How To: Personal Branding
What is branding? In broad terms “branding” is the idea or or image people have in mind when thinking about specific products, services, and activities of a company. This is both both in a practical (e.g. “the shoe is light-weight”) and emotional way (e.g. “the shoe makes me feel powerful”). Branding is the first thing you think of when you are asked about a particular brand. This concept also applies to personal branding.
For example famous people all have unique personal brands; Queen Elizabeth I, was famous for her red hair contrasting her pale face, accompanied by her extravagant gowns, she is known to this day as the Virgin Queen. In modern times big corporations have refined branding into art, with teams of people dedicated to massive advertising campaigns and carefully curated public relations. With the rise of consumer culture, more and more of the same products are being sold, and the only way to differentiate these products is through branding. This rise in ‘branding importance’ is now combining with the rise in importance of social media and micro-influencers.
When you run a small business, you have an interesting branding dilemma. Do you solely represent your company as a corporate entity, like Coca-Cola does? (You have no idea who runs Coca-Cola.) This is the usual practise of corporations. It is how they appear professional and trustworthy. Or do you put yourself at the front of your company, essentially creating a cult of personality around yourself, like Steve Jobs did for Apple?
If you sell a product, the corporate image is more important. If you sell a service, then the personality-based branding is probably more your cup of tea.
Here are 5 tips on creating your own personal brand:
Branding, whether personal, or for a company, is basically the same. You must always find a way to differentiate yourself. Below are five steps to help you build your own brand.
1. Decide What Sets You Apart
Look at what you do
Look at what the others in your niche do
Work out what you did that makes you special: what can you do, or what do you do, that the others don’t?
This USP (Unique Selling Point) can be your product, or where you come from, or how you present your product, etc
This part of the process of branding is called differentiation. This is what separates Coke from Pepsi: two otherwise almost identical sodas. You can differentiate yourself through many things: price, product, location, values, appearance etc.
If you have a new and interesting product then it is probably easier to come up with a unique brand as no one else will be selling your product, but branding becomes more difficult if you are providing a common service or product.
If you are, say, a local plumber, and you offer basically the same services and products as two other local plumbers, you cannot differentiate yourself from them through product, price or location. You can differentiate yourself by associating yourself with different values. For example, in Auckland, New Zealand, there is a company that provides general handyman services. They have called their company, Hire-A-Hubby. Their vans are pink, their logos are cute and funny. They are very recognisable. Hire-A-Hubby provides almost identical services to other less heavily branded handymen, but it had differentiated itself through its branding and has created a whole new market for themselves. Their target market is very clearly women who need handyman services.
2. Make Sure the Right Content Is Being Found
This point is rather self-explanatory. If you are going to be your own personal brand, that means people will be googling you, to find out about your services. As a user of social media in your private life, you will have some kind of pre-existing footprint: photos from weddings, fishing trips, drunk Friday nights etc. If you set up a personal brand that associates you with say, wholesome family values, you do not want photos of your bachelor party on Hawaii being easily found by anyone who googles your name.
You don’t have erase your entire online existence, however. It is a good idea, though, to google yourself and then do your best to clean up what appearsp. Make personal/ family pages private, so that strangers cannot see them. Do your best to get rid of any weird photos, or online profiles that can be easily traced back to you, e.g. you ran a Facebook page dedicated to some celebrity when you were thirteen. Delete or lockdown any accounts that you think do not match your chosen branding.
3. Start Networking to Build Your Brand
- You want to build a community around yourself. Your community will help spread your brand by word of mouth, whether on purpose or incidentally. If you build a community you are more likely to have good customer loyalty, and you will have a base which you can turn to in times of troubles. Networking takes time. You have to get people to become used to you and eventually trust you. You have to consistently interact with the people in your area, e.g. Commenting, liking, message sharing, etc, their content. You have to interact with people who come to you, do ‘giveaways’, polls, questions. Chat with them, put time into building up relationships. You have to choose a level at which you will engage with other people. If you keep interacting permanently, people will find you annoying. But if you don’t interact regularly people will forget you.
- Networking is basically a formal word for making friends in your area. You must make sure also that your friendships are on-brand. For example, if you are being a small, local family-friendly plumber, maybe do not make friends with too many foreign drug dealers
4. Find Ways To Make Your Personal Brand Stand Out.
Once you have decided what your personal brand will be, what values will be associated with it? Who will your market be? What platforms will you be using to interact with customers? You will have to start creating content that will explain your brand and values to your customers. If you have chosen the personal brand format you will be having to sell a version of you to your customers. You have to get people interested in you, (well the version of you that you have chosen to be your brand). If you are using social media there are five main ways to get people interested in your personal brand.
- TELL YOUR STORY: people want to know stories so that they can become invested in your struggle
- SHOW YOUR PERSONALITY: they want to know what you are like, social media is all about the person, they want to know what you like and don’t, what values you hold etc
- MAKE IT MEANINGFUL: Instead of just commenting a heart emoji on 100 posts, and giving default business answers, actually take the time to talk to people. Make people feel like they are more than a faceless customer.
- OFFER A BRAND EXPERIENCe: this is all down to your ability to pay attention to details. Small businesses on Etsy are a good example of this. They have their own special packaging, thank you card, and videos. They offer a very strong brand experience.
A good example of people who employ the above strategies, is fitness influencers. They often sell anything they can get sponsored for, so they do not have a fixed product. Their entire brand is their fun, quirky and above all very healthy personality. They often detail their struggles with weight loss, mental health or something else that allows them to tell a compelling story. This will take practice and probably quite a while to be able to create content that hits the right note with your customers and your brand.
Keep Your Information Updated
Lastly, if you want people to work with you, you have to keep your online presence up to date. This does not mean just your social media accounts,, you have to keep your Google listing up to date. Update your opening hours if you are a physical location, or check your reviews, answer questions etc. If you do not have a physical address you can still make sure your contact details are up to date.