I’ve recently seen some negative comments about personal branding. Some are cynical about the whole idea behind creating a personal brand. Others are either confused about what it really means or have had a bad experience with a “brand expert.”
I’ve heard, “It’s just marketing hype and doesn’t mean anything” or “Personal branding gives people the impression that they need to put on a façade or play a certain role to be successful.”
Neither is true.
Some say the benefit of creating a “persona,” following pre-determined templates and acting a certain way to get clients and make money. But this isn’t personal branding, it’s manipulation.
Others believe personal branding is nothing more than your business card, marketing materials and website – the way you and your business “look” to others in the marketplace. They say it’s all about image and makeup and smoke and mirrors.
How your brand looks is a small piece of the branding pie, but it certainly isn’t the filling.
Peel back the layers, and at the heart of your brand is who you are, what you stand for and why you do what you do. It’s the millions of little things you do (and don’t do) that form an emotional connection with your audience. It’s the story you share with the world and how this story is interpreted by those who experience it.
Personal branding is creative expression. It’s how you exude, communicate and live who you are as a person and as an entrepreneur. It’s the reputation you build over time.
Every day, in everything you say and do, you are transmitting a message.
You are creating a brand.
The danger is that if you don’t take control of your brand, someone else will surely do it for you. Friends, family, co-workers, clients and strangers alike are experiencing your brand on a daily basis. They will form thoughts and beliefs about you, whether you are aware of it or not.
Why not be thoughtful about it? Just because you reflect on and assess your core values, what you stand for and why you do the work you do – and then communicate it in an eloquent and clear manner, doesn’t make you a shallow manipulator or all fluff and no substance.
In fact, it makes you smart, and probably more successful than most.
When your offerings (website, packages etc.) are aligned with the words that come out of your mouth and the way you interact with those around you, you are building trust with your audience.
So if you are ready to do an archaeological dig for your brand, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What are three words that best describe me?
- How do I want my clients to feel when they experience my brand?
- Why do I do what I do and why will that be important to my audience?
- What do I want my brand to look, feel, smell & taste like? (take yourself through all of your senses here and have fun with it)
- How would my favorite client describe my brand? Why is it meaningful to her?
When your words and actions, products, services, website, etc. are consistent and aligned, you are helping your prospective client to feel comfortable with you, and good about their decision to work with you. In other words: no mixed messages.
Big brands like Coca-Cola, Virgin, Apple and Lululemon spend thousands of hours assessing who they are and the value they provide their target audience. You may not need to invest quite as much time, but as an individual brand and entrepreneur, why wouldn’t you do the same thing?
A confused mind never buys. If you can’t talk about who you are and the value you provide in a clear, compelling way, you’ll never build a tribe, let alone sell your products and services. Your brand, and how others feel about it, is the most important asset in your business.
© Liz Dennery Sanders 2012
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