Back in the pre-Internet days, personal branding was for celebrities and powerful, high-profile industry leaders who were the face of their businesses. At the time, a personal brand was defined solely by reputation, media coverage and perhaps a business card.
Better access to the internet and the rise of social media democratised the level of influence each individual can have, completely changing ideas about who required a personal brand and how to leverage it.
Marketing trends over the last few years are a great example of how that culture shift has transformed consumer behaviour. Research shows that Millennials and Gen-Z especially are more likely to believe a person they trust rather than the promises of a traditional branded advertising campaign, evidenced by the rise in influencer marketing.
Faced with more choice than ever, audiences now want to know more about who is behind their favourite brands so they can decide if they deserve their loyalty. This is why, over the past fifteen years, there has been a move to publicly personalise the people behind big business. CEOs like Anne Boden, Jaqueline Gold, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk have achieved icon status, just as noteworthy for their politics, values and beliefs as the companies they founded.
In a time of endless content churn, audiences are increasingly seeking out the unique thoughts of people with specialist insight, so developing a personal brand founded on thought leadership is a fantastic opportunity to influence how you are perceived.
Why Is Personal Branding Important?
Your personal brand is how you project your values into the world. When developed correctly, your personal brand should communicate your skills, experience and personality in a way that is authentically aligned with how you want to be perceived. Strategic personal branding allows you to tell your story and become visible as the fullest expression of how you want to show up in the world.
A strong personal brand will differentiate you from others in a similar space and help your intended audience get an idea of the value and quality you provide. Your brand will also help audiences understand your vision and help them decide if they want to invest their time and resources in you.
What Is Thought Leadership?
Thought leadership is a tool that helps amplify your messaging around a topic you have some mastery over. It demonstrates your expertise on a subject and shows how well you understand your audience. Thought leadership also allows you to influence how people perceive you, build trust in who you are and what you offer and ultimately foster a community of engaged people and warm leads that can improve the performance of your business.
Who Is Personal Branding For?
Building a personal brand would be a shrewd move for anyone with some specific thought leadership to share. It works well for founders, consultants, coaches, authors, artists and those with specialist knowledge in any area.
When advising speakers, Adam Smiley Poswolsky, the Millennial Workplace Expert, says that to build a personal brand of influence, you should “Carve a niche and then carve a niche within your niche. The best personal brands are very specific.”
Approaching Your Personal Brand
Our signature personal branding process always starts with working with our clients to outline their vision. Once that’s established, we lay the foundations of their personal brand by developing a brand strategy and thought leadership strategy through a series of workshops, interactive exercises and collaborative team sessions.
Our Brand Strategies usually include developing Mission, Vision and TOV, defining Core Values and USP, extensive Audience and Competitor Research and shaping your Sales Funnel, Financial Goals and Brand Positioning.
Once these elements are agreed upon and aligned, we start developing your brand identity to create a visual language that helps individuals and groups perceive you in a way that accurately reflects who you are and what you stand for.
What Makes A Strong Personal Brand?
Branding is a psychology. It’s essentially the application of visual, verbal and written cues to help shape hearts and minds. The way your personal brand is perceived can be influenced by many things, including what you tell people about yourself and how they experience you and your business. Being consistent about what you say about yourself, the experience you offer and what people can expect from you strengthens your brand and reassures audiences that they can trust you. Thought leadership that aligns with you visual language and communication also inspires brand loyalty and creates advocates, who naturally promote your brand to others.
However, if any part of your personal brand feels inconsistent, you’ll struggle to engage people in your message or your sales process. Therefore, developing your brand identity isn’t a one-and-done activity. Once you’ve launched your personal brand, the next phase of work begins to maintain and uphold the foundations you’ve laid to ensure you maximise all the opportunities identified in the thought leadership strategy and throughout the personal branding process.
We’ve compiled a list of other things that weaken the impact of your brand in “Things To Avoid In Your Personal Brand.” You can also see an example of a personal brand with good differentiation, a memorable visual identity and congruence with the thought leader behind the brand, in our case study for Purpose author, mentor and entrepreneur, Jessica Huie.
If you’re a thought leader thinking about building a personal brand, let’s talk!