In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, and as a nod to my partial Irish heritage, I want to address what it takes to build a truly remarkable personal brand by focusing on what it takes to be great, not lucky. The concepts around personal branding have gained a lot of momentum recently, and for good reason. Taking control of your reputation before everyone else does is not only good practice, it is essential today. I have the good fortune of being inside the Millennial generation – I just squeaked in! I think this gives me a unique opportunity to understand older generations as well as my peer group. While personal branding is extremely important for seasoned professionals, it is typically a harder sell. The Millennial generation not only understands the importance, but we have the distinct advantage of growing up with technology and the social media aspects of life. While the aforementioned is certainly an advantage, it can also act as a huge hinderance in crafting a strong personal brand.
We see countless examples of online & reality personalities rise up very quickly. We see these examples and often believe it’s easy to gain fame and fortune; that becoming a ‘somebody’ is as easy as showing up. The best personal brands, regardless of age, occupation, gender, or race all have one thing in common – control. You may scoff at that statement and point to controversial celebrities and think “They are a hot mess. They don’t have control.” Yes, while some big name personal brands are out of control, they certainly didn’t start that way, and in some cases being seemingly out of control was the plan all along.
Let’s pause and define personal branding. While there is no one definition, the one I typically use is – what people think of you. As Jeff Bezos has famously said, “Your reputation is what people say about you when you aren’t in the room”. With that in mind, the message you are sending can be very clear & powerful, or it can be very different than your intended brand. So how do you control your brand, instead of hoping to just be lucky and succeed? Here are 4 steps:
First, you need to really understand your brand in the market. What do friends, co-workers, family, and your online network think about you? What do your words, actions, dress, online persona, and all interactions say about you? If appropriate, ask people you trust to give you a real evaluation.
Determine Future Brand
Once you understand your current brand, the next step is thinking about your long term and short term goals. Are you trying to get a job after school? Climb the corporate ladder? Get that guy/girl to notice you? Regardless of what you are striving for, your brand is going to either positively or negatively affect the outcome. You need to determine what attributes will help you reach your goal. Think about what you stand for, your values, and the value you provide others. From there, you can start the process of crafting a clear brand message.
Additionally, you need to determine build & break plans. What do you currently do that can be built upon to create a stronger brand? What do you need to stop doing immediately?
Once you’ve determined your brand, you need to live it! Online, Offline, in a group, one-on-one, all day, everyday, as much as possible. Will you slip up? Sure! It’s human nature, and perfection is not obtainable. However, your brand needs to be consistent as much as possible. As an example, Chelsea Krost has carved out an extremely powerful brand. She is a voice and major resource for the Millennial generation. She is polished, precise, and approachable. Her content, interactions, and daily routine are focused on all of this. Did she tell me all that? No. It is the consistency in her brand sending that message loud and clear. You don’t see her talking about elderly care or quantum physics, and you never see her disheveled. Her message and appearance are consistent; and her audience rewards her for that by continuing to tune in. There is no confusion in what you get from her.
Personal branding is a dynamic process. You can’t determine your brand once and expect it to be relevant long-term. You need to evaluate your effectiveness, monitor what others are saying and above all manage your platforms (social media, personal interactions, etc) to ensure you are controlling your reputation in the marketplace and not the other way around.