If you ask 100 people what personal branding is, you’ll get 100 different answers. But our answer is this: it’s an emotional response to the image or name of a particular company, product, or person.
Think of some corporate brands you have positive or negative feelings toward: McDonald’s, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Walmart, Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Cubs. These brands are popular because they have created a lot of positive feelings in their fans, even if they also engender negative feelings in their detractors. Even companies that people hate are still considered brands, because they’re still creating emotional responses.
Similarly, people have emotional responses when they see you or meet you for the first time. These responses can be feelings of joy, pleasure, love, dread, fear, or anger. When they hear your name again, they will either have new experiences and emotions, or they will relive the old ones. The kinds of emotional responses they have depend on you.
What Is Personal Branding?
Branding yourself means that you create the right kind of emotional response when someone hears your name, sees you online, or meets you in real life.
The “right” kind doesn’t mean being someone you’re not. It’s your personality, your voice, your interests, your habits—everything about you that you want people to know. The information you show to other people, the things you say, and the photos you post should all fit within the theme of your personal brand.
If you’re a stand-up comic, the theme of your brand is “funny.” You want people to see that you actually are funny, which means posting some of your jokes and posting links to videos of your routine to your blog.
If you’re a freelance graphic designer, your brand’s theme is “creative.” You want people to know you have artistic skills, so you’ll show samples of your work through an online portfolio, possibly a blog.
If you’re a cost reduction analyst, your brand’s theme is “saving companies money.” You can demonstrate your knowledge by answering questions on LinkedIn, writing useful articles on your blog, and giving talks to Chambers of Commerce meetings. (We’ll talk about your blog in Chapter 3, “Blogging: Telling Your Story.”)
Go Brand Yourself
Ask yourself: “What do I want to be known for? What qualities do I want people to associate with me? What is the first thing I want to have pop in their heads when they hear my name?”
Next, create a list of those qualities. Write down everything you can think of in five minutes, even if you think you’re repeating yourself. Don’t edit yourself and don’t leave anything off. This is not a time to be humble or to think, “No one will see me that way.” Come up with every adjective and noun you can think of, no matter how outlandish or weird. It may just spur another idea that actually does fit.
Let’s say your list looks like this:
|Creative||Funny||Interested in people|
From here, you need to start grouping things that are similar. In one group, you have musical, songwriter, singer, and creative. In another, you have knowledgeable, intelligent, well-read, and teacher. In a third, you have networker, outgoing, and interested in people. You may have a few items left over, but the important thing is that you start looking for trends and groups.
You can call these groups anything you want, but let’s stick with Musical, Knowledgeable, and Networker. These groups are the start of branding yourself. They’re the areas you should concentrate on being known for—the areas that can define you for other people. They may know you for more—being a good cook, a budding actor, someone who’s fun to hang out with at parties—but those are reserved for your friends, not something you want to focus on professionally. These latter attributes can be an additional side to your brand once in a while, but they shouldn’t be the main focus of your personal brand.
How to Build Your Brand
The remaining 14 chapters of this book focus on how to build your brand. You’re going to learn what you need to do to promote your personal brand with each of the social media tools and real-world events discussed, whether it’s writing a blog post, posting messages on Twitter, or giving a speech.
Before you start, however, you need to understand the foundation of personal branding.