There are many benefits of having a strong and visible personal brand (eg. earning up to 13 times more than those without one!). So where do you start building a personal brand? With a story of course. Your story.
When people first hear about you, what would you want them to hear? What is it you want to be known for? Sure, it would be nice to be known for random things like having a great personality or being hard working… but what really sets you apart is the story of why you are who you are, or what makes you work in a certain way. This starts with knowing yourself.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that might help. They might seem like pretty big questions but it’s important to know this for yourself before you move forward. Write down your answers on a piece of paper so that you’re able to visually see it and make sense of it.
- What brings me joy?
- What is my superpower – the one thing I can do better than anyone else?
- What makes me different – why should people listen to me?
- What are my values – the things I will never compromise on?
- What is my Why?
- What are my goals – the things I want to achieve in this career / lifetime?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you be clearer about who you are. If you’re not clear about who you are, it’s hard to expect others to be clear as well. And when they’re not clear about who you are and what you can offer them, they will find someone else to provide that same service. Don’t let that happen. Remember, your answers don’t have to be big or grand. Just keep it simple and be honest with yourself.
Have a clear focus
After doing the exercise above, you might realise that you have many things that bring you joy, or many superpowers, many “whys” and many values. That’s okay, but for the purpose of crafting your personal brand story, you need to have a clear focus. It’s similar to writing a resume for a specific company. You would only include the items that are relevant to that company. In the same way, think of your target audience – the people who will be knowing you in a professional context – and include things that are relevant. Keep it simple.
Always be genuine
You would think that peer pressure ends after high school but sometimes it doesn’t. In the professional workspace, it might be tempting to compare yourself to someone else whom you think is “more successful” or “more influential”. You might even feel like becoming just like them, emulating their personality and what they believe in. While admiration is alright, remember that there is only one YOU. Stay true to yourself as you go through this process. Be genuine because that is usually the most attractive thing about a person. Being genuine brings true value and builds trust.
Craft your narrative and backstory
Once you have some answers, you can begin to organise these details into a narrative. A narrative is a spoken or written account of connected events. It is bringing together all the details you have chosen to use, and making sense of it all in one story. This could also be where “backstory” comes in. What’s a backstory? Think of your favourite movie character. There’s a good reason why you’re attracted to his or her personality – beyond their good looks of course. It’s probably because of their “Why”.
Peter Parker’s (aka Spiderman) backstory or origin story isn’t just that he was bitten by a spider giving him superhero spidey senses. It’s that he witnessed his uncle being a victim of a fatal robbery which he could have prevented. This was a profound moment that changed his life forever. It’s the reason why he will always try his best to keep his city safe even when it’s inconvenient or daunting.
So what’s your backstory? What’s your “Why”? Why are you so passionate about that craft or cause? Why do you value certain things or uphold a certain work ethic in life? Why can people trust you when you speak about a certain topic? All this becomes part of your personal brand story.
This might interest you: The 5 Types of Brand Stories You Need to Tell
How does all this support a Personal Brand?
Knowing your personal brand story will help you create content and conversations that align with your personal brand. It’s like a compass, always giving you a consistent point of reference. A truth north.
One of the best ways to tell your story is by showing it visually and always using images that give people a consistent idea of your personal brand. This includes your professional headshot or the images you use on your public and professional social media platforms. Think about the kind of visual style that relates to your personal brand. If your personal brand paints you as a person with an approachable and warm personality and as someone who cares about quality, you would want your photos to look like that too. Videos are also a great way to introduce yourself too. It sets the stage for your personal brand story.
Supplementary reading: Personal Branding During a Pandemic? Challenge Accepted
Telling your brand story on social media
The idea is to accomplish two things with your visual content:
1. Build your personal brand presence online
2. Create content that your audience will value
Of course, when you’re doing this, you want to avoid sounding or looking repetitive so people don’t lose interest. Planning your social media content by “pillars” helps you avoid this. (You’re probably not going to only use photos of yourself for all your social media posts, but they will come in handy every few weeks or so.)
Here are the five types of content pillars that can help you build your personal brand and ideas for each.
This kind of content is meant to educate your audience. You can use it to share your ideas and solutions, give them fun facts and information about your craft or your industry, lifestyle tips and hacks that are within the scope of your expertise, or bring them behind the scenes and show them your creative process for work.
- Talking about what you learned from a book
- Sharing your favourite podcasts’
- Sharing life and business lessons from your favourite films or the latest movie
- Create “How To Tutorials”
These could be videos, memes, illustrations, and photos that are just plain fun, sharing truths about life but in a funny, engaging and easy to relate manner. Or it could just be a sneak peek into what your daily routine looks like. It’s all in how you tell it – be entertaining!
- Your morning / afternoon / evening / routine
- Funny Behind The Scenes moments
- An interesting or weird experience you recently had
- A few of your favourite things or what you can’t live without – this shows quite a bit about your personality.
Make a difference in your audience’s lives by inspiring them. Content like this is meant to evoke emotions, be motivational, and can cover topics of life issues and the bigger picture. For corporate branding, this is also known as “brand love” content. It has the potential to make people feel good about your brand when they can resonate with the kind of values it stands for. The same goes for a personal brand. When people are encouraged by what you have to share, they’ll be genuinely interested in who you are.
- Interesting work experiences and personal wins
- Remind who you are and how you got started on this journey
- Share a success story from someone else, or about an inspiring person you admire
- Express your opinions, talk about what inspires you
In corporate branding, this kind of content is usually linked to the value of a specific product or service. It is meant to convert audiences into customers by motivating them to action. However with personal branding, offering something looks more like extending a helping hand. It’s rarely about getting anything in return, yet you will potentially get an expanded business network, insightful ideas from others, and maybe even a customer who is willing to continue paying for your expertise in the long run!
- Help people connect on your social media post.
- Share your challenges and invite people to recommend solutions
- Host an interview with a guest and offer their expertise
- Share about an event you’ll be attending and crowdsource questions prior
- Do a giveaway – this works better for tangible products
- Offer your resources and time or do an “Ask Me Anything” post
Posting informative content positions you as someone who is knowledgeable and up to date on what’s going on. It also helps your audience do the same. If you’re posting up the latest industry news or current affairs that matter to you, remember to also share your take on it. Informative content can also be about your business: Behind the scenes videos that show what you do and how you do it, stories about how you started the business, or how you run your business.
Further readings for you: Employees as Social Media Influencers
- Latest industry trends and updates (and your take on it)
- Reposting good deals / sales
- Directing your audience to valuable resources
Create a content calendar using one or two, or a combination of all five pillars and spread them out throughout the week and month. When you write your content ideas according to a specific pillar, remember to relate it back to your brand message whenever possible, and also topics that your target audience will value.
Enjoyed the article? Want to learn more about branding specifically on branding strategies? Watch this Leaderonomics Media interview with Aaron Foo, who speaks about corporate and personal branding.