can start building from.
So it’s often best to think about which things you care most about and which you’d like to be ‘famous’ for. And we’re not talking actually famous (although if that’s your jam, go for it!) but more what you want to be known and respected for.
Start by thinking about what areas and topics you’re most passionate about. What is it about them that makes them interesting to you? Why do you care so much? Can you articulate your passion in a sentence or two, or tell a story about something you’ve done that’s brought your key passions to life?
Another way to think about this is that you’re trying to pinpoint your personal elevator pitch for, well, you. For example, how would you describe your biggest passion at a dinner party? Or what subject would you really love to give a TED Talk about?
By focusing on identifying, prioritising and articulating your key area of passion, interest or expertise, you’ll be figuring out what you really stand for.
Honing your voice
Once you’ve really zeroed in on the topic or passion you want to base your brand on, the next step is to think about how you can stand out as an influential ‘voice’ about that passion. And again, we’re not necessarily talking about becoming internet-famous here; but rather about finding the right level of influence that works for your target audience.
That might be your colleagues, your boss, your prospective clients… or, well, everyone on LinkedIn, but the point is that the level of ‘influence’ you’re shooting for should be relevant to your own goals and needs. So it’s important to consider how your personal brand will have some memorability and differentiation.
- So what is special about the contribution you make to the area you’re passionate about?
- What’s your point of view? Why is it different?
- Why are you an expert or an advocate for that topic? Write a list of reasons and give an explanation for each one.
- And remember, the more closely you link your brand to who you are, the more authentic and memorable it will be...
Finding your tribe
We are, as they say, the company we keep, so it’s worth thinking about who’s around you when you’re building your brand - and the impact they will have on you, and the impact you might have on them.
Start with thinking about who you most admire and why. How can you learn from them or interact with them? This could be at a micro level, i.e. the people you spend time with at work and the relationships you build with them; or it could be more macro - the books you read and talk about, the podcasts you subscribe to and recommend, the articles you share, or the people you follow on the socials.
It’s also worth thinking about how you would like others to perceive you and the brand you’re projecting. How would you like them to describe who you are and what you stand for? And who would like to inspire?
Bringing it all together
Once you’ve figured out the key ingredients of your personal brand, it’s time to put it into practice.
Think about all the ‘touchpoints’ where your audience will experience who you are - from your social media profiles (if the socials are your thing), presentations and speeches you might give for work, articles or blogs you could write, through to how you communicate in meetings, the events you attend, the people you meet, and the topics and issues you discuss. What can you do to project the clearest and most impactful version of who you are and what you bring to the party?
But remember it’s always going to be a work in progress, and just like any brand, will need constant development and investment to make sure it’s doing its best work for you!
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