Developing Your Personal Brand

Compiled by Stephanie Heinatz and Kelly Marderosian

Have you Googled yourself, lately? No?

Go. Do it. Do it now.

The results there, my friends, is the first hint you have at your digital presence, your brand, your identity most people see first.

You may or may not realize that you have a personal brand already. If you have a Facebook or LinkedIn profile your name probably comes up on the first page. Perhaps you are listed in the phone book or you have recently been mentioned in a local news article. All of these things are part of your personal brand.

Blogs, websites and social media make it virtually impossible to prevent anyone from creating a personal brand, whether they want to or not.

What you can do is ensure you are shaping your brand.

According to Forbes, less than 15 percent of people have truly defined their personal brand and less than 5 percent are actually living it on a daily basis.

Personal branding requires work and self-awareness, but the end result is well worth the investment in time.

SO WHAT IS PERSONAL BRANDING?

Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands and defining oneself as a leader, a thought leader. The concept of personal branding suggests that success comes from self-packaging.

Take one of our personal favorites, Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia. He has developed a unique brand for himself, helping people build businesses.

Right after college, he took his family wine business and grew it from a $3 to $60 million business in five years. This led him to become an entrepreneur, investor, venture capitalist, author, blogger and a prolific public speaker.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company and the Wall Street Journal, just to name a few. If you’ve ever listened to or watched Gary Vee, you know he’s raw, straightforward and will tell it like it is. He’s authentic and people like that.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO TO CREATE YOUR PERSONAL BRAND?

So what can you do to create your own personal brand to ensure you are being portrayed the way you want to be? Understand and be your authentic self. Your personal brand is your story. It should answer these questions:

—Who are you?

—What are your goals?

—What do you stand for?

—What do you believe?

—How do you want to change the world in your life and in your business?

Identify your brand.

Your personal brand is made up of many elements. It’s how you dress, what you say. and how you say it.

To start identifying your brand, ask people who know you well to describe you. It’s similar to when I tell someone’s story, I ask them three words they would use to describe themselves.

This helps me clarify how they want to be portrayed as an individual. Identifying skills, qualifications, quirks and flaws is also part of the equation to blend with values, purpose and goals.

It’s important to keep in mind that when first defining your personal brand, you may not get it right the first time. Or even the second time. But that’s okay.

Live your brand.

Are you living your brand every day? Your brand isn’t a facade. It’s meant to be a snapshot of who you are, what you believe in, how you live your life, what’s important to you and the types of problems you enjoy solving.

People want to do business with people, not companies. Think carefully and be purposeful about your daily communication with co-workers and peers. These people have the power to influence your brand and your conversations with them are just as important as your communication with your boss or a client.

Your brand helps serve as a mission to help guide you to the next phase of your career and helps you focus on your strengths. When you live your personal brand it gives you credibility and validates that you can be trusted.

Recognize that your voice has power.

Take up offers to speak publicly. Write thought leadership articles. Participate in interviews. These may sound like big things, but the simple act of sharing information on social media gives you the opportunity to share your thoughts and your voice and it exhibits confidence.

With that being said, keep in mind that what you share online sends a message and will be there for a long time. This doesn’t mean everything has to be sterile or business focused. You still want people to see you living your life. Every status update, every tweet and every picture you share contributes to your personal brand. Ensure what you share is purposefully and mindfully chosen.

Think of yourself as a brand.

Your reputation is your brand or your trademark. When people think of you, what do you want people to associate with you? Once you discover how you want your personal brand to be perceived, you can be strategic about it.

As human beings, we are constantly changing as we learn and grow. This means personal branding is ever evolving, which means personal branding is something that requires maintenance. So as you change as a person, your brand changes.

Share yourself with the world.

Being vulnerable can be scary. Will people like you? Will they criticize you? Through vulnerability comes confidence. I like to think everyone has something unique to contribute and share with the world. Your message may not be meant for everyone, but you never know who you are inspiring with the information you share. Once you develop an understanding of your true self, then you can go out and share your value with the world.

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