The term “personal brand” is thrown around fairly often. This is understandable: in the digital age, anyone with an online presence has their own personal brand.
The posts and pictures you upload, the websites you frequent and the pages, groups or interests you align yourself with are what your digital footprint is comprised of, and so it is likely that you will have a personal brand, whether you intended to or not.
The most successful businesses are underpinned by strong, universally-understood brands. American author and business executive Seth Godin describes brands as the “…set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another”, which is also an effective way of defining one’s personal brand.
Personal branding expert Andrew Ford describes it as the unique package of skills, qualifications and character traits that make up who you are. Your personal brand’s essence is captured in the thoughts and feelings that pop into people’s minds when your name is mentioned, so it is easy to see the significance of it, and how it has the potential to be used as a tool to promote yourself, your skills and your career.
The most common personal branding mistakes include a neglect of your personal brand – which results from allowing your personal brand to “just happen” – and brand confusion, when your inability to clearly define what you do or who you are leads to people viewing you as an unspecialised “jack of all trades”, which ultimately undermines your reputation. In this post, we are going to help you reap the maximum benefit from your personal brand with a few insightful tips, empowering you to stand out in your field.
Your appearanceThe old saying about dressing for the job you want, not the one you have, rings true here. The way you dress yourself sends nonverbal cues to the people you interact with, and it plays a big part in first impressions, too: having well-ironed, neat clothing might convey your level of detail-orientation, for example. This doesn’t mean you always have to wear a fitted suit, it just means being mindful of your audience and environment, and what messages your attire is sending.
Your point of differenceIn a bustling, dynamic city like Cape Town, there will always be someone at your age, in your field, with a better-looking CV or more prominent clients. The trick, therefore, is defining what you offer in relation to everyone else with a similar set of skills or services, and how you do it better. What sets you apart? Maybe you are known for creating stunning visual presentations for new clients before they expect it. Maybe you are known for being incredibly meticulous with data and information. Whatever it is, clearly define it for yourself in written words, and thread it through your interactions and your online presence.
Make promises, exceed expectationsWhen promoting your own personal brand, great value can be derived from surprising people at every touch point. If you are tasked with researching a competitor brand, for example, you could go the extra mile by not only researching the business but also presenting a list of actionable strategies and recommendations for your employer or client to use.
Manage your imageWhether you like it or not, your online persona will form a significant part of how others perceive your personal brand. In spite of this, many people treat their social media accounts as afterthoughts, sitting with the same Instagram “bio” that they have had for years. The reality is that almost everyone is on social media, from big brands to powerful people, and countless opportunities and connections can come from being proactive on the various platforms.
Prioritise qualityWhen people are discussing you without your presence, do they talk about what you do? Or do they talk about how well you do it? Being recognised as someone who delivers exceptional quality at every stage of a project or undertaking is incredibly powerful. Whether you’re pitching an integrated campaign to a massive advertising agency or building a website for a one-man startup, maintaining a high-standard of work ensures that people will want to hire with you again, and you are more likely to be recommended to others.
Being proactive in the design of your personal brand gives you control over how others perceive you, and it reinforces your credibility as a professional in your field. As your personal brand grows, people will know what to expect from you before they meet you, helping you make strong, long-lasting first impressions, and ensuring that you stand out from the crowd.