To realize one’s personal legend is one’s only true obligation
When I worked as an International Strategist at BBDO in New York, I remember one of the my senior colleagues confiding in me that he wanted to hide.
That his entire goal was to sit at his desk and try to be as invisible as possible…until retirement time.
He didn’t want to be noticed…
He didn’t want to ruffle feathers….
He didn’t want to make waves…
He didn’t want to make anyone mad (or happy).
Or create any impression at all.
His goal was to be invisible…and wait until he earned the proverbial gold watch.
Well, nowadays no one wears gold watches anymore.
And being invisible?
Well, that’s just no longer an option.
Whether we like it or not, our New Social Order has thrust all of us—reluctant or not--into the limelight.
We each have a digital footprint.
And here’s the deal.
We need to take care of what it is that we are projecting out into the world.
Because if we don’t do it, someone else (or something) will.
Which is tantamount to giving someone else the keys to your kingdom.
And it’s a safe bet to say that none of us want to do that.
Whether you are an entrepreneur, a student, a job seeker or a long-time corporate employee, you need a personal brand.
No matter your age—whether you’re a 20 something or a 60 something—a personal brand will clarify and communicate your unique gifts, purpose and passion to the rest of the world.
But, even more importantly, it will give you the focus and purpose that are the building blocks of any fulfilled life.
But what exactly is a personal brand?
Having spent the better part of my career as a brand consultant, I’ve realized that there is some confusion about what the word 'brand’ actually means.
For starters, a brand is not just a visual identity or a logo.
While these elements can be a ‘shortcut’ way to communicate your brand values, they do not constitute a brand per se.
A brand is much much more than a ‘look’—it is a set of emotional associations and values.
I think my favorite description of a brand is Seth Godin’s, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
As Ze Frank says, it’s the ‘emotional aftertaste’ that comes after an experience with a product, service or company.
A brand is your story.
It is not fabricated. It is authentic.
It is not ‘copiable’. It is utterly unique.
A brand gives personality.
How to Define Your Personal Brand
A brand is the opposite of a ‘commodity’ (i.e. something that is precisely the same as all the other products like it).
For example, an IPhone is not the same as ‘any other’ phone.
It commands a premium both because of its features but—more importantly- because of the cachet of its brand.
In a world where both trust and attention are our scarcest resources, a brand gives you both.
Can You Give Me Some Examples?
Interestingly, I’ve learned a lot about brands from living in France which I believe is one of the clearly defined brands on the planet.
France is considered a world treasure by many.
That is because the emotions and values associated with France are crystal clear.
From beautiful food to haute couture to leisurely afternoons at a café, France is famous for its celebration of beauty and high-quality and the ‘little things in life’.
It’s a place that—even if we’ve never set foot there once-- we can literally hear, smell, taste and see in our minds.
But France does not have a corner on the branding market.
Some of the classic branding examples are corporations. Disney, Apple or Nike.
These three brands possess recognizable and memorable “personalities”.
Disney is synonymous with magic, dreams, and childhood happiness.
Apple is THE brand for innovation and forward-thinking.
And Nike is another word for personal empowerment and drive.
But nowadays, the corporate brand is getting left in the dust by another form of branding—The Personal Brand.
And there are dozens of examples…
Whether you love them or hate them, people like Princess Diana, Beyoncé, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey or Richard Branson are all excellent examples of strong personal brands that conjure up rich visuals and value sets.
Regardless of the industry, there is at least one single common denominator behind every successful business
Princess Diana’s brand was about a woman of class and elegance with a passion for humanitarian work.
Beyoncé symbolizes talent, passion and female empowerment.
Donald Trump is about ambition and business, Oprah Winfrey is all about self-improvement and actualization while Richard Branson is about playing it big and embracing creative entrepreneurial ideas that change the world’s paradigms.
These individuals show us the power and potential of a personal brand.
What can happen when you fully understand who you are…and what you bring to the party.
Because it is indisputable—when you understand your gifts and your value (and articulate and act on that understanding!), you pave the way for an empowered life of design and clarity (versus disappointment and confusion).
What A Personal Brand Can Do For You…
I guess to some extent, our ‘personal brand’ has always been powerful.
But nowadays a personal brand is now imperative for survival… it is the life raft upon which we should all cling.
Or we’ll simply go under, drowning in a never-ending (and very crowded) sea of sameness.
A personal brand will give you a deep, empowering sense of self.
It will give form to your vision and voice to your passions.
Best part of all?
When you have figured out what your real power is, you become untouchable.
You discreetly—if defiantly—become a Market of One.
You stand proud and powerful, separate and alone, a tall tree on a flat field, high above everyone else.
As an unassailable thought leader.
No one can touch you.
A personal brand is the ultimate protection.
As such then, a personal brand is indisputably your most important asset.
If you are an entrepreneur, a strong personal brand is good for business. People want to know who is behind the curtains—in our New Social Order, they care who is at the helm.
If you are looking for a job, having a clear understanding of what you uniquely bring to the table is really the only way you’ll be chosen.
As a student, your personal brand will set you apart in a competitive marketplace.
And if you already work in a corporate environment, a strong personal brand will move you forward in terms of both promotion and pay.
All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You
– Tom Peters in Fast Company
At the end of the day, the strength of your personal brand boils down to one thing.
How well you really know—and understand yourself.
The more you know yourself—your intentions, your passions, your weaknesses, your special strengths—the more you will be able to leverage your personal brand in all aspects of your life.
Here’s a way to get to grips with your personal legend in 3 easy steps:
Step 1: Prepare Your Personal Brand
The first official step in defining your personal brand is truly understanding who you are.
And while this may sound simple - or even a little silly - nothing could be more important. In fact, you’d be surprised at how little you might actually know yourself before setting out define your brand.
But how can you understand what you’re all about?
Always remember to be completely honest with yourself and don’t seek to please anyone else when developing your personal brand
● Answer A Couple Questions
Here are a few questions to help you get on the right track. Get friends and family to help you answer these questions to get some more varied responses. And as always, be sure to be authentic and true to yourself.
- What Do You Love The Most? - What are things that drive you and motivate you to keep going? What is the one thing that you love about your life right now? Or what is the one topic that you just can’t seem to stop talking about? These right here are your passions. Find them, then build your brand around them. It’s hard to get excited about something that you are not passionate about.
- What Are Your Core Values? - Your personal values have to align with your brand in order to promote true authenticity. These are the values that will help to drive your decision making process and the choices you make, so it’s important that you think through this and come to terms with what is important to you: if you could do one thing for the rest of your life, money aside, what would that one thing be?
- What Are You Good At? - What are your strengths? What skill are you most proud of? These aren’t just things that you’re good at, but things that you are great at! Think about the things that you can do without much effort, yet still excite you. These are your strengths - capitalize on them!
- What Is Your Purpose? - Once you know your passions, values and strengths, it’s time to start putting everything together to really define your purpose. What is it that you really want to do in life? What is your vision for the future, your biggest dream? Do you have a secret dream that you’ve never told anyone about? If so, what is it? What is the one thing you’ve accomplished in your professional career so far that you are most proud of? This is your purpose.
- What Makes You, You? - In order to stand out from the crown, you really need to find something that truly makes you different from everyone else. Maybe this might be something that you can do better than anyone else, or a certain skillset that is new to a particular niche. What are three words that define who you are as a person? Whatever they are, find what makes you different and run with it.
● Think Like A Brand
Now that you’ve taken some time to get to know “you” better, try to imagine yourself as a product.
What are you? What do you stand for? What do you have to offer? What does your packaging look like? Are you open? Accessible? Exclusive? Cheap? Expensive?
Draw it out, write out a summary of what you are. Whatever works for you. Just try and determine a clear picture of what you would be if you were a product.
● Think About The Fans
Now take some time to think about your audience. What do you have to offer a specific audience? Who would be most receptive to you? If for example, you are bright, colorful, and have a talent for designing clothes for millennials, then your target audience will likely be young professionals. Knowing who your target demographic is will be useful for the next step…
What is one thing that motivates you most in life?
Because if what you stand for doesn’t resonate with your chosen audience, you’re going to spend your entire life streaming upstream.
Step 2: Execute Your Personal Brand
● Presentation: When it comes to how you present your brand, consistency is key. What you put out on the Internet is representative of you and your personal brand. So it’s time to be clever about your image and the content you produce. You need to think about the following...
○ A tagline: Come up with a slogan for your personal brand. Make sure that it’s simple, catchy, easy to remember, and expressive of your talents. (You can use this in all your social media bios).
○ Photos: Invest in professional photographs of yourself that you can display on your social media accounts and website. No sunglasses and hats. But no suffocating suits either. Try to find the sweet spot and show the real you. (And please no 20 year old pictures—you need to be recognizable when people meet you ‘real time’!)
○ A LinkedIn Profile: Debatably one of the most powerful social media platforms, make sure that yours is up to date, professional, and focused on showcasing your brand. Not sure how to make your profile top-notch? Check out our 3 simple steps to a powerhouse LinkedIn profile: http://slice.international/3-super-simple-steps-to-a-powerhouse-linkedin-profile/
○ An About Me Page: This will appear on your website and will educate your clients first hand on your personal brand. Once again, concise and to the point is key here. Be honest about your strengths and what it is you are trying to create.
○ Resume: Does your current resume reflect the positions and jobs that have made you, you? Then take the time to refresh your resume so that it highlights the particular characteristics that you have to offer.
Branding is what people say about you when you are not in the room
●Social Media: It’s now time to come up with a social media strategy. Ask yourself which platforms should be used to build up your brand and share clever content on. Remember, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest all have very different target demographics.
Go back to who your target audience is and think about which platform they may be more present on. For a younger crowd, Snapchat is increasingly popular. For a more female audience, Pinterest may be the way to go. Depending on what you’re about, you’ll want to focus on each platform differently (but remember, less is more: focus on one platform first and build up). Don’t be afraid to write leadership articles, participate in interviews, go to speaking events, and connect with other strong personal brands.
Pro Tip: Always, always, always be consistent. Your personal brand should show through everything that you post on the Internet… or else you’ll end up with a messy unclear message about who you are.
Step 3: Reevaluate Your Personal Brand
But here’s the thing.
Just like you as a person change, so does your personal brand. Figuring out your personal brand isn’t a one-time deal. It’s a constant game of reinvention. What works now, may not work in a few months.
So every 3 months, take the time to sit down and think about you and your business. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Have my goals changed?
2. Have I learnt something new about myself?
3. Do I still represent my core values?
4. Have I grown as an individual?
Be honest about your changes and incorporate your growth into your personal brand. Nothing is static in our online world, so take advantage!
Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.
– Sir Richard Branson
Pro Tip: A personal brand is not meant to be self-promotion. No one wants to hear how wonderful you are. However, they will want to hear what you have to think and offer. A personal brand is simply an expression of what you have to give to the world and what you uniquely represent.
In A Nutshell...
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
–George Bernard Shaw
Developing your personal brand is incredibly important, yet it doesn’t have to be difficult. Focus first on understanding who you really are, and you’ll be well on your way to your personal brand.
Some final thoughts…
The word ‘brand’ was originally used to describe the placement of a red-hot iron on cattle to ‘mark’ their origins.
To emblazon with fire.
Branding is not a boring subject—it is a fiery, passionate one.
And one that very much concerns you.
Personal branding is all about discovering who you really are
According to Forbes Magazine, less than 15% of people have taken time to truly define their brand and even fewer (5%) live it consistently every day
In other words, despite its great importance it appears that relatively few are taking the time to define and communicate their personal brand.
Can you really afford to be among the 85% who continue to ignore themselves and what makes them special?
Or is it time to regroup, reinvent and rewrite your success story and your lasting legacy.
Go here to find out how you can finally tap into the full power of your Personal Legend…starting today.