A Fresh Take on How to Build an Authentic Personal Brand

Personal Brand

“Hey Alexa…search Personal Branding.” 

I knew I would find a ton of stuff on the Information Superhighway on this topic, but was a bit taken aback this week by 612,000,000 results. It seems like this road has been traveled before… 

Since I started my career transformation into the leadership development and coaching realm, I have been fascinated and focused on this topic. I have 25 years of marketing and communications experience in my rear-view mirror, and I’ve worked in company and product branding for a long time. Yet, the personal brand space is still relatively undiscovered territory for me.     

I offer that most of the work out there on personal branding is missing the point. All too often it’s a superficial spray-paint exercise that’s all about a quick change in appearances with the least amount of time and effort. Kind of like tweaking a visual logo and calling it a rebrand. It’s focused on the outcomes rather than making real choices and doing the internal work. For many, it’s a misguided belief you’re in full control of your personal brand and that with a quick tune-up, you’ll be looking sharp and ready to go. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Why Does It Matter? 

Having a clear and unified view of your brand becomes the ultimate companion to your personal growth and development. It also creates a bond between your own identity and self-understanding with the rest of the world through the values, benefits, and presence you have as you live your brand. Think of it as a perpetual viewfinder that allows the world to see you the way you want to be seen as your most authentic and high-performing self. That view you provide, and the consistent application of that view, through your brand becomes a platform by which colleagues, supporters and others become advocates for your brand, and thus become advocates for your own development, progression and evolution. It gives context and clarity against the benefits you provide in your work life. It also provides you with an inspiration that propels and motivates you to continue to self-improve and achieve a better state of being. That sense of possibility and positivity then fuels your identity and, like the Law of Attraction, brings positive energy and outcomes to your life. 

The use cases of the Personal Brand are many:  

  • Building a personal development plan (annual or multi-year). 
  • Used as deliverable or output from an evaluation process (360 review process, annual performance conversation/review). 
  • Providing clarity and strategy for a career change/pivot internally within an existing organization. 
  • Anchor and guide your search for a new opportunity outside of your current context. 
  • Providing others that are close to you (referrals, colleagues, direct reports) with the tool to help understand your purpose and become advocates for your brand story. 

But to do the work, you need to start with this dagger quote from Jeff Bezos at the front of your mind: 

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” 

You don’t own your personal brand. It’s determined and owned by those around you ─ their perceptions of you, the conversations they have about you when you’re not there, and all their interactions with you. It’s an extension of the truth that a consumer product or company doesn’t own its brand (because it’s owned by their customers). Yes, we are the nurturers, builders, and navigators of our personal brands, but we don’t have sole domain and control over it.  

So here at Fluency, we’ve taken the principles and framework of traditional brand marketing and applied it to create a simple, structured and visual approach to building and understanding your personal brand.  

It starts with the marketer’s mindset and a traditional brand pyramid that creates a cohesive stack of words, understanding and purpose. In essence, the tried-and-true brand pyramid tells a story, and we can all agree that having a compelling, cohesive, and inspirational story about ourselves is a good thing to have available.  

Here’s how the pyramid works.

At the base of the pyramid, you establish your: 

Your Unique Selling Points – three simple words/phrases that articulate yourself and your fundamental strengths. 

Your Values – three refined values that guide you and are an inextricable part of yourself. 

Your Voice – three words that define your style/tonality/presence.  

Then, in the second tier, you define the Benefits, both Functional and Emotional, of what others can expect when they’re working with you. Like any consumer product we interact with, we experience a functional benefit (what it does for me) and an emotional benefit (what it feels like). Every day, we create both functional AND emotional benefit for those who interact with us. 

Finally, at the top of the pyramid you establish your Brand Promise. This is the perpetual and aspirational state that you are always working towards. It represents the best possible experience that people have when they interact with your brand. 

This Is Hard Work! 

Much of this comes from taking a marketer’s mindset and thinking hard about the story you are trying to tell. You should spend time with each element of the pyramid and each descriptive word you choose to define your brand. Ensure they are the exact ones that you want to use. Sweating over them is critical to getting them as sharp, memorable and purposeful as possible. If you feel like you are using overused words like “collaborative” or “hard-working” or “team-focused”, then hit the delete key and start over. 

Easy stuff, right?  

Not so much. 

The work to get to the definition of your personal brand is no cake walk. It requires meaningful reflection, humility, and honesty at the highest and most intimate levels. It requires active work to assemble all the available research, tools and content to be able to comprehensively complete the process. It forces you to get seriously stuck in and purposeful about what your brand is, from the inside out. And, perhaps most importantly and most uncomfortably, you need to recognize that it’s the world’s experiences and interactions with you that ultimately determine your brand. 

What are you doing to nurture your personal brand? 

How are others telling your brand story today? What are they saying when you’re not in the room? 

What would having clarity around your brand do for your career journey? 

 

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