Why am I here?
I’ve known Agnė since 2012. That year we both enrolled in the same MSc programme at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Ever since I met her, she always stood out as ambitious, goal-driven and creative person.
Over the years we became close friends and I was fascinated to see how quickly she was climbing career ladder and working hard towards her goals. However, when she told me she was going to quit her corporate job and head off to Uganda as a volunteer, it didn’t really come as a surprise as she always wanted to reach out for more. I believe that this experience in Africa strengthened not only her character, but also her personal brand. In 2019 she rocked by starting to blog, sharing her values and beliefs online and offline as well as inspiring hundreds of individuals to be brave and go for what they believe in.
When Agnė asked me to do a guest post on her blog, I couldn’t be happier. So here I am. As you might have guessed from this short intro above, this guest blog post is going to be on personal branding.
Why personal branding?
I’ve always believed that personal communication was more powerful than corporate one, but it wasn’t until 2018 when I made up my mind to begin consulting on personal branding and launched a niche boutique consultancy named Persona Cognita (Known person if translated from Latin).
So what’s up with personal branding that makes it so important nowadays?
Today’s market is very crowded competitive and to stay on top of mind with your prospects, it becomes vital to put effort into building your personal brand. Even though sceptics may say that personal branding is necessary only for celebrities and public figures, here are a couple of reasons (among many) why it is worth investing your time in personal branding:
A. It clarifies your positioning.
Communicating who you are and what you stand for allows positioning yourself as a specialist, expert, leader, consultant, creative or whoever you are. Some people may not know your strengths and with your communication efforts you will be able to show them as well as provide others with reasons to believe. Believe me, others will perceive you as more credible then.
B. It helps you build your network and audience.
Personal branding helps you build and grow your professional network, which you may leverage into a job search, finding business partners or simply like-minded people. Even if you do not have a business you’d like to promote yet, why not starting to grow your network now and “harvesting” it later.
C. It helps you with self-realization.
You are surely aware of the Maslow’s pyramid. While the physiological needs are at the bottom, self-actualization needs are at the very top. Personal branding efforts will help you fulfil your own potential through creativity and individuality.
Among others, the above are just a couple of things that will hopefully get you convinced about the value of personal branding.
So let’s get it started with things that will help you to get started with strengthening your personal brand this year.
What should you focus on in 2020?
First, a short recap on what personal branding is. You can find plenty of definitions of it. Most of them will say that personal branding is about who you are, what you stand for, and what you have to offer. Marty Neumeier describes a brand as a gut feeling about a product, service, or organization. Similarly, we could say that a personal brand is a gut feeling we have about another human being. The people we surround ourselves with – our colleagues, employees, employers, clients, or potential clients – surely have a gut feeling about us. Now, how do we make sure they perceive us the way we want to?
As a marketer, I advise you to build that gut feeling focusing on 7 key elements, or 7Cs, of Personal Branding Mix (yes, based on good 7Ps Marketing Mix). The truth is that these elements will be valuable not only in 2020, but later as well. It’s a sustainable personal brand you’d like to build, wouldn’t you?
Let’s look at the 7 key elements then:
Every personal brand starts with a product – a person behind it, a character that’s authentic, has a vision and goals, knows its talents and skills, and can tell its personal or professional story. Each and every person is character of his own personal branding story. Therefore, think of what makes you an interesting one.
It’s the currency of trust your audience gives you while spending time to interact with you. As the personal brand strengthens, this credit of trust turn into credibility. Your audience knows what value it will get from your character. It’s important for you to think (and maybe list down) of attributes that make you look credible in the eyes of your target audience.
2.5 or BONUS TIP.
Ever heard of the term positioning statement? It might be very useful to look into it from personal branding perspective. It defines where you stand as a Character compared to other professionally related Characters in the marketplace as well as in the mind of your target audience. Plus, it also helps you understand what you are credible for.
Make your own personal positioning statement based on the structure below and answering the questions that follow each section.
Target audience. Who are the people you want to have a particular perception of you? Are these your potential or current clients, employers, employees, colleagues, or society at large?
Category reference. What do you stand for? What professional category do you consider yourself belonging to? What is the industry where you leverage your potential? What is the function you excel at?
Benefits. What do you have to offer? What are the benefits your target audience will get from you if they start working with you, reading your blog, or ordering your consulting services?
Reasons to believe. What are the reasons your audience should believe in what you promise to offer? What is your experience and expertise that makes you credible? What have you already done to prove you are the expert in the field?
Personal goal. What is the goal you are trying to achieve? This element is vital for measuring the results of your personal branding efforts later.
Try to be short and consistent. After you’ve covered the positioning part, let’s move on and focus on the remaining elements of the mix.
Channels are places, where messages of a character reach target audience. When we think about channels, we should not solely think about social media, but rather consider both online and offline networks. Besides Facebook and Instagram, we should also acknowledge events, conferences or even personal 1:1 communication, where your audience gives credibility to interact with your character. What are the channels you will decide to focus on? In year 2020, think of some emerging platforms such as LinkedIn or TikTok. If that’s not your cup of tea, what about podcasts that have become extremely popular?
Content is your gun of promotion. In other words, content in the context of personal branding represents messages of your character that through the channels reach your target audience. When we think about online channels, content of a strong personal brand should be not limited to text, but should also incorporate visuals – photographs, audio and video.
What’s the content you are good and does your target audience appreciate? If not, what can do you do make yourself stand out? In year 2020, go for storytelling, video and audio content (if that’s something you’d like to do, of course).
Contacts are the people that will appreciate your content provided on particular channels. It’s also your network of credibility, for whom you create value and where you create your future value potential. Tip for 2020? Include contacts in your content when you can: feature them in your social media posts, organize seminars or other initiatives together, etc. 2+ is more powerful than one!
Your content should consistently reflect your character and should be published at a certain frequency. In other words, it is not enough to appear in the media once and expect your personal brand to bloom at the same time becoming a thought leader. Consistency, persistence and patience are key. Therefore, think and decide how often you are going to publish your content.
How can you understand whether your personal brand gets stronger in the eyes of your target audience? If you do not draw certain KPIs in the very beginning, you don’t. You need the confirmation from others. You may want to divide your KPIs into offline and online ones. When it comes to offline, your KPI might be getting a new job, lead or client, or getting an invitation to speak at a conference. Online KPIs might include increasing the base of your followers by a certain percentage or gaining more traffic to your website. So, what kind of confirmation will you choose?
Since we’ve covered the basics, you might want to get a piece of paper and try to list down all the things that come to your mind while looking at the structure and questions above. Your road to a strong personal brand in 2020 might stand from there.
Sounds simple? Maybe, but it might take time to build a powerful personal brand and communicate to and connect with your audience. Make it happen (or at least start) in 2020!