Apple. Coca-Cola. Disney. BMW. Starbucks. They’re some of the biggest, most widely-known and respected brands in the world. Just by hearing their name or seeing their logo you know what they’re all about and what they have to offer. And in business, this type of clarity of purpose is invaluable.
Branding, however, isn’t just vital for companies. It’s also an important part of your success as an individual. Your personal brand is a promise about who you are and what you do, and it’s reinforced every time people connect with you.
The question is, how do you effectively communicate your brand to others so that you can connect with and leverage their networks for your professional success?
What is Personal Branding?
Let’s start by defining personal branding. In short, it’s the act of defining your essence — what makes you you — and then communicating it consistently and clearly. It’s about discovering and sharing your unique story, which is made up of your values, reputation, ethos, unique qualities, and authenticity.
So how do you go about doing this? First you’ll want to craft a personal brand statement. Think of it as your tagline—a statement that answers three important questions:
1. What are you offering (what problem are you solving)?
2. Who are you serving (who is your target audience)?
3. How are you doing things different? What makes you unique,
what differentiates you (what is your unique value proposition)?
In other words, who can you help? How can you help them? And why are you different from others who claim to offer the same things?
Knowing Your Target Audience
Once you’ve nailed down your personal brand statement and clearly defined what you have to offer, next you’ll want to identify your target audience, i.e., the people you want to communicate your brand to in order to get where you want to be.
First, know your competition. Who are you competing with? What are their strengths and weaknesses? If you want to maximize your brand, you have to understand what the competition has to offer and then find your own unique niche that will allow you to stand out.
Next, craft your identity profile—a clear description of yourself, your target audience, and your competitors. This process will help you single out your particular value and define it in a way that others will easily understand.
Communicating Your Brand
So you’ve determined and defined your personal brand. Great! Now what?
Once you’re satisfied with your brand, the next step is to share it with the types of people that will help you get where you want to be. The trick is to do it in a way that communicates it clearly, concisely, and consistently, and to the right people.
A good place to start is an elevator pitch. You know, a 15- to 30-second personal commercial that defines who you are and what you have to offer. Think of your personal brand statement, only longer. Your elevator pitch is a brief statement that tells your story clearly and succinctly, and gets others to want to know more about you.
Next, have a solid communication toolkit that reflects and conveys your personal brand. Whether its your business card, your website’s About page, your LinkedIn profile, or your everyday emails and social media interactions, you have to make sure you’re expressing your brand through all of your communications outlets.
Of course, your brand should never seem forced or in others’ faces. Networking is a natural process. When you connect with someone effectively, you’ll recognize it immediately—the conversation will flow and you’ll identify similar interests, goals, and values. You never want to just come out and say, “Here is my brand.” Instead, share your personal brand statement when and where appropriate, let others know what you are looking for, and then ask them if they are able and willing to help.
Identifying and communicating your brand is an important part of getting what you want out of your life and career. Just remember that, in personal branding, you’re the product! Put the time in to get to know yourself, what you have to offer, and what is important to you, and then share it with the world.