You The Brand – 101

The point of this and upcoming post will be to design, create, evaluate and ideally optimize your own personal brand. What does that mean – personal brand? For many, it means being an expert within a category; for others, a platform by which one can convey their options, services and products. And some see this brand as the extension of energy and credibility that people should come to expect from you in what you do and say. Yes, of course you've guessed it -- it's all of these things and much more.

We see it all the time. Our friends, family and peers losing their jobs or deciding that it's time to look at something else. For many people, it's recreating who they are: their image, their direction and creating a brand out of themselves. Big "human brands" are easy to spot, especially in America where we thrive on utilizing status as a marketing directive. I'm going to assume you have not amassed a fortune in whatever you do, nor do you have your own PR team(s) and agents making sure that you're positioning yourself for maximum celebrity effectiveness. And therefore you looking to me – King Nobody of the Universe for expert tutelage. LOL, w00t.

Examples of various people (off the top of my head and in no particular order) that are, indeed, brands:

Now, not all of the individuals in that list will subscribe to my advice. More than likely, they have a posse of peeps that do most of this work for them. The point of citing them was to show that people can have a pure brand essence exclusive to a product, service or corporation. But let's start at the beginning before we build your personal empire of status and influence.

Understanding Personal Brand:
Wikipedia says: "A brand is a distinguishing name and/or symbol intended to identify a product or producer. Some people distinguish the psychological aspect of a brand from the experiential aspect. The experiential aspect consists of the sum of all points of contact with the brand and is known as the brand experience. The psychological aspect, sometimes referred to as the brand image, is a symbolic construct created within the minds of people and consists of all the information and expectations associated with a product or service." It goes on further to say, "People engaged in branding seek to develop or align the expectations behind the brand experience, creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities or characteristics that make it special or unique."

This is a critical seed that you need to identify first – What is the brand impression that you want to bring to people and have the same people take away? While you, 'the brand,' don't [have] to be who you are in the real world, it certainly helps, because the bigger your personal brand becomes, the more people that will anticipate authenticity that you convey to be real and factual. Defrauding this perception is counter-productive and will often lead to facing 'brand protection' issues -- much like Tiger Woods, Jesse James and others letting their personal life/actions overtake their public-facing brand. The more that you are true to what you intend to preach, the easier it will be to manage your self-branding.

One of my former clients wanted to brand himself and his style as that of a hard-nosed, street-savvy business expert. Well, part of that is image, part of that is message and part of this is magic. The magic is the true brand of you. What you can bring to the table that substantiates such claims. Your voice, attitude (or as I say, "raditude") and your engagement are essential keys to delivering that brand. And lastly, if you hate 'playing the game and making nice' with people, then creating a brand for yourself may not be the best path for you.

Uniform:
Image is a part of any brand. On my Twitter account and some posts that show me photographically, you see some dork in a suit. I think it's typical but it's professionally digestible, nonetheless. My real life is cargo shorts, t-shirts and sneakers, but it's important to dress the part; that doesn't, however, always mean a suit. If you're an urban poet, be just that. The expectation of what your audience, client, or vendor is anticipating must be paid off. If the President of the United States made an address in overalls, you'd naturally think something is a miss.

Voice & Messaging:
Simply put, just like your uniform, speak on behalf of what makes you special. Are you a loud personality? Funny? Succinct? Do you speak in bursts or in long sober tones? Watch comedians, musicians, radio personalities and political figureheads. They all carry a unique cadence, personality and flavor to their direction, and thus their self-brand. Remember, it's most importantly it's what you say – be authentic, be trusting and speak with the confidence that you find in any leader or one of expertise.

Expertise:
Here's the core of your brand – your expertise. Even if you choose something as saturated as, say, the music industry, you can have a unique voice, uniform and, ideally, definitive knowledge of the category. Just like corporate brands, you're going to be challenged by your industry. Whether it's a point you're making, the credibility you accrue or the success you create, there will be those that wish to appear better, smarter and therefore a better brand to follow. "People brands" (which I should trademark) are no different than business. Look at authors -- could you see yourself starting to write the next world-renowned sci-fi epic? You certainly can if you're prepared and knowledgeable.

Research You, Project You:
It's incredibly important that you stay current to your industry and expertise. This is done in every conceivable way: magazines, blogs, newsletters, RSS feeds, television, radio, podcasts, seminars, conferences, trade publications, news alerts, Twitter, Facebook and any industry-specific medium that is important to your success. Devour this material on an ongoing basis. To be a brand you must know what, when and how to tell information that is relevant and topical in order to increase your "brand currency" value. It's also incredibly important not to simply regurgitate what you hear from these assorted mediums. You need to take a reasonable amount of time to figure out how things interrelate and, therefore, best work for your audience base.

Social Media and Branding ("Don't Set It & Forget It"):
Now that I've beaten in your head how all the elements of branding need to be consistent and within the same voice, you need to follow through. Once you've become conversation extending your personal brand you must continue to do so. With that said, don't come out of the gate with a constant funnel of topics and then run out of things to say in three months and then not go out and speak for six! MAKE OPPORTUNITIES to extend your position and viewpoint while staying humble and open-minded. In short, tweet, blog, Facebook, YouTube with consistency. Don't let internet traffic discourage you. Remember, it's more important to reach out to the few that ARE following you than to WISH you had more following you.

Networking, Extensions & Support:
Linkedin groups, blogs, professional associations and general networking is becoming increasingly important to make. Beyond simply utilizing them for meeting and creating relationship, your involvement also increases your credibility, or what I like to call "Brand Currency" – I so need to ™ that.

Self Starter – Learning Center:

Posted on April 21, 2010 and filed under Business, DIY, Process.