What is a Personal Brand and Why Do You Need One?

As marketers and PR specialists, it’s easy to become enamored with our clients’ brands. You helped build and promote that corporate identity, so it’s natural to have an emotional connection to it. The same applies the organization you work for. Your employment is your livelihood and (hopefully) you enjoy the 40+ hours you spend there every week. What is a Personal Brand and Why Do You Need One? image personal branding cloud 2What is a Personal Brand and Why Do You Need One?

So when your client is celebrating a major win in their market space (perhaps one you helped them to achieve) it’s natural to want to shout it from the mountaintops. And when your company culture allows for everyone to have a few beers on Friday (or in our case, Thursday) afternoon, it’s expected that you would communicate such an awesome privilege to your social networks.

But there’s more to you than just work and clients, right? Are you an expert mountain biker? A music blogger? Are you a master of culinary arts? Are you really good at networking and connecting people? Do you travel the globe for missionary work? Chances are good that you have some kind of passion or talent outside of work that is important to you.

Pair that special interest with your professional skillset in marketing, PR or whatever industry you’re in and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a strong personal brand with a competitive advantage. A personal brand is defined as “the process by which we market ourselves to one another, combined with the outside world’s perception of who we are as a result of said marketing.”

So what’s the big deal, and why does this matter?

If a subject matter expert possesses a wealth of knowledge but never communicates it, is she still a subject matter expert? The answer is no—which is why it’s time to start building your personal brand and proactively shaping the world’s perception of who you are.

In a perfect world, your passions and career overlap and you get paid to do what you love. But that’s not always the reality. And for those who have managed to sculpt their careers into something that they never tire of, I guarantee they didn’t get it by wishing.

A personal brand tells the world who you are and what you have to offer it. While it’s true that 93 percent of today’s recruiters use LinkedIn to find prospects for jobs, a strong personal brand reaches further than hard skills on your digital resume. Once you’ve established yourself as a legitimate subject matter expert in a particular area of focus, your opinion carries more clout. Recruiters notice this, and so does your industry’s community. In the future, when your ideas and beliefs are influential, you may even be able to charge a premium for them by writing books, speaking at conferences and consulting.

You know you’re smart and have a wealth of knowledge—but without a personal brand, how will the rest of the world know?

Root your brand in your passion. Don’t be a commodity.

What interests you so much that you could talk about it for hours? What kind of work do you love so much that you would do it for free? What are you so informed about that you’re inspired to write thought-provoking (maybe even controversial) blog posts about it? Your passion lies within the answers to these questions.

You may already know what your passion is, or it might take weeks of searching within to find the answer. It will shift and transform over time as your career develops and your interests change. But by rooting your brand in your passions—which are intrinsically built into you—you form a solid foundation upon which these changes can occur.

It is not enough to merely decide what your brand is; you must make it evident through your social media presence and interactions with others. I ask again—if a subject matter expert possesses a wealth of knowledge but never communicates it, is she still a subject matter expert? The clout of a brand comes from acknowledgement and recognition from others.

Brands are dependent on perceptions from others, so you must work to convince your community to listen to what you have to say. To do this, differentiate yourself. If your personal brand’s characteristics are not fundamentally different than other thought leaders in your niche, you will never be noticed and your brand will become a commodity.

Easier said than done, I know. If I’ve convinced you that a personal brand is important and you’re ready to invest the time and effort to start proactively shaping the world’s perception of who you are and what you have to offer, be sure to attend my presentation at Mixwest in August on Personal Branding 101. We’ll dive deep into the concepts of perception, commodity brands vs. brands built with passion, and the importance of a robust personal brand tool kit.

Image credit: Stefano Principato

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