Not too long ago, it was said that every brand is a media company. Now every individual is. In a world that feeds on streams, tweets, posts, stories, and TikToks, building a personal brand should be easier than ever. But having free reign to influence can be an opportunity for some and incredibly overwhelming for others.
What should I post? Me devouring my favorite deep-dish pizza? The swank 50th birthday party I just attended? Me and the old gang at the 30th reunion? Boarding my flight to NYC? The AI article I just read? Ringing the bell on the floor of the Nasdaq? Strolling the streets of Florence? Attending the Fortune conference in Park City? When you literally can tell all to anybody, what you choose to say and who you say it to really does matter.
Being a personality is not the same as building a personal brand
It’s the subtle difference between noise and nuance. Building a great personal brand starts with the personal part. Getting down to the authentic you, what you stand for, the way people who know you best understand and describe you. It’s not the artifice you create, a facade you build; it’s a deep understanding of what makes you authentically and distinctively you.
What are the key attributes that define who you are? What makes you stand out and sets you apart? It’s not about being the best. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being real. Flaws are what make us human, relatable, memorable and ultimately loveable.
So what do you choose to say about yourself? I like to start with lists. Everyone can make lists. So write down the adjectives or traits that you feel best describe you. Make the list long and exhaustive. Next, think of the stories you love to share with people. The stories you tell over and over because you love the memory, and it reminds you of a unique part of your personal history and journey. It’s a story you love to tell and retell. It’s a story from childhood, college days, how you met your spouse, what you love to do with your dog. The last step is to ask friends how they describe you to others who haven’t met you. What do they say about you when you’re not in the room?
When you have gone through these three steps, go back to your original list. Boil the list down to all the adjectives and characteristics that line up with your stories and what your friends would say.
As they say in Hamilton, there’s a room where it happens
Unfortunately, you’re not always in it. Defining the personal part of your personal brand should give you the confidence that when you’re not in the room, you know what they are saying about you. Three things people always say about me:
- I’m blunt
- I have a different take on things than most people. I don’t say the obvious, unless it’s so obvious no one else is saying it.
- Ideas intrigue me. Products don’t.
Once you’ve nailed the “personal” part of your personal brand, you can move on to the “branding” part
Where do you show up? How do you show up? In a million-channel world, the old adage that the medium is the message has never been more relevant. If you choose to build your personal brand or engage an audience, where and how you do it will say a lot about you and dictate different spheres of influence. How your message is created and consumed on TikTok will be vastly different from what you craft for LinkedIn. Invest in the medium where your people are and learn how to get comfortable and consistent in that medium. Determine if you are the right messenger for that medium.
There is no one size fits all. You have the ability to really, really target your personal brand. Take it. Mass market is a thing of the past. Reaching the relevant SOMEBODY is now far more important than reaching everybody. In the room where it happens, who needs to be there? Focus on being known within that audience, not the whole world. You are your best asset. So truly understand what’s important to you. Where do you want to show up, and who matters to you?
Narrowcasting your communications on specific mediums to specific communities ensures you are reaching the audience that needs to see and understand you. Communicating in these forums that are followed by the audience you most need to reach offers a more promising return on your personal brand investment. It’s not about reaching the largest audience you can, it’s about reaching the most important audience for you.
Personal brand comes down to authenticity, and there will be times when you are not the best messenger
Critical to building a personal brand is building a circle of trust, confidants who believe in you fervently and represent you well. Make this group wide and eclectic so they can journey to platforms natural to them that may not be natural to you. A circle of trust can extend your reach and keep you grounded. Messaging is often more powerful when it’s being shared about you and not by you. You need a circle of trust to help you spread your message and extend your brand. And this group can also share with you opportunities they spot where you can communicate in a way that helps build that personal brand.
If being loud was the goal of personal branding, it would be easy
When you want to have a personal brand that influences, it takes time, introspection, patience, consideration, coalition building, consistency, originality, authenticity and restraint. It won’t happen if you don’t start, and all it takes to get started is to make a list. What are you waiting for?