Perception is 99% reality.
Just think about how much judging you’ve already done today. What do you think of the latest round of Bake Off Contestants? Why did you choose Mural instead of Miro? Which email did you respond to first this morning?
In our age of “make me care and do it fast”, how we’re perceived is fundamental to what we achieve in every area of our lives, so much so, that it’s been given a name – personal branding.
Personal branding in its simplest form, is how others view and describe you. People with strong personal brands are compelling. They make you feel something. Think Jeff Bezos, Kanye West and Meghan Markle – each tells a unique story and like them or not, their brands leave an impression.
What if you’re not famous though, isn’t personal branding just a bit of a fad? Not at all! Personal branding lets candidates differentiate themselves from the competition, bringing who they are to what they do and how they do it.
Creating your brand both on and offline, helps you get noticed and keeps you in mind, which means that opportunities are more likely to find you. So, how do you go about creating this best version of yourself, to share with the world?
When companies build a brand, they work through their customer’s thought process and aim to influence it at every stage. The basic questions are just as relevant on a personal level.
1. Have I heard of you?
When did you last Google your name? The good news is, in our last quick survey of candidates, 84% of you have run a search on yourself. Were there any surprises in the results? The internet and social media may have blurred the boundaries between personal and professional branding, but what you share is still a choice.
Apple being innovative and Tiffany blue boxes promising luxury didn’t appear overnight but are now established brands because they consistently reiterate their values to the waiting world. For the buying public, there’s no risk in these purchases. Can the same be said of you? Make sure you’re known for all the right reasons.
Aim to build influence, which in turn helps you reach your intended audience. Make positive moves every day to enhance your brand, but keep it consistent and relevant to those you aim to impress. Want to be taken seriously by a big corporate, then make sure any online photographs have you dressed appropriately and that your name is associated with compatible organisations, charities and events. Authenticity is key, so your brand must be an honest representation or you’ll quickly be found out.
2. Do I know what you do?
Your personal brand should be defined by your passions and your ambition. Think about your strengths, your values, your purpose in life and build your brand to make an impact. A good way to start is an old-fashioned SWOT analysis.
When we search for a product, we’re likely to look at the company website but also at the reviews and forums giving a more honest opinion, so don’t underestimate the value of third party validations in strengthening your brand. Ask for feedback. What traits do your colleagues, manager, neighbours value most? 77% of candidates who took part in our survey, have requested feedback from colleagues in the past. This is an essential element to know how they’d describe you.
Knowing or better still, choosing your niche, lets you see where to focus your efforts. Look for market opportunities and audiences that aren’t properly served. Who would most value your skills? Your personal brand should be as specific as possible and fuelled by your excitement for a particular topic. Make sure you’d buy from yourself by knowing how others perceive you and tailoring your brand accordingly.
3. Do you meet my needs better than anyone else?
“These days we’re all hyper aware consumers, which holds true even when the product is a person. Choices abound, so shaping perceptions makes it easier to attract the right audience. How are you different from your competition? What’s unique about how you do what you do? Some choose to wear a particular colour, dress in a certain style or adopt a specific approach. Whatever it is, choose to be an entrepreneur of your own career and consciously create your brand.”
Supporting others in their goals before asking for anything in return is a great way to gain positive brand recognition. As soon as you deliver value and take the attention off yourself you instantly become more interesting and this could be as easy as making an introduction or recommendation (the secret to LinkedIn’s initial success).
4. Do you deliver on your promises?
As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. You might have a brilliant online presence crammed with content and social media engagement, but if I meet you and fail to be equally impressed, then all the hard work has been in vain. Personal branding above all else must be authentic and consistent. Earn the respect of as many people as you can (even if you only network with one person a day) to make sure that the experience of meeting you matches expectations.
In the words of George Bernard Shaw “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
Personal branding means choosing who you want to be and how you will be remembered. It takes time and commitment, but if you don’t do it, someone else might just decide for you.