Updated: Dec 1, 2020
As seen in APeeling in Summer 2020
How often have you heard, you need a personal brand? Whether you are trying to secure a new position, build a book of business, or become known as an ‘expert,’ a personal brand is a requirement. Employers are doing their due diligence and searching Online to find out if they will make someone an offer because they are covering their own butts when making a decision. I’m sure you have heard stories about people who either didn’t get a position because a potential employer checked out their Online footprint or someone was fired because of a social media post.
Throughout time people have judged each other, spread rumours, and ruined reputations. Today, it is easy for others to spread gossip and for us to ruin our own reputations with the wrong post, however at the same time, it is easier for us to protect our reputations from slander by creating a strong personal brand with engaged followers who will champion and protect us. It enables us to login and respond to questions, give gratitude to positive messages, and round out negative messages with our side of the story.
What is a Personal Brand?
It is you, your story, your image, and your reputation. The hardest part of creating a personal brand is knowing yourself well enough to be able to tell your story honestly, positively, and consistently. Once you know what to say, you will discover content everywhere you go.
Narrow Your Message
You are better off with a few followers who are actively engaged with your content than a lot of followers who never see you. Engaged followers spread your message and tell others what your do. I am lucky to have a handful of people telling people how wonderful I am at what I do. However if they don’t know what I do, the message can get lost in the details and the person they are talking to becomes too confused to be interested in my services.
MarketAPeel’s CCO, Marilyn Anderson, goes to various events in Vancouver to meet new people and find the right connections for our clients and myself. It is important
Marilyn’s ability to match businesses to the people by being specific about what they need is the secret of her success. Sure the businesses do more than she communicates, however, the potential lead is only interested in why they need to contact the business.
Many freelancers focus on what things they are ‘experts’ in: The best website designer, the greatest social media strategist, and the smartest Adwords specialist. These are strong focused personal brands, which are easy to clearly communicate to the marketplace. The problem with them is they are not unique, authentic, or memorable because they are generic and subjective. Just because you say you are the greatest, doesn’t mean people will believe you.
It can be difficult for someone looking for a specific skill to find me or know how to refer me because I do too many things. To solve the problem, I focus on a narrower audience. For example, ‘I help executives define and tell their stories to the marketplace when transitioning to the speaking circuit.’ The list of all the pieces I create is not as important as why certain people need me.
The best personal brands are genuine and authentic because intelligent people see right through insincerity and fakery. Brands who are copycats or dishonest may have initial short term success, however, once people feel lied to, they will loudly push back and walk away. “Be genuine. It will make it much easier to manage your personal brand on a daily basis,” explained William Harris, Facebook ads expert at Elumynt.
Humour can help you stand out, however, be careful to use humour appropriately. Sarcasm can be misunderstood, politically incorrect jokes can offend, and cynicism can paint you as negative. I am infamous for using sarcasm and cynicism, which on occasion results in offending more than connecting. However, when done right, my humour makes me stand out enough to connect with interesting people on Twitter. One individual informed me that his team refers to me as the ‘anti-Christ’ because my sarcastic, cynicist humour is the opposite of his motivational message.
Let your work tell your story by showing your audience how you help others, instead of telling them what you do. When you share examples of your work, you will have a personal brand story made up of your skills, client testimonials, solutions, and how you spend your day.
Tip: Search social media platforms for keywords describing what you do and then engage with the content you find by commenting with your point of view, an answer to a question, or tell a story about how you did the exact thing they are posting about. By engaging with others you will get noticed faster than if you only broadcast a message about you.
Marketers and content creators are able to show their work while building a brand because it is what we do on a daily basis. However, just like the shoemaker whose kids have no shoes, it can be hard to get motivated to do the work for your own brand. By promoting clients on our social media platforms, sharing their posts, and the content we created for them, our stories are being fleshed out with strong examples of our skills.
Due to confidentiality, many professionals cannot share their client’s stories with the marketplace. It becomes difficult to tell stories when you have to be careful not to offend your client or break a privacy law. In these cases, you will need to rely on testimonials from clients, on your own personal story, and on the topics of your profession by educating others. There are always ways to tell your story by using examples of your skills, work, and knowledge.
Tell a Story
If your personal brand isn’t telling a story, your audience has checked out. Stories have specific structures and elements. There is a hero or protagonist, a villain or antagonist, a plot, a conflict, a climax, and resolution. Understand each role when defining your story to ensure the message is consistent throughout every post, article, interview, and image.
There is no wrong way to define your story. When I write a novel, I start with character dialogue to tell me the story and then flesh it out with the details. Other authors plan every detail of the story by creating an outline before they write a word. There is no wrong way to write a story.
The problem most people face is figuring out what their story should be. Some people end up telling every painfully boring detail in chronological order and they lose their audience in the details. Not providing enough detail will also loose your audience because they won’t know what you’re talking about. At MarketAPeel we help brands tell stories by asking questions, understanding the intended audience, and developing a plan of action to tell the right story.
Knowing where your ideal audience hangs out will help you to determine where to tell your story. Each social media platform has different strengths and different audience engagement, so it is important to understand the platform’s purpose, users, and focus. You may love to throw out short quotes and thoughts on Twitter, however, if your ideal customer is mainly interested in looking at photos on Instagram, you are in the wrong place and you either need to change your method or your definition of an ideal customer.
There are a variety of platforms to tell your story on, use the methods you enjoy in order to consistently tell the story. If you are a wordsmith who likes to spin a yarn, blog, write articles, and perhaps a book. If you are a shutterbug with a unique eye, tell your story through photos. Whether you have a vlog, blog, or podcast is irrelevant, what matters is you consistently tell your story using the chosen media. If you hate seeing yourself on camera, you will not have a successful vlog do to throwing away good content all because you didn’t like how you looked.
Consistency is Key
Being consistent enables you to be recognized and build an engaged following. “Ensure that your personal brand promise stays consistent, both Online and Offline,” explains Fyiona Yong, director and millennial leadership coach (ICF ACC). “You have to demonstrate consistency across your communication, gravitas, and appearance. Don’t underestimate how tiny inconsistencies can derail personal brand effectiveness.” When your message is not genuine you will have moments of inconsistency, which will ruin your trustworthiness with your followers.
Before you post something ask yourself, “Does this post communicate my core values, my image, or my brand message?” If the answer is ‘No,’ ask yourself why you want to post it and you will discover something new about yourself. At times, I have weak moments and it is easy to create a post about how unhappy, scared, or lonely I am feeling without adding how I am overcoming these negative emotions because, at that moment, I am failing and I can’t post what I am thinking.
Consistency is also about doing the work to continue to create content, post content, and engage with content on a regular basis, even when you don’t feel like it. There are days and weeks where I check out. During these times creating content is a grind because I have no motivation, no energy, no creativity. I still have to roll out of bed and keep moving forward. I may not create a lot of content during these times, however, I have enough content to repurpose, repost, recycle to show my face where my followers are.
What stops you from being consistent with your story?
Understanding why you are not able to be consistent will help you find the resources to help you. If you are not a storyteller, you may need to find a bit of help. There are professional storytellers who will help you define your story and set up an easy plan for you to consistently follow. If you are busy, hire a content creator who can create the story you want to tell and help you promote it to the marketplace. If you are social media challenged, there are specialists who will manage your social media reputation for you. To succeed you need to get started today.
Shannon Peel is a storyteller, content creator, graphic designer, and much more. She makes brands look good and gets them in front of audiences.