Branding: 5 Steps in Creating a Personal Brand

If you think about it — each one of us is a BRAND! What have YOU done to build your personal brand?

Here’s what Paul Rand, President of Zocalo Group advised graduates from Northwestern University:

What’s most compelling to me is that the proven foundations and principles of driving recommendations for brands are almost identical to those that shape personal recommendations  — shared by Brian Solis.

Why build a personal brand?

Building a personal brand increases your reputation and spreads that reputation much farther than it would ordinarily.  I mean, think about it, you rely on employers, professors, and coworkers to give you recommendations for a new job — spreading positive word of mouth about you. According to Business Week, over 1/2 of all jobs come from recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues.

Building a personal brand extends that reputation and increases the word of mouth beyond the people you would normally ask for a recommendation.

But, building a personal brand goes beyond just helping you find a job.  A positive personal reputation also drives success in other endeavors — building support for charitable or political aspirations, gaining support for plans in your work or personal life, or greasing the wheels of anything.  A positive personal brand also allows you to support others, which generates social capital you can “spend” to promote your own plans.

How do you build a personal brand?

Building a personal brand mirrors building a commercial brand — it takes careful development of a branding strategy and implementation of that strategy in your daily life.  Here’s what Paul Rand recommends:

1. Develop a compelling story of YOU

This means creating a consistent image of who you are — hopefully one that resonates with your target audience.  This includes personal characteristics like strong, knowledgeable, competent or soft and empathetic as well as professional characteristics including your area of expertise (design, fashion, beauty, marketing, sports …).

2. Live your brand

Be consistent and live your brand every day.  If you want an image of a fashionista, you’ll need to dress the part every day so no leaving the house in sweat pants without makeup.

3. Stay engaging and interesting

Remember, building a personal brand doesn’t mean you are self-absorbed.  The best way to get others behind you is to support them and stay involved in their lives.

It always surprises me when a student comes into my office asking for a letter of recommendation, when the student really didn’t stand out in my class.  Sure, I might send the recommendation because I see that as part of my job, but it’s not likely a great recommendation.  Students who actively participate in class, are prepared, and take advice for improving their work will get great recommendations.  Stopping by my office to chat, ask advice, and let me know your plans will get not only a great recommendation but one very tailored to all the great things I know about you.

4. Regularly evaluate and evolve

Listen to what people say about you to evaluate the success of your personal branding strategy, just like a firm would evaluate the success of their branding strategy.  Also, pay attention to trends and tweak your personal brand to stay relevant.

5. Be human, transparent, and live up to mistakes

Be yourself and talk to your network as if you’re talking to each one individually.  And, if you make a mistake, own it don’t try to hide it or make excuses.