I’ll be frank: When I first heard the term “personal branding,” I greeted it with an eye roll worthy of a teenager. Why personal branding, I mused — isn’t branding good enough? After all, I reasoned, we all know what branding means.
But personal branding is different, and it’s a vital tool for small businesses and other entrepreneurial types. Like blogging, personal branding embodies a technique, mindset, and personality that helps you stand out among your competitors. Content marketing is a keystone of strengthening your personal brand.
Some uber successful personal brands are those of celebs such as talk show host extraordinaire Oprah Winfrey, gourmet doyenne Martha Stewart and motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Their personal identities are synonymous with their brands.
Although only a few rarified entrepreneurs play in Oprah’s league, we’d all be wise to heed her advice: “If I lost control of the business, I’d lose myself — or at least the ability to be myself. Owning myself is a way to be myself.”
What exactly is personal branding?
If you’re unfamiliar with the term personal branding, here’s an explanation from DigitalMarketing.org: “Personal branding is the practice of marketing people and their careers as brands. It is an ongoing process of developing and maintaining a reputation and impression of an individual, group, or organization. Whereas some self-help practices focus on self-improvement, personal branding defines success as a form of self-packaging.
“Your personal brand is how you promote yourself. It is the unique combination of skills, experience, and personality that you want your followers to see. It is the telling of your story, and the impression people gain from your online reputation.”
Let’s face it: Almost nobody is anonymous these days. Social media conveys a lot about everyone who posts on it (and even many who don’t), so it’s incumbent upon small business owners to use their own voices and control their own stories — that’s at the red hot center of personal branding.
Much like a blog, a personal branding strategy is akin to a chapter in a book — a book about you. And because you’re the author of this story, you shape the narrative that can persuade people to consider doing business with you even when they don’t know you. In a way, your personal brand operates like an old-fashioned storefront: You can show potential customers your wares and communicate your style and abilities much like an impactful store window can. Your personal brand allows people to feel as if they know you and even start to develop trust in your abilities.
Put on your consumer hat and consider this. If you want to hire, say, a life coach, there may be dozens of these pros to choose from in the ZIP codes that surround your home. How will you decide which one to trust with the issues near and dear to your heart? If you are already personally acquainted with someone you like and trust, the answer is a no-brainer — you’ll hire her or him.. But in many cases, you’ll head to the Internet and consult “Dr. Google.” And even if someone you trust weighs in with an endorsement, you’re likely to at least peruse the recommended individual’s website before making a decision.
Why is personal branding so important?
Creating a strong personal brand makes you more influential.
Establishing a bond with potential customers — rather than moving full speed ahead into a sales mode— is a more comfortable way to build a relationship with prospects.
Developing an authentic personal brand may enable you to attract the people most likely to purchase your product or service. There will be more a natural attraction if someone identifies with you through your online presence, including both website and social media.
Building a client base with a distinctive personal brand is a way to help ensure clients will come to you organically— rather than you needing to pursue them.
Polishing your personal brand leads to a better network.
Maintaining and living your brand leads to more credibility among prospects and greater loyalty from established customers.
Try writing a personal brand statement — a close relative of the elevator pitch. It may seem unnecessary to say, but before you develop this kind of a statement, be absolutely, 100 percent real with yourself before you craft it.
“Focus on identifying your target audience, communicating an authentic message that they want and need, and project yourself as an expert within your niche,” said Kim Garst, marketing strategist.
Looking at my personal brand
For someone like me, that means staying true to who I am: an experienced, award-winning freelance writer and PR professional who loves collaborating with small businesses, healthcare organizations, and nonprofits. I’m not a corporate communications type; that’s not my thing and I don’t market myself as such. As a published author with strong editorial roots I take a journalistic approach to every writing and PR project I take on. An essential lesson and a direct quote from my father, Bill Storm, a newspaper reporter, always rings true: “There are no small stories.” It sounds simple, but its brevity makes it all the richer.
My first professional position was as a junior editor of a successful magazine start-up for the fashion jewelry industry. It sent me to New York City — a learning experience in its own right. And with just a two-person staff, this challenging position forced me to become a very hard worker, a quick study, and a lifelong learner — qualities for which I’m forever grateful. All of these factors are part of my personal brand, though I rarely consider them that way.
What about you?
If you haven’t given it much thought, play around with the concept of personal branding. Here are a half-dozen ingredients to bake into a personal statement, one that you can use on social media and on other marketing platforms:
Target your audience strategically.
Make yourself memorable.
Define your “unique selling proposition” (USP). Really focus on this question: What makes you stand out among your competitors? How can you best convey why this difference benefits customers and clients?
Invite people to know you — share a sense of who you are as a person.
Strive for relevance.
Now that you’ve given personal branding some thought, use it to polish your brand. Make it shine.