While the digital age gave those who opted in the means to amplify themselves, the hybrid and often virtual landscape we now work in proves that having a personal brand is no longer a choice; it’s a requirement. To succeed, we must have the means to convey who we are no matter what the medium. A strong personal brand sets you apart from the pack and secures your professional longevity—because what you do today may not be what you do tomorrow.
Your personal brand ensures that your name gets dropped in rooms you’re not in. It allows you to capture opportunities others haven’t even heard of yet. It puts you in a position to win because the people around you know the value you add. Why? Because you’re in control of your narrative, and you’ve done a stellar job conveying your worthiness consistently, clearly, and with integrity every time you show up.
Now more than ever, it can influence the opportunities presented to you or handed to someone else. We’ve all seen it happen—someone less deserving gets awarded an opportunity over someone else more worthy and possibly even more talented. Because it’s not just about your abilities, it’s also about who you are, who you know, and their perception of you.
I’ve spent more than two decades immersed in the business of shaping perception. In my early years at high-fashion magazines, I observed how influence and taste are cultivated. When I moved to the corporate public relations side of the business, I learned what it takes to build a brand with cultural impact and longevity. I’ve worked with some of the most prestigious luxury brands and have been on some of the best marketing and communications teams in the fashion industry. As each year passed, my responsibilities and reputation grew in kind. I became a key stakeholder, working on the front lines of brand positioning, creating relevancy, building awareness, and, later, fostering innovation.
In 2009, one such idea catapulted me from my traditional role in public relations to the Wild West of social media. This singular concept would alter my career trajectory forever. Before the creator economy even existed, I plunged into an emerging world, becoming a social media pioneer in the fashion industry and one of the first examples of a fashion influencer, even though we didn’t know that word at the time.
I created an anonymous social media personality for my former employer, of which I was the sole voice (and later, the face), and organically built a highly engaged cross-platform community of over 1.5 million followers (which was huge in the early days of brands on social media). I taught myself the building blocks of what it takes to authentically tell a brand’s story online and foster a passionate fan base around it. When I was revealed as the person behind the persona, the news generated over 230 million media impressions, including a full-page feature story in the New York Times.
But I never imagined that the same tactics and marketing principles I had applied to my corporate work for years would later be pivotal in rebranding myself. In doing so, I evolved from a corporate employee to someone with a multimedia personal brand that includes two books, a podcast, speaking engagements, newsletters, a private online community, and a creative brand marketing and digital strategy consultancy. It didn’t happen overnight; it took hard work, consistency, and passion.
Let me be clear, though; creating a personal brand is not about being publicly known unless that’s something you strive to be. Your personal brand doesn’t necessarily need to live online, but having a strategic digital presence will strengthen your position. Nevertheless, it absolutely needs to exist in the real world.
I don’t care whether you’re a founder, C-suite executive, partner, director, middle manager, assistant, consultant, recent college graduate, student, or unemployed. Simply having the skills to do a particular job doesn’t cut it anymore. Of course you need to have the credentials. That should go without saying. But more than that, no matter what you do professionally, you need your own clearly defined personal brand to cut through the noise and set you apart. Or, more specifically, to put you in a position to be chosen or recommended for whatever plum opportunity you’re after.
How you present yourself, build social capital, and exude executive presence is directly proportional to your success. True talent is delivering the message that you intend with refinement. It’s about communicating who you are, what you align with, and what you do well. It’s about providing value to the people around you. It’s about getting the credit you deserve and everything that comes with that.
If you’re new to the concept of a personal brand, welcome! You may have never thought about it before, but you already have some version of one. It starts with what makes you, you. The impression others have of you stems from how you tell your story and express your unique combination of personality, experience, and skills. It lies in both the spoken and unspoken and in your mannerisms, energy, and attitude, whether in person, over email, online, in the media, or by word of mouth.
It’s your visual identity and the things you choose to surround yourself with. It’s what people think you do, who you are, and what you stand for. Saying something is on brand for you means it aligns with you aesthetically or in concept. People’s perception of you becomes their reality of you, whether you like it or not. Your personal brand is a powerful tool that, if mishandled, can cause harm. Hello, cancel culture.
The good news: I’m about to share all my insider strategies with you. From CEO down to intern and every role in between, this is how you build an impactful personal brand.
10 TIPS FOR PERSONAL BRANDING
1. Understand your brand’s current state and focus on what you want to be known for.
As individuals, we can learn from the way companies establish their brand equity. We protect our long-term worth by taking stock of what we stand for, our core values, and how we communicate. Starting this process early allows you to build a strong foundation, fine-tune your efforts, and create a meaningful reputation. What’s certain is that every person, no matter what industry they work in, is judged by many factors. How you show up to those around you is one element that defines your personal brand. If you don’t pay close attention to how your brand is consumed, you’re likely doing yourself an injustice.
2. Lay your foundation with a website, an all-star LinkedIn page, and a compelling bio.
Your website is the only place on the internet where you get a 100 percent share of voice without the interference of an algorithm. It’s your personal flagship to the world, but your LinkedIn page is Exhibit B and, in some cases, just as important. Ensure all these branding elements are up-to-date so your personal brand always presents your A-game.
3. Nail your elevator pitch, tell your story, and know how to communicate your wins strategically.
People can’t absorb volumes of information, so focus on the most important thing you want people to know about you. If you don’t, people will happily make up their own narrative. Don’t wait for someone to shine a light on you. Make your own spotlight strategically. If you use your voice to amplify others more than you do yourself, you’ll find that essential balance.
4. Establish your personal brand at work, earn social capital, and cultivate authentic relationships.
We can’t discount the importance of how we interact with the people we work with. It’s not about adding contacts to your phone. It’s about building authentic relationships. You must give as much as you take to create a genuine relationship. People want to hire and work with people they like. The more people you help in their endeavors, the more your name will pop up in people’s minds. You build social capital by delivering on your promise repeatedly, showing your network that you are reliable and good to work with.
5. Become a captivating speaker and presenter.
People won’t remember a PowerPoint presentation or the statistics you’ve rattled off, but they will remember an engaging story. Understanding and delivering your message tailored to the audience is the goal. If you want to be a strong communicator, showing a strategic bit of your human side will allow the audience to connect with you. When people like the messenger, they listen to the message.
6. Craft a social media strategy and build an online presence.
Social media provides a medium to establish your voice and thought leadership. It’s essential for leaders today to have an online presence. Being successful on social media is really, first and foremost, about authentic storytelling. No rule says that to be successful on social media, you must share your life’s personal aspects. You don’t. Focus on sharing the parts of you that support your long-term goals and what you want to be known for. Repetition is reputation.
7. Manage your reputation, learn PR 101, and survive cancel culture (hopefully, you won’t have to).
There’s more pressure than ever on leaders to say where they stand on issues, but not every company does, and not every leader has to. The most critical part of that calculation—for anyone—is that if you are going to weigh in on an issue, you must fully understand it and its impact on you, your company, and beyond. It’s pretty wild to think how long it takes to establish a reputation and how quickly it can all come crashing down. One wrong move, tweet, sound bite, and it can be game over. Weigh the repercussions before you speak.
8. Establish your signature look and visual identity.
Using personal style or a signature look to communicate who you are before you’ve even said a word is a strategic and easy way to set the bar higher. When you show up looking polished, it says that you value what you’re doing and where you’re doing it.
9. Learn your value and negotiate what you’re worth.
People value what they pay for. We must price ourselves to align with the image we’re trying to convey. Understanding the correlation between your personal brand and your rates helps solidify the overall message you want to communicate. Knowing you’re good at what you do and being able to charge for it is sometimes an imbalanced equation. It’s imperative to benchmark your work. It’s sometimes difficult to channel the confidence to ask for what you deserve. Connecting with your purpose bolsters your ability to have those tough conversations.
10. Overcome imposter syndrome, step into your power, and rebrand yourself.
There is no shortage of judgment in this world. You can be made to feel small, unsuccessful, unworthy, unloved, and unseen at any given moment of the day. Hell, you can do that to yourself just as easily. You don’t need to accept this as your reality. Instead, you can choose to embrace your potential. Listen to the voice in your head that asks, “Why not me?” Because the answer is it can be you.
I’ve lived this advice and used these methods—and they work. Why build a personal brand, you might ask? Because your career is likely to go in many different directions, and no matter what, I bet you have aspirations greater than where you are today. You may have forgotten them, but what lies ahead is an opportunity to rediscover yourself. And for some of you, maybe for the first time.
It’s true our world is more uncertain than ever. We can, however, control how we communicate, the ways in which we connect, the energy we give off, and what we choose to align with. We all need to be ready for anything, and whatever you can do to protect yourself from the changes around you, the better off you’ll be. To successfully pivot at any given point requires that instead of putting all your efforts into one company, role, and title, you must have that same intention for yourself. I invite you to step into your new role as Chief Brand Officer of you.
This article first appeared https://www.fastcompany.com
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