Having a personal brand is the key to building a solid foundation for effective communication of telling the world who you are and why you matter. Nowadays, posting your story online and sharing it with the world has become easier and more accessible. The big challenge now is to compete for attention, because when it comes to social media, attention is everything.
Whether you are a small-time entrepreneur or a seasoned executive, having a strong personal brand is essential to succeed in this highly digital economy. Building a strong online presence can open up new opportunities, create demand, mobilize people and drive outcomes that are vital to winning in our fast-paced, mobile-first, and highly modern world in which the majority of the people’s expectations are ever-changing.
The goal here is to empower yourself to discover your personal brand and use it both online and offline to gain success in the modern economy. Whether it’s for unlocking new opportunities, pursuing a new job, earning a promotion, or landing a new client, your profile is a portal where your prospects can learn more about you. Investing in your personal brand has been proven by studies to influence things such as raises and promotions.
People that create a strong online brand have a competitive edge. Brand narratives are furthered when ambassadors do things and tell people. Because when stories are told, meaning is made.
Who is telling your story?
Are you the one telling your story? If you are and you’re doing it well, it means that you know yourself. If you’ve established an incredible online presence and you are actively networking to further both your professional and personal goals, then congratulations! You probably don’t need to read the rest of this post, but stick around anyway because you might learn a thing or two to take your game to the next level.
But let’s go back to the question of who is telling your story. And the answer is it should be you, but it can also be your friends, your family, your co-workers, and maybe your boss. Online, it’s probably your fans and followers across your social media networks. It’s also going to be your future employers, customers, investors, partners, supporters, etc.
You probably know this already because you do it, too, but the natural reflex before, after, and during our interaction with people is to look them up online to try to get a peek of who they are. And when there is missing information, what do we do? We fill in the blanks based on our first impression of their online presence. For us pattern-seeking human, we naturally fill in the blanks to fill up the void. If you are not telling your story online, someone else is, and they’re probably doing a poor job. So don’t leave it up to others to tell your story.
Storytelling is Timeless
Staying on top of social media can be overwhelming, but not participating online can come at a real cost. If you are gone for an extended period, you can experience a decline of leads, sales, engagement, website traffic, blog reads, and all other metrics that are relevant to your business. The advantage of having stories is that they are platform-agnostic. Storytelling is timeless, it’s human nature. Stories are a fundamental unit of human understanding and it’s how we construct meaning.
Every leap in communication technology has shared one common denominator, transmitting stories. From the Orrell culture through the phonetic alphabet, Gutenberg press, universities and publishers, telegraph, radio and television, personal computers, to the internet, and social media. The mediums may have changed, but the purpose has remained constant and that is to share stories. With that said, the fundamentals of personal branding online in this digital age are no different than they were at any point in the evolution of communication technology.
Do Things, Tell People
Something powerful happens when a story is told. Have you ever heard of the Zeigarnik Effect? The Zeigarnik effect occurs when an activity that has been interrupted may be more readily recalled. This effect states that people remember incomplete or interrupted tasks better than the completed ones. It’s human nature to want to finish things once you’ve started them, and you can easily make this work in your favor. Tell a good story about yourself online where it’s easy to be found, where people are already paying attention.
Nobody hears the stories that aren’t told. – Dr. John Austin
PHASE 1: Defining your Personal Brand
Define your Personal Brand
This action is all about looking inward and discovering the essence of your brand. So what is a BRAND? A brand is an idea, an essence of something. Consider the brand, Apple. You may think you know the business they’re in but think again. What is it that they’re really selling? It’s creativity and simplicity, the feeling of being part of a community that just gets it. Their slogan: Think different.
Take Nike for another example. Nike sells shoes, sporting gear, apparel, etc. But what Nike is really selling is performance, the idea that anyone can be an athlete. If you’ve ever laced up a pair of Nikes, you might have felt an extra bounce in your step. Not necessarily because Nike is a superior product, but because the brand stands for something more. Their slogan: Just do it. Disney is another example. They sell movies, theme park experiences, toys, merchandise, etc. But what is Disney really selling? It’s happiness, nostalgia, magic, smiles. Their park’s tagline: Where dreams come true. Coca-cola sells beverages. But what are they really selling? Refreshment. Their current tagline: Taste the feeling.
These brands are doing an incredible job at harmonizing the various dimensions which comprise up the people’s perception of their brand
Every brand is comprised of two elements. Perception and experience.
Perception is a combination of three things:
- How you see yourself
- How you want to be seen
- How others see you
- Activities that the brand engages in
- Interactions it has with the others
- Time – total time that your brand has been doing both
You can also do this to your brand perception. Start answering the questions and make sure you talk to other people to qualitatively assess how others see you.
When it comes to the best brands mentioned earlier, the answers to how they see themselves, how they want to be seen, and how others see them are either identical or very tightly grouped. That is brand integrity.
Brands with low brand integrity have different and competing answers to those questions. A person working at the company, a fan of the brand, and someone with limited brand awareness – all may have different answers. That’s not good. Fortunately, you can engage in activities and have interactions that will reinforce your brand integrity, and you can do this over time. The goal here is for the answer to all three questions to be the same.
Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. – Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO of Amazon
When you combine perception and experience, you get a brand. In this way, your brand is a promise and a story. Stories are after all the fundamental unit of human understanding.
Discover your Reason for Being
Have you ever heard of the Ikigai concept? Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning a reason for being. A reason to wake up and get out of bed each morning. Your driving force for your WHY’s.
The Ikigai Framework is comprised of four sections: what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you’re good at.
There are several questions you can answer relating to each of the four elements that will help you articulate your why. To discover what you love, ask yourself the following: Is what you’re doing something you’re genuinely passionate about? Could you enthusiastically talk about your industry or profession for hours on end? Are you emotionally connected to the result of your work? And if you weren’t concerned about money, would you still do what you’re doing.
Then to discover what the world needs, ask yourself the following: Are you helping to solve an actual problem? Is the marketplace demanding what you have to offer? Are people willing to part with the resources such as money, time, attention, trust, loyalty, and love to buy what you’re selling? Will this work still be needed 10 years from now? 100 years from now? If not, will the value of your work today increase over time?
Then to answer what you can be paid for, ask yourself the following: Have you ever been paid for what you do? If not, are other people being paid for this work? Are you already making a good living doing what it is that you’re doing? Can you eventually make a good living doing this work? Is there a healthy amount of competition in your industry? Are there other people who can do it better?
And lastly, to discover what you are good at, ask yourself the following: Are you useful? Is what you do something that your friends, family, or community have sought your advice or opinion on before? Are you among the best in your workplace or community at this? With some more education and experience, could you master what you do?
And if that’s too complicated or time-consuming of a process, here’s something that you could do but it’s something kinda different and also kind of dark. Write your eulogy. And if that’s too dark, write your lifetime achievement award acceptance speech instead.
“What do you want other people to say about your brand when you’re not in the room?” – Jeff Bezos
The exercise is simple, and you can get it done in one sitting. Get into the right headspace. Simulate the circumstances that a loved one might experience in preparation for delivering your eulogy. Then grab your favorite writing pen and paper, then start writing it all out. Write out what you hope your family, friends, colleagues, co-workers, and customers might say about you. Get into their mindset and imagine what you said, what you did, how you made them feel, and the impact you had on their lives and the lives of others. And then take a break. Once you’ve finished, do step away from the eulogy. Do something light and happy that will take your mind off what you’ve written. Congratulations because you’ve written out one of the most important things you’ll ever write!
When you come back to your eulogy, skim, and look for attributes, adjectives, and values. Highlight the keywords and phrases you find. Start to compile them and find the promise that things that you’ve highlighted will comprise the promise you hope to have in this world. Arrive at the core statement of how the world will be different as a result of you being in it. That is your value proposition. That is your personal brand.
At the end of this exercise, you’ll end up with a strong WHY. Most people position themselves online and offline starting with the WHAT. They typically lead with their company name or their position. It’s ineffective especially if you have a confusing title and work in a not so well-known company. What you really want to do is to start with the WHY. Lead with the impact you’re making and how the world is changing as a result.
Articulate Your Mission (in 8 words or less)
Why in only 8 words or less? Because constrains breeds creativity. By forcing yourself to be concise, you will cut out all the unnecessary, distracting things you’re believing about your mission and get right to the heart of it. Once you have your nucleus, you can build it outwards. Your mission is the business you’re in and it can change based on the phase of your life and the role that you’re in.
The structure of a good mission is as follows: VERB + AUDIENCE + OUTCOME.
In other words, what you do, who you do it for, and how the world is going to be different as a result. Here are a few good examples:
- TED: “Spreading Ideas.”
- Coca-Cola: “To refresh the world.”
- Google: “To organize the world’s information.”
- Richard Branson: “To have fun and learn from my mistakes.”
Your mission statement should basically answer these three questions:
- What do you do? What business are you in?
- Who are the people you serve?
- How is the world different as a result?
Well-articulated mission statements enable you to know yourself better and to stay focused on your reason for being. Know yourself, and once you do, everything else falls into place and you’ll find your personal brand.
This is just phase one of three. Practice the exercises and come up with your unique personal brand. Phase two will be posted soon!