I recently came across someone who describes themselves as a personal branding guru. (Yep, they used the word guru.)
They were 12 (ok, early/ mid-20s)
Their professional experience spanned a whole two years (I checked it on LinkedIn)
And their brand… other than continuously wearing the same un-ironed t-shirt and unnecessarily shouting ‘F***’ a lot… I can’t say there’s much else to report!
I didn't like this approach
It’s made me mad. REALLY mad! I’ve just spent another 20 minutes of my life ranting about it. (Ask the guys at GUHQ, they’re sick of listening to me and instructed me to write this instead.)
Now. Let’s be clear. Those that know me well will appreciate that I am more likely to be doing the offending than being offended by a bit of effing and jeffing, but that’s me. In my inner circle. NOT part of my personal brand. Meeting the person described above has really made me think about what my personal brand is, what I want it to communicate. From a business perspective, I really took issue with their approach especially given that we share a target market.
There are people out there who use offensive language and it works for their brand. But they have the years/achievements to back it up. A clear example that springs to mind is Gary Vaynerchuk. Look at who he’s targeting though, and at the businesses he is involved in… that coupled with his long list of achievements… I get the approach. He has something to back up his personal brand.
(WARNING: SLIGHT EXAGGERATION IS IMMINENT)
Ok – so some ‘king people may ‘king like (or even love) the whole ‘king sweary-mary approach in ‘king business. But for me, it’s a ‘king no. I don’t ‘king think it’s ‘king cool or ‘king clever. (Is that an age thing?)
Alright, so how about I stop complaining now and offer something useful instead.
What is personal branding and why should we all be conscious of our personal brand?
My own opinion is that it is your personal brand that creates familiarity and tells your prospects whether or not they will be able to work with you. It creates and builds trust in your abilities to deliver your services. It also communicates your position on key topics, and can potentially separate you from your competitors. It’s up to you to ensure that you communicate that brand in a way that means that the latter point is working for you and not against you!
Dos and Don'ts
There are no end of dos and don’ts when it comes to personal branding. If I were going to offer some tips, this is where I would start:
- Story is everything – Make sure you communicate it well. There should be depth to your story, but that doesn’t mean that we should be constantly shouting ‘Me Me Me’! Keep it positive, inspire where you can but don’t suddenly declare yourself to be something that you’re not. The truth is only a google away!
- Consistency is key – What are you trying to communicate through your personal brand? If you can pin this down to a single sentence or idea, it will give you the clarity you need to share your message consistently. But don’t turn this into a slogan that people get sick of hearing! For me, personal branding is more about ideas than trends. Being memorable for the language I used or the clothes I wore is not enough. I want to be remembered for the value I offered – so I consistently look for opportunities to offer some free, honest, actionable advice.
- Reflect – Put yourself in the shoes of your target market. Know your audience and figure out what the perception is that you have left them with. Have you communicated what you wanted to? If not why not, and what is the impact of that? Julia’s personal brand and my own are quite different. If I went out into the world and tried to be Julia, I would come across as insincere. That would stop me from moving forward in business. If Julia went out and tried to be me… we won’t go there.
Whatever you do, maintain some balance – be funny, be quirky, be professional; know when to slip in a bit of cheek (that goes back to knowing your audience) but never lose sight of your story or what you are communicating. You know the phrase… All things in moderation.
There is a social media aspect to this, of course; every tweet and Facebook post, your LinkedIn profile and your activity, must all be working in harmony. Leave a digital footprint that echoes the person that is sitting in your chair right now.
In 2018, the word authentic seems to be getting overused in marketing circles but yep – that’s the word I want to use. Be authentic. Don’t be a caricature of the likes of Gary V. Be who you want to be. Don’t leave people thinking ‘What the frack?’ after they’ve met you.