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Personal branding is undoubtedly a hot topic these days. If you explore the term “personal brand” on Google Trends, you’ll see a sharp rise in the number of times this term has been searched over the past five years. However, as much as we talk about personal branding, the concept remains ambiguous, with very few of us able to explain what a personal brand is and how to build one. Advice abounds, but is often more misleading than helpful.
Most personal branding consultants will tell you that the first step to building a personal brand is to create content, usually on social media. You may have heard the advice “Want to build a personal brand? Start posting on LinkedIn.” However, content creation should be the last step in the personal brand building process.
If creating content isn’t the first step to building a personal brand, then what is? Let’s start by taking a look at the definition of the term “personal brand”, proposed by academics in Europe and modified slightly by our team at Brand of a Leader:
A personal brand is a set of unique characteristics that are transformed into a different narrative with the aim of establishing yourself as an expert, thought leader or influencer in the minds of your target audience.
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Whether you’re creating content on LinkedIn or any other social media platform or completely offline by writing books and giving talks, these are all self-marketing actions – things you do to make space in your target audience’s mind. But before you aim to occupy that space, the first step is to know the following:
- Special Features: Core values, beliefs, character, achievements and experiences
- Divergent narrative, aka your brand story (yes, you have one, whether you believe it or not!) and your primary content columns
Step 2 is to create your unique status: an attractive statement or unique concept that you will own and become associated with over time. Self marketing is the last step in the process.
When you jump into content creation without knowing what your personal brand is first, you inevitably hit a wall, either in the form of writer’s block or in the form of low engagement. It’s not because you have nothing of value to say or because your audience is not interested – it’s simply because you have adopted a “spray and pray” approach that is shortsighted and lacks strategy.
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Working with a personal branding agency helps streamline the process and gives you value with Step 2 of the process: Develop your brand positioning. However, as useful as this is to elevate your brand, you can skip this step entirely and create your own by diving deep into the first step. If you do, you will still be ahead in building your brand more than all the people who have been paid to create content without doing the pre-work.
Here is a short list that you can use to guide the process of self-reflection. Remember to dig into it, take the time to think about each of them, and look for patterns so that your brand positioning can emerge as a result:
- Lifeline – The highs and lows of your life with lessons and master meals
- Why – As an entrepreneur and specifically behind your desire to build a brand
- core values – No, they are not the core values of your business; Your core values!
- Brand Descriptors How would you like to be seen and described?
- Main character traits
- Thought Leaders You Respect To guide you in the way you would like to be yourself
- the target audience – Not only potential clients and employees, but also a group of people you might want to inspire
- Your core content pillars: Topics you want to link to
As Jeroen de Flander famously said,
You cannot be everything to everyone. If you decide to go north, you cannot go south at the same time.
What will be the direction of your personal brand?
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