Strategy & The Personal Brand
It’s my first blog post of the year and I’m excited to get back to work. I’m one of those people that really loves the routine and structure of the work week. Don’t get me wrong, I love my lazy Saturdays and #sundayfundays like the best of them, but you’ll never find me posting about dreading a Monday morning. It’s just not in my nature. This attitude isn’t just part of my personality, it’s part of my personal brand. It’s a commitment I’ve made to be consistent in my messaging, my voice, my appearance and even my body language. As a company, we’ve carved 2016 out into monthly themes to shape our content and, personally, I’ve committed to devoting each of my monthly blog posts to the idea of personal branding as it fits within our theme. January’s theme is strategy and while it may seem overly calculating to strategize over your personal brand, I’m here to tell you that you can’t afford not to.
I think that before we can really delve into some of the finer aspects of personal branding that we all have to agree on what it is we’re talking about. There are lots of different ideas out there about what personal branding is. I’ve done plenty of studying on this subject and I’m here to tell you that many of the fine folks out there trying to talk to you about it are wrong. To them, personal branding pertains only to what you post on social media or on the content in a blog post. Personal branding is, in actuality, so much more. Here are the five pillars of your personal brand, why each is important and some strategies for refining each.
What It Is: How You Think & Feel
Why It’s Important For Your Personal Brand: Let’s be honest. We can all tell a fake when we meet one. You don’t want to be that person. The rest of the items on this list mean nothing if you need an attitude adjustment.
Personal Branding Strategy: This is going to be a tough one for some people but it’s pretty straightforward: you’ve got to get your mind right, especially if you’re a small business owner but even if you’re not. Some days are just crappy and nothing is going to go your way. Sometimes customers are going to be a pain to work with and make unreasonable demands of you and your time. You’ve got to remind yourself every day that you’re playing the long game and do whatever it takes to do it with a smile. This may mean you’ve got to find yourself a mentor, a support group or even a therapist. If it helps you to take up yoga or meditation, I say go for it. All of those things have helped me. And sometimes, if it matters, just play some gangsta rap for a minute and let all that stress out. Then, dust yourself off, pick yourself back up, and get back in the game. You’ve got this.
What It Is: What You Say
Why It’s Important For Your Personal Brand: Now, more than ever, the words we choose have the opportunity to be immortalized forever. They are tweeted, quoted, pinned and shared. Words have an opportunity to be hurtful, misconstrued or misunderstood and, YES, it matters how other people interpret what you say.
Personal Branding Strategy: Knowing that everything you say really does have long-lasting ramifications for you and your career presents enough of a threat to render even the most talkative among us mute. This need not be the case. In thinking about your personal brand, think about the type of content that you are putting out into the world. Is it consistent with your attitude? Do the words you choose support your agenda? For example, I told you earlier about how I will never be one to share a funny “I Hate Mondays” meme. The goal is to create messaging that supports my attitude and furthers my brand. I really love my job and part of that is helping other people who love their jobs too. We don’t hate Mondays. We look forward to them.
Tone of Voice
What It Is: How You Say It
Why It’s Important For Your Personal Brand: Even well-chosen words can do you wrong if you use poor inflection. Sometimes even a well-placed emoji can do you wrong. Creating consistency in messaging & tone lets the world know you’re the real deal.
Personal Branding Strategy: Commit to fixing any attitude problems that might affect your ability to say what you mean in an authentic way. Most well-adjusted people have an impeccable ability to pick up on when you don’t mean what you say. It’s okay if your brand’s tone is snarky or sassy. We have a bit of that going on ourselves at Markon. We try not to sound too corporate or stiff. So even if what we’re saying is super serious, we try to communicate it in a conversational and friendly way. That is a brand choice we made and one that I make for myself when I think about my own writing and speech. Think about what your tone says about your attitude towards your work. If things aren’t consistent, either change your attitude or change your tone.
What It Is: How You Look
Why It’s Important For Your Personal Brand: This is the old “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” mantra. It is still very much alive and applicable in 2016. I’m not saying it’s fair that we are judged for how we look, I’m just saying that it’s true. Ignore at your own peril.
Personal Branding Strategy: Sorry to all the guys and gals out there that assumed we had moved into an era where rocking the jammies sans makeups to work had arrived. Even if you work from home I would argue that you aren’t taking yourself, or your work, very seriously if you can’t manage to get up, get showered and get dressed appropriately every morning. Doing this is as much for yourself as it is for everyone else. You’ll be amazed at how looking good can affect your attitude towards the day. Even if your dress code is ultra casual, there is simply no excuse to not be clean, well put together and dressed appropriately for your industry. You’ll feel better about yourself and other people will take you more seriously. If you have a hard time with this, hire a stylist to help you gather just a few great outfits you feel amazing in. Get your hair did. Find a grooming regimen that works for you. I don’t care if you’re not a morning person and only have a few minutes to get ready. You never know who you’re going to meet the second you walk out your door - it could be your next big client. Or not, if you’re looking like a hot mess. Invest in your personal appearance because it will make YOU feel good. Your positive attitude will translate as part of your personal brand.
What It Is: Everything Else That Went Unspoken
Why It’s Important For Your Personal Brand: As an undergrad, I studied Communication where we learned not only the finer nuances of public speaking but how important nonverbal communication is in everyday interactions. Sometimes it’s not always what you say, but how you say it or how you look while doing it… and sometimes it just comes down to whether or not you have resting bitch face.
Personal Branding Strategy: This may take some involvement of a few trusted friends or family members. You’ve got to ask them to tell you if you look like you’re mad all the time. You’ve got to tell them to be honest because this is really going to help you. 99% of all our communication is nonverbal which means that you can say the right things, look and sound great while doing it and still send the wrong message. Your facial expressions and overall body language speak volumes. Your strategy here can be everything from a simple commitment to smile more (seriously) to a deeper reaching pledge to work on the attitudes behind why you’re feeling unconfident, insecure, angry - or whatever it is that you’re projecting. These attitudes come out in nonverbal ways such as crossing your arms, hunching your shoulders or not making eye contact. Working on these attitudes will have such a positive impact on your personal brand.
I just love the quote at the top of my article about personal branding. (So much so, that I Instagrammed it! Double tap to show some love!) As a business owner, I know that keeping these things in check does more to differentiate my business in the marketplace than almost anything other work I do. I know that I can do lots of great design, create powerful marketing campaigns, network with all the right people and still fail if I don’t work to make my personal brand compelling. It is the one thing I have that no one else can copy! And you can do the same. I hope that this list has inspired you to at least think about some of the aspects that play into your building and refining your personal brand. As you make a business strategy for 2016, consider incorporating some of these personal branding commitments as well.
I’ve said before that I’m so passionate about personal branding both as a rising trend and as an important component of business success that this is the launch to my year-long series to focus on the topic. And next month’s theme is just that: passion! We’ll explore how your motivation and drive for what you do plays into your personal brand and ways you can continue to refine your brand to support the things you’re passionate about. I’d love it if you followed along.