Updated: Aug 30, 2021
by T. C. Lesesne
When you Google yourself, what pops up? More than likely, what you find will be the first impression people will have of you. To them, this is your personal brand. Whether you have a date or a job interview, chances are someone is going to Google you to learn more about who you are. The question is, do you want to allow your online reputation to take on a life of its own or control the narrative? With the proliferation of social media and the gig economy, it has become essential for everyone to embrace personal branding.
As a media owner, brand consulting became a part of the environment because we give platforms for thought leaders to help move our communities forward. These are poles that enlighten, motivate and entertain others. Often, they don't know who they are when it comes to their personal brand. Surprising right? If you’re like most influencers, having a strong, positive personal brand is essential to maintaining your influence and impact. Your personal brand is how you promote yourself. It is the unique combination of skills, experience, and personality that you want the world to see. You use your personal branding to differentiate yourself from other people.
It's not uncommon for many of us to get confused about ways to building, cultivating and maintaining a strong positive personal brand. To most ordinary people, this may not even be an issue at all. But to those of you that are influencers, trend-setters, civic and community leaders, and even most social media aficionados struggle with their own clearly delivered personal brand. It can come with lots of questions as to how o communicate, share, and help others understand what you stand for, and what you are trying to achieve within a given environment.
There are CEO's that still take pride in cleaning, designing and decorating their homes. Some of them love cooking and gardening. Others love painting and sewing. It all matters when it comes to your personal brand, especially to those that follow you. Give thought to your own personal style, flair and swag and explore how you can better define your brand.
More than what you do, It's also how you do it.
What I’m driving at here is that your personal brand directly connects to how you make a positive impact on others and the world. The lesson here is that your personal brand may also include your family role as a Mom, Dad, dog owner, or friend. This is the human aspect of your personal brand. It connects to your professional skills, talents and capabilities and allows people to see a layer of yourself that make you a real person.
I'm using myself as the test dummy. The image to the left gives a hint at what my brand includes. Can you help define it? Ok, I'll tell you. My brand includes, but is not limited to a lifestyle of fun, adventure quality automobiles at an affordable price that elevates the lifestyle experience. Because test-driving cars for the AutoFOCUS Test Drive web series and car exploration is a part of my brand and I've learned to embrace it. There are other layers to my brand, as there may be for you, but this is one of them and I choose to express myself to others through this brand inclusiveness. I used to fight it hoping not to be pigeonholed. I am not alone in that struggle. when I advise my clients on personal branding, they always tell me that there's much more to them than what they do professionally. I get it. The answer is simple. Get skilled at highlighting those elements that define you holistically. Begin with your own values. Start at home, family, community, pastimes. Define yourself and what makes you you in these areas, then move on.
I pride myself in being a devoted father. This is more central to my personal brand as anything I've accomplished in my professional career. So the image with my four adult sons (including our dog at the bottom of the image) captures who I am more than anything else I do. How about you? What best captures who you are, including the layers that make you more than a one-dimensional, less than interesting individual? Do you run, roller skate or cook? Do you coach little league or help the elderly? When it comes to you personal brand, please do us all a favor and leave out the religion and politics. Your personal brand is about sharing what attracts people to you, not the opposite. We don't need to know anything about you that may indeed cause irritation, agitation, alienation .
Who you are is who you are
You see, like it or not, you are your brand. Let’s dig deeper into that statement. Everything you do, how you do it, and the way you look as you go through the process of getting things done is all a part of your brand. It's your track record. It's what you have to stand on. The most powerful statement in favor of your brand is a testimonial, which can come in a variety of ways.
Why does it matter
Personal branding matters in getting jobs, contracts, votes, promotions, and recommendations. Your track record is the most important element of your personal brand. Your resume, or bio, that's sort of a text version of your brand. Effective personal branding will differentiate you from the competition and allow you to build trust with prospective clients and employers. You never get a second chance to make a first impression—make it one that will set you apart, build trust and reflect who you are
How do I know what my personal brand is?
To navigate and maximize on the opportunities that come with reflecting a strong, positive personal brand, you first need to look at your mission, vision and track record. In other words, if you could mold your life’s story into one positive (true) statement, well there's your brand. Is the information you are sharing across LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media sites consistent? It needs to be. Does it share anything about your personality and your uniqueness? Does it connect to your charitable concerns?
Learn from the best
Henry Ford had one of the most powerful positive personal brands ever and it was known throughout the world. Remember, this was long before the internet and social media support was available. Ford was the first to come into the market with the Model T. It was a game changer. Henry Ford worked his mojo making sure that the world not only knew about his motor company, but also about himself, his vision, and what he stood for. Yes, Ford was an industrialist, race car driver and innovator, but he was also ahead of his time. He hired African Americans at equal pay, which was against the grain.
He endeared himself to Black people across the country and to this day, they are loyal customers. Ford transitioned during World War II from making cars to helping make aircraft, including bombers to help with air support in the grueling war effort.. This bold effort deepened the Ford brand, and American's loved him for it. Ford as an individual and his company consistently reinvented; always staying on the cutting edge of technology while remaining close to the community through its philanthropic efforts. So Henry Ford's personal brand continues to travel beyond the badass Mustang or the dynamic F-150. His brand reflects a man behind a global powerhouse rich with a history of accomplishment, community service, innovation, and diversity.
The lesson here
At the end of the day, your personal brand is not just about standing out from the others, it’s about having the others know why you stand out without you having to tell them directly. Corporations and celebrities spend millions on their brands, you don’t have to, just keep getting things done, and keep track as you go.
What’s my next step?
Stay tuned for more insight and references/resources. We will share a six-part series that hopefully provides you with insight on how to maximize and benefit from cultivating a strong and positive personal brand.