Answering the question of “What’s the difference between personal branding and just publicly being yourself?”
Personal branding has become a hot topic for digital and traditional marketers alike. But, just because it appears to be a growing trend does not mean people actually understand what it means. We’re here to tell you what personal branding is by also indicating what it is not. Through the muck and mire of this conversation (with ourselves?), we hope to help you more readily recognize personal branding done well and when it is a digital dumpster fire.
We live in the generation of personal branding
Don’t believe us? Ask Merriam-Webster why the powers that be added the word “influencer” to the dictionary. Yes, that’s how powerful the movement has become: even the curmudgeons who control how we speak have been forced to cater to the likes of Addison Rae and whoever generated the global demonization campaign against gluten.
Now before we dive in, we want to be clear that personal branding does not only happen via social media. Public appearances and other forms of traditional branding can initiate and extend the influence cultivated via the click clack of our keyboards. However, because there are more than 4 billion people using these social platforms (which BTW generated $50 billion this year), the socials will dominate a lot of this conversation.
So, what is personal branding?
The difference between just being yourself in the eyes of the public and personal branding stems most directly from strategy. Your personal brand will very likely not happen by accident – though some elements most certainly may be derived from your “inherent” characteristics. Alternatively, this specialized model of distinguishing yourself is at the centre of an effective communication plan and thoughtful tactical implementation.
How to define & build a personal brand:
- Decide which values and attributes you want to put forth publicly and professionally
- Determine who you want to reach with this stylized positioning (and why)
- Look into what these people care about and how best to reach them
- Build up a cohesive and consistent presence – from networking meetings through to your digital marketing platforms
- Do not let trendy sentiments sway your public positioning: aka stay true to who you are and amplify whoever that is
Just because it’s strategic does not mean personal branding needs to be inauthentic
Ay, there’s the rub and the reason why many people’s personal brands sink. It’s extremely difficult to find the right balance between the development of appropriate, audience-appealing messaging and the avoidance of sounding like an aesthetic copy of a real human being. That’s why it’s important to define your values and live them, while also being receptive to feedback and engagement with the people you want to influence. For example, if your personal brand is centred around healthy eating, but your day-to-day life is dominated by Wendy’s Dollar Menu and daquiris, you are already failing your personal brand. All it will take is one disgruntled follower to film or snap a few unflattering photos, and boom, you will go from the “Very Sexy Vegan” to the “Crash Diet Cowboy” in a hot minute. Not only is this fall from grace straight up embarrassing, but it will compromise your ability to make money, keep effective networks and exercise any degree of influence.
To maintain a solid personal brand, you need to be adhering to checks and balances that beg, “Is this in line with the mission I am putting forth? Am I living my values or just spitting them from a high and mighty podium?” You also need to BE CONSISTENT in terms of your branding: if you choose blue as your value colour and statistically-based animation as your medium, do not mix in TikTok videos of young rappers and litter random posts with fifty shades of red, pink and sadness because you “feel like it”. Every time your audiences encounter an extension of you, they need to readily recognize it as such.
Rather than evoking a “just keep swimming” model of branding, try to swim more strategically. Consider leveraging floaties from people who know how to distinguish between icebergs and lifeboats in the shark-infested waters of social and traditional media. Yes, we took the nautical theme too far here, but it’s been almost two years since we’ve been allowed to go on a vacation, so deal with it.
The emphasis on personal certainly does not indicate you need to brand yourself by yourself
You cannot build a personal brand in isolation. You need to be relatable to the audience members on the other side of your strategic persona. Open yourself up to conversations and constructive cues from people (most hopefully, professional branding specialists) who can provide you with key insights on how successful your brand story is and what you can do to enhance your positioning.
If you are curious about the benefits of a full-scale personal brand strategy, reach out to our team at CR Creative and learn how we can not only help you stay afloat but also secure you a VIP spot on the shore.