What is personal branding and why is it important?

what is personal branding

What is personal branding and why is it important?

Personal branding has become a buzz term in recent years, but what is personal branding? Why is it important? And how do you get it?

Have you ever asked yourself: how strong is your personal brand?

Possibly not. After all, you’re no Kim or Kanye. You’re not trying to shift your latest fragrance, get your face on a billboard, or launch a new fashion line.

But does that mean personal branding doesn’t apply to you? Actually, no.

Whoever you are, whatever your goals, your personal brand is like a unique guiding force. It ensures you consistently talk and act in a way that matches up with the kind of person you want to be. Managed well, your personal brand can have a positive influence on all areas of your life.  Whether professional or personal, whether you’re trying to score a promotion, make new friends, or earn respect from those around you.

The truth is, far from being the preserve of reality stars, celebrities, or politicians, personal branding applies to everyone.

And — newsflash — you already have a brand

Imagine you’re at a party bursting with friends, family, and colleagues, when you have to duck out of the room for a minute. The assembled guests are then asked what they think of you.

What do they say? How do they describe you? Which of your characteristics have they picked up on? What do they REALLY think of you?

That, like it or not, is your personal brand. Whether you’ve spent a tonne of time cultivating it, or have literally never thought of it until right now, it exists.

Fingers crossed, those imaginary party goers would sing your praises; if you’re lucky, and on track with your personal branding, the way the people in your life see you will tally with the vision you have of yourself and of the person you want to be.

Often though, this scenario is enough to make us realise that our personal branding isn’t quite where it should be: we recognise that our party guests might have one or two uncomfortable truths to share and that we might hear the odd description that doesn’t fit with the person we aspire to be.

We realise that we’ve allowed our personal brand to become diluted.

What is personal branding? Time to create your brand…

If we think about branding as it exists in the sales and marketing world, it’s never accidental.

Whether a company is marketing a product or a service, they put loads of effort into creating a consistent message. This is something that, as individuals, we don’t tend to do.

We’re often working on autopilot; we don’t necessarily spend much time thinking about who or what we want to be. We get up in the morning or start our daily meeting without setting a firm intention of where we’re headed.

Even those of us who have set an intention, those who are determined to adhere to certain behaviours and to maintain a consistent personal brand, can become waylaid by the busyness of a typical day.

Is stress diluting your brand?

No matter how you feel at the start of the day, when you are constantly on the go, when you are carrying lots of high emotion, it’s all too easy to slip into reactive mode. For some of you, that won’t be a huge problem, particularly if your default setting ties in with the type of person you want to be. But, it can be more problematic for those whose default state of being is in conflict with the way they want to behave.

Often, stress can lead to the dilution of your brand and cause you to act in ways you don’t necessarily feel proud of, ways that don’t show you in your best light. Maybe you snap at people, maybe you find you’re distracted when you’re supposed to be listening to someone, maybe you find yourself slipping into negative thoughts or judgements about other people.

It can happen to the best of us and even when we don’t voice these negative thoughts, or outwardly snap at the people we’re talking to, it’s still clear that we’re distracted and not fully available to them.

This is what we call emotional leakage

Imagine another scenario: this time you’re at work, in between meetings. You’re in a rush and have a million open tabs (in your head AND on your screen). You have zero time to plan your interactions with the people around you; you’re turning up without having had the chance to compose yourself, to reflect on how you’re feeling, or to decide how you want to come across.

Sounds familiar, right? And because that’s often how we’re operating, it means we’re leaving lots to chance — including how people perceive our brand.

Often, this emotional leakage manifests itself in tiny ways, in behaviours you’re not even aware of. It might come out in the pace of your speech, the way you tap your foot, fidget with your pen. Maybe it is reflected in the opportunities you give for others to contribute to the conversation. It could be the way you jump in and make assumptions about where the conversation is headed. Perhaps it’s how you get caught up in the content of what people are saying without tapping into the emotions that lie beneath. It may be that you’re quick to anger or jump to negative conclusions.

All of these behaviours — whether conscious or subconscious — can affect how people perceive you. Generally speaking, it affects whatever you’re trying to put across to people. The more composed you are in terms of your internal emotions, the better your chance of creating a strong, positive personal brand.

Learning to manage your personal brand

Of course, no matter how busy a day you have or how strong your default stress response, it is possible to learn how to manage what you’re putting out there, and to regain control over your personal brand.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to take a pause. Do this both at the start of every day, and before you enter any interactions with other people. Think about how you want to come across. Consider how you’re feeling and any likely implications of feeling that way.  Decide whether you need to take action to manage those feelings before heading into your meeting or starting that conversation. It might even be worth considering whether your emotions are so out of kilter with how you want to act that you’d be better off postponing until you have more control over your feelings.  

Ditch the vanilla: embrace your uniqueness

Stress isn’t the only thing that weakens your personal brand: sometimes fear gets in the way too.

Often we look to one or two people we admire and try to emulate their personal brand. You may find yourself hiding certain parts of your personality. You might be worried about how they might be interpreted, and about how you might be perceived. Maybe you veer towards a rather vanilla brand, a brand that hides in the crowd, that isn’t likely to offend anyone…but isn’t likely to inspire anyone either.

But here’s the thing: building a brand isn’t about trying to squeeze yourself into an inoffensive, vanilla, cookie cutter version of success — rather it’s about embracing your uniqueness.

So, have a think: have you fallen into the vanilla trap? Are there aspects of yourself you’re hiding away? Are you concealing your quirks?

Embracing the quirks…

If you are it might just be time to embrace the things that make you just a little bit different. Try experimenting with various ways of letting your uniqueness shine through and watch what happens.  The chances are you’ll receive positive acknowledgement or quiet acceptance; either way, this validation that it’s absolutely okay to show up as your authentic self will give you the confidence you need to show more and more of your true personality — and that’s how you create a strong brand!

Build your very own marketing team

The keys to great product branding: consistency and a great marketing team. And so it is with personal branding.

Luckily, there’s a relatively easy way to develop both.

Don’t view your personal brand as something you switch on and off; as something you save for high profile meetings or make-or-break situations. Think of it as a permanent state. Because, how you behave in between those big events is just as important.

Imagine you’re at work; do you save your chat for those higher up the food chain or do you make a point of talking to everyone?

Often, talking to random people in the corridor, for example, is a great way of presenting a more consistent view of yourself to others. Sure, you may not need to speak to them or be aware of any tangible benefit of connecting with that person right now, but going out of your way to speak to everyone can be a great way of creating your own personal marketing team.

Because when people get a real sense of who you are, when you show them your authentic self, you’ll find people become very receptive towards you. Then, when you do have to deal with them they’ll approach the situation already having a sense of who you are. They’ll know you, they’ll know your brand. They will both think and talk about you in a more positive way.

They’ll be your very own brand ambassadors!

In conclusion…

Thinking about ourselves in terms of branding isn’t about trying to fabricate a lie. It isn’t about trying to become something we’re not, and it’s not about trying to sell ourselves. Rather, it’s a useful way to encourage us to perform at our best on a more consistent basis. It is a way to set a direction and a purpose for our interactions. It can ensure that we’re consistently showing up as the people we aspire to be.

So, the question remains: how strong is your personal brand? Drop me a comment with your thoughts; I’d love to read them!

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