“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” – Jeff Bezos
Personal branding is nothing new. Many people, particularly creatives that are in the business of branding, are aware of the importance of it and take steps to build their personal brand. But this concept doesn’t only apply to them — everyone is a brand, and everyone should realize this.
As Bezos said, brand and reputation are largely the same, particularly in the personal context. Most often what comes to mind when thinking of what “branding” is are the logos, typography, colors, and aesthetic elements. Those certainly apply, but they’re still a level up from the foundation — the basis and the reputation of what is behind the brand. Every person has a story, just like every company does. Every person has a tone, a way of thinking, a way of doing things.
Nowadays, social media and the internet has democratized reach so much that nobody has to be anonymous. Decades ago, the only individuals who could be said to have a brand were well-known figures. Now, you can reach and look up practically any person on earth. And in a huge amount of cases, you’ll be first judged on how you portray yourself online, and only then how you are in person. That’s going to happen whether you like it or not.
So it’s vital for everyone, in every industry and walk of life, to start thinking of how they are as a brand. How are you portrayed when you’re quoted in articles, or what your social pages (LinkedIn included) have on them, or simply how you appear in other people’s photos — these all are part of your personal and online reputation, aka your brand.
There remains the question — how do you put this into action?
1. Think from the foundation up.
With that realization, and much as the brand process would work for a company, it’s important to think from a big picture perspective before you determine your course of action and all of the details.
Consider the goals. Do you want to appear as a trustworthy authority in a certain field? Or as someone who is particularly creative with photography? Or as someone known for solving a certain kind of problem?
The end goals will allow you to visualize the process backwards. A path with no goal is like climbing a ladder but never considering if it is put in the right place.
2. Conduct a self-audit of everywhere you have an online presence.
Consider every account you have — whether it’s Medium, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, the list goes on. Each of them serve a different purpose of course, but you don’t need to be a social media manager and involve yourself in the minutia of how they are different. Just consider what you want on each one. For example, Twitter is more of a live feed of a day, whereas Instagram is used for more high-quality photos, and LinkedIn solely for the professional stuff.
Determine what you are currently posting (if anything) on these platforms, how many people all of this is reaching, and whether or not that is in line with your goals that you’ve created. If yes, you’re further ahead than the rest of us. If no, then there is some adjustment to make.
3. Create an actionable plan, but have a genuine basis.
Based off of your goals and your subsequent self-audit, you can start to make a plan. If your goal is to become an authority on a field, then you need to make sure that you are on top of all major developments and trends. You need to constantly be learning about this field. You need to have a true and honest basis that you are then disseminating online. Only then should you be writing more about it, retweeting relevant stories, posting in LinkedIn groups about the topic — you get the idea.
Obviously, your brand needs to reflect who you actually are. You need to genuinely be the same thing that you want your brand to evoke. Also as with company branding, being genuine is absolutely vital. There’s a degree of fake-it-till-you-make-it in a lot of cases, but it should be balanced with actual progress towards “making it”, and not just staying in a cycle of “faking it”.
Being aware of the fact you are a brand can put you at a great advantage. When you’re looking to expand the reach of your content or ideas, or looking to take on a new job or new projects professionally, or just trying to be known for something — your brand will speak for you when you haven’t yet spoken for yourself. What do you want it to say?