The Beginner's Guide to Personal Branding








The Beginner’s guide to personal branding












What exactly is personal branding?


In 1997, Tom Peters wrote a revolutionary article in Fast Company magazine titled, “The Brand Called You”. His radically new concept of personal branding was exciting to few and forgotten by many. Fast forward ten years and those excited few, who understood where our culture was going, took the concept and ran with it. They became hugely influential and successful in the field of personal branding and were followed by many others eager to break into the industry. Now you have hundreds of personal branding gurus who seek to help you stand out in a world that is ever changing.  


What those gurus understand is this: The workplace is moving away from a one size fits all. More qualified candidates are available in your industry than ever before and competition is stiff. However, they also know that you have unique accomplishments, attributes, and characteristics that set you apart from others in your career field and personal life. By embracing those attributes, you can not only make it through this workplace shift, but come out on top.  Essentially, your personal brand is the combination of attributes and accomplishments that define you and set you apart from others.


The whole concept of personal branding is a bit abstract, so I like to make it more relatable by talking about cookies. (I also just like talking about cookies.) Take Oreos for instance. I say Oreo and you instantly have a few ideas in mind. Most of us conjure up mental images of two little black cookies with crème sandwiched in between. We may think about milk, the iconic blue packaging, or even recall an Oreo related memory from childhood. This didn’t happen by coincidence; the Nabisco brand has worked hard for years to create a strong brand around Oreo. They have intentionally created marketing that would result in you making the previously stated associations. They started by deciding what kind of cookies they would make and what their main characteristics would be. In this case, it would be two chocolate cookies with a layer of crème in between. Any variations of the Oreo (double stuff, fudge covered), would still encompass the main cookie concept. With one simple cookie idea, Nabisco successfully created an entire brand identity.  


Now, say you want to pick up some cookies to impress your boss and your choices are a name brand, like Oreo, or an off-brand, such as Walmart’s Great Value. Which will you choose? Probably the name brand. It shows that you spent a little more money and you know that the product will be good. Plus, it looks better. What if, instead of picking up cookies for your boss you are actually in charge of hiring an assistant for him/her. Are you going to choose the candidate with the stronger brand recognition, or the one that blends in with everyone else? I think the choice here is clear.  


Think of yourself as a brand of cookies. What makes you different from all the other cookies? What makes you unique? Why would anyone purchase you over someone else? We’ll go more in depth to your own personal brand in a minute, but first we should ask ourselves a very important question- why does it matter?


One of the most common misconceptions about personal branding is that it is egocentric and boastful. Knowing what makes you different and understanding the unique value you bring to a situation/organization/company is neither negative nor prideful; it’s essential. There’s a big difference between knowing your value and gloating your value to others. If you don’t know your value, you won’t be able to effectively sell yourself to others.


Think back to the muse or crush I asked you to come up with in the introduction. Do you know how she became the icon she is today? It may seem like good luck or simply being in the right place at the right time, but I guarantee it was much more than that. These individuals became household names because they intentionally decided to be seen a certain way. They cultivated a personal brand and used it to achieve their goals.  


Why you should care


I’m a big ‘end goal’ sort of person. Probably to an annoying extent. For every time I actually ask someone out loud, “what’s your end goal here?” I have most likely asked that same question, a million times already in my head. It is especially prominent when someone, or a group of people in the case of corporations, makes what I would classify as a questionable decision. Have you ever seen a commercial that left you wondering who they were marketing to and what they were selling? Or maybe you see someone wearing full on pajamas in public and you can’t help but think…‘what???’ Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the point of doing anything unless the ultimate end goal is worth achieving.  


The great thing about personal branding is that when you figure out what your end goal is, you have the power to entirely change your life for the better. By answering that not so simple question, you are creating a framework for the rest of your life. Whether we consciously know it or not, our end goals dictate every action and decision we make on a day to day basis.  


Confused? Let’s go back to the cookie example. When Nabisco first decided to create the Oreo cookie, they started with a vision, and of course, an end goal. Now, I don’t work on the Oreo marketing team and I definitely don’t work for Nabisco, so I can’t accurately tell you what Oreo’s end goal is. However, we can make a few assumptions. Let’s assume that Nabisco decided that it wanted to make an instantly recognizable, chocolate and crème cookie that would be paired perfectly with milk. It would be the first choice in chocolate cookies and would be always be associated with milk. Once the Oreo development team had that end goal in mind, getting there was probably relatively straightforward. I’m not going to say it was easy, because no product development is easy, but it was probably much easier than not having a clear definition of what exactly they were trying to develop.  


Businesses do this all the time, although, they use the term ‘mission statement’ instead of end goal. A business, corporation, or an internal team usually always has a mission statement of something that they are trying to uphold or achieve. A mission statement is especially important as your business grows, to ensure that all employees are working towards the same goal. Just think, if the product development team at Nabisco is working to create the world’s best chocolate cookie to be paired with milk while their marketing team is focused on promoting the brand as a health food pioneer, the brand will surely fail. It’s only when there is a clear, effective mission statement that everyone is on board with, that will help lead a company to success. Can it guarantee success? Of course not. A great concept on paper isn’t always viable when executed. A company needs to provide value to the consumer while also furthering its own agenda, all within the realms of what it is capable of doing best.


Take the outdoor clothing company Patagonia for example. It’s not hard to find Patagonia’s mission statement on their website. When you first log on to www.patagonia.com you will see only two menu options: shop and inside Patagonia. One helps the company’s cash flow, while the other helps position the brand within the market. The first option under ‘Inside Patagonia’ is Our Mission Statement. Right there, first and foremost, Patagonia is saying, “hey, we want you to know who we are.” Compared to other brands, their mission statement is relatively short. In fact, they don’t even bother to throw a predicate in the sentence.  


Patagonia’s Mission Statement:

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.


In this one sentence statement, they are declaring their two biggest beliefs: good quality clothing and responsibility in the supply chain. The first belief is what fuels their economic engine while the second is what makes unwaveringly loyal customers. No matter what new initiatives or new products Patagonia team members are working on, they know they are moving in the right direction when their project will ultimately fulfil the end goal.  


Big companies have mission statements, so what? What does that have to do with personal branding? And, more importantly, what does that have to do with you?  


Here’s the thing. If a business of any size can use a mission statement to be successful, then so can a person. But, just like a business needs to know what its brand is all about to create an effective mission statement, individuals also need to understand their own personal brands before they prescribe to life manifestos. If you have no idea who you are, what your strengths are, or what you’re passionate about, writing, let alone living out, a mission statement is going to be incredibly difficult. Therefore, it only makes sense that we make an effort to discover our personal brand so that we can, in turn, create a strong mission statement for our lives.  


Let’s pause for a minute and ask my infamous question: to what end? What is the end goal of having an end goal? Hang on with me here, it’s really not as nuanced as it seems. I’m simply asking, “What’s the point of creating a mission statement for our lives?” Why even have an end goal? Why not just wander your way through life wherever the path takes you? I think the answer to those questions varies slightly from person to person, but it ultimately boils down to two things: 1) we want to feel like we have a purpose, and 2) we want to be successful.  


Let’s start with that first one. We all want to have a purpose. Every human has an innate need to be loved and accepted. We all want to feel like we matter. When we feel we have a purpose, we live better lives in the sense that we ourselves are happier and we also strive to make other people happier. It’s that sense of purpose that helps us get up in the morning and keeps us from making bad decisions. With a purpose, we feel that others need us (that need to be accepted part) and that we matter (the need to be loved aspect).


The second part of this is a little trickier. We all want to be successful. I’m sure there are some people reading this who will say, ‘well, I don’t need money to make me happy. I don’t need to be successful to have a good life.’ While the fact that you don’t need money to make you happy may be true, the part about not needing success is false. Maybe you don’t need success in the sense that success is accumulated wealth. However, if you grew up in Western society, I am willing to bet that you feel the need to be successful, regardless of how you define success. Just as our culture has ingrained in us that helpful is a good thing, we have also learned that successful is a good thing. They key is to find the right definition for success that resonates with you. Quite literally, the definition of success is, “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”. Pretty vague right? If your aim is to learn something new every day, even failure in the traditional sense of the word can ultimately be success. The beauty of the term success is that you can really define it any way that works for you. Regardless of what your definition of success is, most of us are conditioned to need that feeling of accomplishment.  


We all need to have a purpose. We all need to be successful. By having an end goal, personal mission statement, life manifesto- whatever you want to call it- we are fulfilling those needs. Just like those large companies, our personal mission statement gives us a path to follow and a purpose to live out. Unless you particularly enjoy bouncing through life without any sort of direction or intention, knowing your end goal, is the biggest secret to living a happy, successful, and thriving life.  


The secrets to discovering your personal brand


We can theorize about personal branding and mission statements all day, but unless we put any of it to practice in an applicable way, it doesn’t do any good. Unless you understand what your personal brand is, the rest of this book will just be entertaining fluff. Here’s the thing. I didn’t sit down and write a book about how to make you look pretty. Yes, I am all about you looking fabulous, but my intent is to help you create a look and then use it to be successful. There are plenty of books out there on how to get dressed. There are even more on how to do it with style. I want to tell you how to alter your appearance to get what you want. Whether it’s a better job, happier home life, or improved self-esteem, I want you to be living to your fullest potential. And that’s something that needs to start from the inside, from your personal branding, and then move its way outward.  


So, let’s talk about your brand. I promise it will be easier than you think. Remember, we are trying to figure out what makes you, uniquely you. This includes personality traits, general characteristics, and accomplishments. It’s everything that sets you apart from others in your home, office, town, state, and even country. Everyone has a personal brand, but most people’s brands aren’t realized or well developed. Using the following secrets, you can create a strong personal brand that will serve as a solid foundation for your future success!


[*Secret #1: Strong personal brands are a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic traits.  *]

This is something a lot of people either forget, or disregard. Your personal brand isn’t just about who you are, but what you’ve done, and how you’ve accomplished it. It’s not just what you’ve done (e.g. Where you’ve gone to school, awards you’ve won, accounts you’ve landed…). It’s not just about your personality (e.g. Extrovert, leader, intuitive…) or about how you your personality manifests itself (E.g. Outgoing, team player, problem solver…). Rather, a strong personal brand includes traits from all of these areas. There are several reasons why this is.  


For one, it shows that there are multiple facets to you other than how you were born or what you've accomplished. Think about it. Any of the above characteristic sets can be entirely independent of another when creating a personal brand. One whole set of traits without any of the other sets leads the recipient to believe that you have certain qualities, but don't know how to use them. For example, if I say I am a Harvard graduate with a PhD in Biology and a successful career in research- that only describes my accomplishments. Alternatively, if that same person said, "I am an extrovert with a positive attitude and upbeat personality", they're really only talking about their intrinsic traits. The best personal brands show a blend of intrinsic and extrinsic traits. They declare, 'this is who I am and what I've achieved with what I've been given!' For example, it would be best if the above person said, 'I am an extroverted, ivy league graduate who is passionate about finding cures to common diseases in order to help everyday people." See how much more powerful it is when you combine the qualities you are born with and what you've accomplished?


[*Secret #2: Your personal brand is like a lock.  *]

Remember those good old combination locks you were assigned in gym class during middle and high school? Every lock contained the same numbers, but each lock had their own special combination of those numbers that caused it to open up. Personal brands are very similar. The human population as a whole contains all the same characteristics, traits, and accomplishments. However, it’s the way in which these are combined that make your personal brand special to you and unlock your full potential! Many people believe that they have to reinvent the wheel or discover a whole new personality trait in order to have a successful brand. This isn’t true at all. The key isn’t to make up characteristics that nobody else has, but rather to find the right combination of traits that you possess to create a new (or at least new to your desired audience) sequence. If you want to add some novelty into your combination, you do that by altering what you do or accomplish. For example, there are lots of philanthropic, anthropology graduates. However, there are much fewer philanthropic, anthropology graduates that have devoted significant amounts of time to studying a specific species of animal just as Jane Goodall studied apes.  


There is no one size fits all method to identifying your personal brand. However, I usually recommend that people narrow down their five strongest descriptors and use that as their personal brand. Just as a combination lock may be 12 + 4 + 7 + 22 + 35 = open, your personal brand can do the same with this simple formula: intrinsic personality trait + accomplishment + general characteristic + goal + passion = winning personal brand! In a sentence it would look like, ‘My name is Kathy and I am an extroverted, award winning research scientist who uses my compassionate nature to pursue the cure for cancer and help everyone I come in contact with.’ Each of the individual parts of this sentence are true for hundreds of people, but when you pull together the parts that are uniquely yours, then you can accurately describe your own personal brand.


Just think of your personal brand statement as a ‘cut to the chase’ elevator speech. In a few seconds or less, what do you want the other person to know about you? With a successful elevator speech or personal brand statement you lay down your most important cards, and in doing so, will attract others who share the same passions and goals as you. Here’s a personal example of how a strong personal brand statement can help you. A few months ago, I was attending a small entrepreneurial networking session and we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves. Some of the attendees seemed caught off guard and stuttered a short line of thoughts like, “well, I’m Jake and my wife and I are thinking about possibly starting a fishing business, maybe”. Other people, like myself, confidently threw out their personal brand statements along with an invitation to talk afterwards. I think I used some version of, “Hi, My name is Leslie Friedman. I’m an author, speaker and image consultant who is passionate about helping people leverage their personal brands and their appearances to be more successful. I really enjoy collaborating with other entrepreneurs, so don’t be shy to come say hi after the program; I’d love to talk to you.” It is simple and to the point. Not every person in the room found me after the program to say hi, but the ones that did were also aligned with my goals and came with opportunities. A solid personal brand statement not only helps you keep focused, but it is a key component to opening doors.


Secret #3: Don’t forget about your end goal.

I’m sure you have a lot of characteristics, goals, passions, accomplishments, and traits that define you. The key to picking the right ones for a strong personal brand depend on what you want to accomplish with your brand. Remember when we talked about your end goal and having a mission statement? If you don’t know what your end goal is, then it will be very difficult to pull together a personal brand that will lead you there. Just as you need to pick the right paint when painting different parts of a house, you need to find the right combination of attributes that will help you accomplish your end goal best. If the aforementioned, bio-scientist Kathy wants to help elementary aged children by having a long career as a second grade teacher, then her personal branding statement is way off. If her goal is to be a notable, bio-researcher with a significant influence in the realm of disease prevention, then she is right on track. Nabisco probably had a clear end goal in mind when they created Oreo, and they made sure that the branding around the Oreo cookie ensured the success of reaching that goal. In this same way, we need to make sure our brand is properly setting us up for our end goals.  


[*Secret #4: The easiest way to discover your brand is by not trying.  *]

Your personal brand is 100% you and there's no one who has a clearer view of you than those around you. So, if you're stumped about what your brand is, sit back and let the people around you throw in their input. Simply ask any objective, third party person who spends time around you (a coworker is a great option) to describe who you are. Better yet, have them describe you to another coworker. The more people you sample, the better picture you will be able to make about yourself. It is also worthwhile to ask the people that know you the best (spouses, family members, friends) how they would describe you. Most likely, your personal brand is going to be a combination of the two opinions. While this is one of the most effective ways to find out what your personal brand is, it can also be the most painful- especially if you're not branding yourself to your fullest potential.  


If other’s responses are way off base compared to how you would describe yourself, your brand is having an identity crisis. Look into inconsistencies and ask yourself 1) which way you would like to be seen and 2) what you’re doing to elicit an undesired response. Maybe you think working through your lunch hour every day brands you as hardworking and dedicated, but really it comes off as aloof and as a bad team player.  


Even if you have your personal brand down pat (these are the traits I want to be known for!) it’s important to consistently ask for feedback to make sure your branding is accurate. Large companies are constantly soliciting feedback on their products and their brand image to ensure that the image they are presenting to the consumer is exactly the branding they desire. Find the combination of attributes that is most accurate for you and most effective to reaching your end goal and then double check it over year after year to make sure you are always on track for success.  


Secret #5: Your personal brand might change. And that’s okay.

The personal brand you develop during the length of this book may not be the same brand you have in twenty years. It may not even be the brand you have in five or ten years, and to be completely honest, it shouldn’t be. Hopefully, you are constantly in the process of developing and growing into a bigger and better person. Throughout your life you will have different accomplishments, experiences, and encounters that affect your goals, missions, and values. You will also have different priorities today than ten years from now. If you’re a young, professional making their mark in the workplace, you may place more value on being seen as knowledgeable and experienced. Ten or fifteen years down the road, however, you may place more value on being known as a leader and a great communicator. The key is to constantly reassess your mission statement and your personal brand statement to ensure that it aligns up with who you want to be today and the short term future. When you are younger, your brand statement may change as much as every year to every five years, while at the peak of your career, it will probably change every ten to fifteen years.


Coming up with a personal brand that is reflective of your true self shouldn’t be difficult. If you’re forcing a certain goal or character trait on yourself that doesn’t come naturally or that you aren’t passionate about, you’ll have a hard time living out your brand. It’s much easier and less energy consuming to actively develop and pursue a brand that feels like second nature.

Are you ready to REALLY start developing your personal brand? Do you still have questions (after all, we just scratched the surface!)? If the answer to either is YES!, then you need to check out our new e-course: Create a #TRADEMARK WORTHY Personal Brand. This online course is designed to hold your hand and walk you through the whole process from cultivating a stellar brand to putting it to use in order to be more successful. [+ Check out the course here+] and don’t forget to visit our website.

The Beginner's Guide to Personal Branding

Curious about personal branding? Know you need to develop a brand, but not sure how to do it? The Beginner's Guide to Personal Branding is the perfect place to start! You'll learn the basics of personal branding (what is it, why it's important) and how to create your own brand. Both entertaining and informative, this short read makes the complicated subject of personal branding simple and enjoyable

  • ISBN: 9781370430567
  • Author: Leslie Friedman
  • Published: 2017-02-24 19:20:09
  • Words: 4279
The Beginner's Guide to Personal Branding The Beginner's Guide to Personal Branding