When you hear personal branding, what do you think?
Chances are, if you're not a marketer and have no desires of becoming a business owner or a celebrity, you don't even know why you need it. (And if you do work in one of those fields and don't know why you need a personal brand... Then you may need to reevaluate your life decisions...)
For example, let's say you're a paralegal and you work at a law firm with a bunch of attorneys. Why in the world would you ever need to build a personal brand?
Yet, the other side of the equation shows a fictional Donna Paulsen in the TV Show Suits rising up from being a secretary to becoming the chief operating officer of Pearson Specter Litt, due to her strong personal brand.
So it makes you wonder... Do people who have careers outside of marketing, owning a business and within the arts actually need a personal brand?
If you're working on an assembly line but you want to run the assembly line one day, then it makes sense to build your personal brand.
If you're working in the hospital as a nurse and are ambitious to the point where you want to one day be a part of the leadership team, that makes sense too.
If you're a doctor and are stuck in an assistant professor position but want to lead a brand new department as the chair like Ashley Wysong did, then it makes sense too.
But what if you just want a promotion from an entry-level position to the next level above you? Or to find a better job that pays a few more dollars an hour? Or what if you want to move from being a director into the c-suite?
Those are great questions to think about and it should get your mind to start pondering about whether or not a personal brand is for you... But the better question is...
Who doesn't need a personal brand?
Let's say you're looking to stay in the same position at the same employer for the rest of your life, then you don't need a personal brand.
Let's say that when you decide to make career changes, you want to struggle because you have to compete against hundreds of other applicants, then you don't need a personal brand.
Let's say you are fine being overlooked internally for promotions by outsiders who have an established track record of success, then you don't need a personal brand either.
Let's say that you have to re-enter the job market when you get laid off or fired after dedicating decades of your life to a company and want to spend months, if not years, to land a new job. Then don't worry about that personal brand.
A personal brand is only effective if you are a person who wants to move ahead in your career, whether that be an internal promotion at your company, paving your way up to the c-suite, getting sought out by a competing company for better pay, landing the job of your dreams, or making sure that your career becomes recession proof. On the last point of being recession proof, there is one type of candidate that is always sought out no matter how bad the economy gets. And that's one who is well respected as a thought leader in their space.
So now that you know who a personal brand is for and who a personal brand isn't for, how exactly do you create a personal brand?
Well, first you need to know what exactly a personal brand is. A personal brand is a direct reflection of who you are and how others see you. And with the digital world intertwining so closely to the physical world, it's the intersection between how you are seen online and offline.
Yet, most people mistake a personal brand for another concept called social proof. Social proof is what you achieve after you have solidified your personal brand. Social proof consists of various factors, such as your own website, social media followers, LinkedIn recommendations, thought leadership, being featured by trade and/or major media publications, being invited to speak at events and so forth.
So how do you build a personal brand?
Do you remember high school and how cliquey it was? People sectioned off into groups and you would be able to label each person.
The same thing happens in a meeting, where you can point across the room and go, "John doesn't pay attention and zones out all the time, while you can tell Melissa clearly doesn't want to be there, and Jackie keeps bringing up the same problem over and over. The person who is actually leading this whole organization is Angie, who is getting to the real issues."
What this indicates is that no matter who you are, you already have a personal brand, because others perceive you in a certain way. Yet, there's a way to change that perception and to let the true you shine. The great news is that your newfound reputation won't be confined to your office and the people who are immediately around you, but you will be respected by your entire industry.
But how do you do it?
You have to start by going through these 5 phases:
Phase 1. Fundamentals
This covers whether or not you use your existing social media profiles or create new ones, how to keep your usernames consistent, making sure your website has the essential elements it needs, the advantages and disadvantages of each platform, how to choose a primary platform and resources on how to properly set up your social media profiles.
Phase 2. Vision
This covers discovering where you fit in online through multiple exercises like using Post-it notes, a 3-1-3 process, figuring out who you are like, honing in on a niche and tying it all together through a triangle of influence. Then it covers how to develop out your bios and condense that bio to create your social media headliners and provide tips and pointers on what your profile and cover image should look like.
Phase 3. Voice
The section on voice covers the different kinds of content, what you should focus on posting and what you should avoid, how to go about cultivating content, some insider guides on establishing true thought leadership through listicles, how to develop personal stories and how to utilize a content calendar.
Phase 4. Volume
In the volume section, we cover how you can hack your content production so you can create multiple pieces of content based off one simple exercise, how to syndicate your content to amplify it to a bigger audience, how to build your audience and generate followers, how to a/b test your content and how to run ads.
Phase 5. Validation
Validation is what happens when people begin to recognize you as an expert. It first starts out as a like or upvote, then evolves into a share, then becomes a comment, a direct message, or even a new follower. Validation can even be when other media outlets syndicate your content, or when other experts quote you on your expertise based on your existing content, or when you get invited to be on podcasts, speak at events or be interviewed by the media. This section teaches you how to properly react to your success and success stack that success into more successes.
Once you are able to master these 5 phases, you will be able to create a cycle that generates that end result you're looking for, of social proof. And with that social proof you create, you will be able to do something else. You will be able to stack one success upon the other, and use those successes to achieve more successes.
For example, I started at an entry-level job earning $16.24 an hour, where I had to ride public transportation for three hours a day, work in a job I hated where I was constantly overlooked for promotions and wasn't able to afford lunch. Within a 5 year period of starting my journey:
I took 2 million reads and used that to land a podcast. Then I leveraged that podcast to get more reads on my content. Then I used that to generate more followers. Then I used those followers to get featured on other people's blogs. Then I used those blog features to get on podcasts. Then I used that to write for trade publications. Then I used that to go to conferences and events. Then I used that to write for a major media outlet. Then I used that to get a better job. Then I used that to attract a business partner and drive clients to our business. Then I used that to get featured in trade publications. Then I used that to get featured in major media. Then I used that to amplify the volume of major media outlets covering me. Then I used that to get over half a million social media followers. Then I used that to land six figure a year contracts. Then I used that to land a TEDx Talk. Then I used that to land paid speaking opportunities. Then I used that to get better and more credible press coverage. Then I used that to land a book deal. And so forth.
Now I may not have the same goals as you. And you may have much simpler goals, like landing a job that pays you $5,000 or $10,000 more a year. Or earning respect from your peers. Or getting scouted by a better company than the one you work at now.
No matter what your personal goals are, chances are that a strong personal brand backed by social proof will help you achieve it.
But why even gamble on living your life the same way without a personal brand? Because how much longer can you really just keep living the way you are now? Aren't you just fed up, or feeling as sick and tired as I was when I couldn't afford lunch for years?
You deserve change. And it's time. Time to do something about it.
So get started today.