Stories are the most effective tools for connecting with people. The reason for this is not far-fetched as storytelling is in our DNA. It is the structure in which we store information and the tool with which we recall them. Stories are the structure and mechanism by which we educate people about what we stand for and by so doing, control the narrative of our identity.
My first intentional attempt at personal branding, if defined as putting myself out there, started with my need to share book reviews via Griotnotes.com. It also provided a platform to curate my videos and musings on art and culture. It has taken on a more cohesive state as a personal space for me to engage with like minds on ideas and issues dear to me.
The characteristics of a compelling brand story are that it is cohesive, has clear messaging (its values are clearly communicated) and it compels its listeners or audience to action (to be inspired, educated, or converted).
What is Personal Branding?
The message about personal branding in some circles has been distorted by the hustle porn on social media. This is who you are and how you wish to control the narrative around your identity.
In her book, “Career Smart: 5 Steps to a Powerful Personal Brand,” Sherri Thomas defines “personal branding [as being] all about delivering something of value to a customer, and delivering it in such a way that it creates an emotional connection with that customer.”
Technology is driving a radical shift in mindset and the traditional idea of personal branding has been broken down and rebuilt to account for present-day realities. That said, I find the quote by Chris Anderson, “Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what Google says it is,” to be apt, timely, and thought-provoking.
If it spurs you to action already, here are a few steps to set you on your way to building a personal brand.
What are Your Values?
Values are the beliefs, principles, or ideas that are important to people’s lives. It defines the individual – it defines who you are. It goes without saying that the first question you need to answer is, “Who are you?” and the next question in this spectrum of speculation is, “What do you want to be known for?”
Often, when you walk into a room of colleagues, you gravitate towards a cell of friends with whom you share similar values. Do you know what those values are? These are values that this circle of acquaintances remembers you for. This is a “Perceived” Approach to defining a brand.
We can also approach this by reverse-engineering the spectrum also known as the “Conceived” brand approach. This is where you determine what you wish to be known for and then align all your experiences and touchpoints with this conceived construct of “You Inc.”
What is your Message?
An extension of your values are the issues that you are passionate about. Over the time you have engaged passionately on these issues, you have formed an opinion and approach to them that they may become sacrosanct even.
It is important to examine the issues you will be engaging in or “what you want to talk about?” if you’re (or wish to be) vocal on a social platform. Your mission or strategy may or may not be to be a thought leader on these issues, however, you will be bringing some depth of insight every time you are engaged on them.
As a personality, your views will always be personal and not necessarily represent the position of your organization. While this caveat rings in the back of your head, it will be worthy to note that you weight the limits of what you consider “personal”. To ensure that you are taking precautions in protecting your privacy and that of your clients, colleagues, family, and friends, establish clear boundaries.
What is your Tone?
I have seen a lot of personalities lose their audience, not by what they say but by the tone of their delivery. The second most important thing to knowing what to say is how to say it.
A clear, humane, and consistent tone galvanizes your positioning by ensuring that you communicate effectively, are open to feedback from your audience, and engage actively.
Choose what Platforms Work Best
Where you make yourself visible depends on where your tribe interacts. There is no one-measurement-fits-all, but a safe bet would be to start with a few you are familiar with and afterward experiment with new platforms before jumping all in.
This is the approach corporate organizations take in testing out new social media platforms and it also works for personal brands. The scale at which they operate, and the size of their target audience translates to a higher sense of responsibility to ensure that the consequences of their plans or explorations are weighed before being acted on.
Unlike the corporates, personal brands, however, are more agile and have a higher threshold for errors as they experiment on new ideas. I would also like to think that the Internet is more forgiving of personal faux than with corporate slip-ups. You can take advantage of this knowledge.
Honestly, I think everything I’ve said before now has been just “talk”. The hardest part is executing and staying consistent. Anyone can help you with a framework or road map for your personal branding but what really matters is how you execute it.
A simple plan follows where you start with a set time for a weekly LinkedIn post – quotes, trends, or a short article. Once you’ve posted this, you can adapt it for Twitter and a snapshot to show off on Instagram with set boundaries.
In an advanced road map for your personal brand, you might consider securing a personal domain, write a few web pages with your professional biography, resume, and/or portfolio of your work. As your influence grows, perhaps consider a media kit with samples of your portrait for the press.
Last words – Take it Further
When done right, personal branding can be an empowering tool, as nothing inspires like action. While everyone has their personal definition of success, nothing great is ever achieved by standing still, not taking a step further, making something or someone, including one’s self better by a single-digit percentage.