Why You Need a Ridiculously Awesome Personal Brand (and How to Build One) - Part 3.

By Irene McConnell (Kotov)

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build your personal brand

In Part 1 I shared with you key elements of personal branding.

In Part 2 I showed you social media techniques which will help you expand the power and reach of your base personal branding assets.

Here I’ll show you how to tie it all together. Let’s go.


The Secret Sauce.

The first, and most critical, part of defining your personal brand is in realisation that the “secret sauce” which makes it all work has nothing to do with technology.

Nothing to do with social media.

Nothing to do with computers at all, in fact.


You Are The Problem.

Most people fail with personal branding because they view the process through a narrow, shallow, self-centred lens.

As Glenn Llopis puts it, most people don’t recognise that building a personal brand is a much bigger responsibility“It’s a never-ending journey that extends well beyond social media”, he says. It’s an opportunity to serve, to find deeper meaning in your work and to making a full-time commitment to define yourself as a leader.


How To Position Yourself.

If you don’t make a conscious decision to position yourself as a leader who is of service to others, your default positioning will be something along the lines of “I’m just here to use others”. 

All of your decisions will be filtered through this (powerless) context; your resultant neediness will significantly undermine your ability to connect with people and achieve results.


What Do You Stand For?

Personal branding is a process of serving others and - as a by-product - serving yourself.

Defining how you’ll be of service to others is impossible without first deciding who you are (and who you’re not).

In other words, you have to be prepared to put a stake in the ground and say:

  • “these are the values I defend”
  • “this is the cause I represent”, and
  • “this is how I’m going to change the world”


A Word Of Caution.

I see a lot of people (and businesses) use phrases like “change the world” in a very loose fashion.

It’s become very cool to position yourself as someone who “wants to make a difference” (just like a blind desire to make money was very cool in the 1990’s).

There’s a big difference between wanting to be seen as someone who wants to make a difference and who has actually made commitment to making a difference. The first one is extrinsically-oriented (your image) while the other is an intrinsic orientation (your commitment to others).

The path to excellent personal branding is paved by sweat and tears that are a result of being someone who makes a difference to others - and does so in an ego-less, transparent way. Getting there involves very little focus on improving your image.

Rather, your focus must be on improving the amount of value you can deliver to a strictly defined audience (and - as I already alluded in the point above - seeing your own image improve in the process).


Craft Your Story.

The good news is that you've decided on what you want to stand for.  The bad news is that you now must make sure that it holds up.

Ask yourself this - does it pass the “why” test? In other words, when you ask “why am I doing this”, does your answer become an obvious, free-flowing narrative? Or do you have to fabricate elements of it, hide it or twist it?

If you experience the latter more than the former, you’re probably being dishonest with yourself. Go back to the drawing board. Do not proceed with building your brand around any story that’s not 100% authentic.


Why Is This Critical?

Personal branding is powered by social media. And social media - contrary to the popular belief - is not powered by technology. It’s powered by connections people make through passion conversations.

Without well-defined positioning and a firm understanding why you took that position, you’re unable to have a conversation of that nature. You’re unable to connect to anyone in a meaningful, mutually-beneficial way. 

Instead, you end up drifting in a sea of other lost, needy, purpose-less souls on social media who, out of desperation, will latch on to anyone willing to give them some attention.


Sharpen Your Niche.

Your story will provide you with a focus - e.g., "I want to help people enjoy their jobs" - however that is just a start.

The next step is to sharpen your focus until you are able to zero in on a very specific audience while excluding everyone else. 


If you’re like most people, you have finite time and resources. A too-wide focus will prevent you from making any noticeable impat by spreading you too thin).

(That’s why my brand, for example, offers high-end personal brand management services to Australian executives only. I am very selective who I work with - not because I couldn’t deliver value to graduates, entrepreneurs or other companies, but because doing so would inhibit the growth of my company and dilute my brand).


Your Dream Team.

Now that you have a clear focus, find 10 people who are fighting the same war as you are - but on a bigger scale.

Who are the influencers, movers and shakers in your niche?

Who can you learn from?

Follow them on Twitter, on their blog and LinkedIn. Check in every few days on their social media accounts to see what they have to say. Start getting to know them.

Also, find 10 journalists who write on your topic and those related to it. Follow their columns and Twitter accounts. Start making small talk with them about issues relevant to them. See if you can connect your value with their needs.


Take Your Time.

Remember that building your personal brand is a slow-burn process. It’s something that you grow by having quality one-on-one conversations over time. 

In this sense, building your brand is not in any way different from building your reputation offline. You deliver value by solving other people’s problems, by connecting (and connecting others) - and doing all of that within the context of your mission.


The Millennial Problem.

If you’re a Millennial, you’re probably reading this on your phone. In less than 1 minute something else will grab your fleeting attention.

One of the major problems with information presented online is the unspoken (and yet erroneous) expectation that it can provide quick results.

Skim-reading a “How-To” post does not arm you with necessary skills and knowledge you need to create results.

Personal branding - at its core - is marketing. However, it differs from marketing by also borrowing heavily from fields of human resources, recruitment and digital technology. 

Absorbing all you need from all those fields and integrating it all in a way that allows you to think both tactically and strategically is not something that can be achieved from reading a few blog posts. It requires commitment and consistency.

From today onwards learning nuances of personal branding should be your daily habit.


Choose Your Branding Elements.

As we've seen in previous posts in this series, there are roughly 17 personal branding elements you can work on to build your brand. Starting to build all 17 of them today would be a huge mistake. 

If you're serious about producing results and future-proofing your career, start with this mix:

Can you achieve results with less? Of course. For most people a well-written resume and a new LinkedIn profile will do wonders. If you're extremely short on time and resources, start there and slowly build on it. 

Whatever scale you choose to work at now, avoid doing one thing - nothing. If you act now you'll be ahead of the adoption curve. Once you fall behind the curve you'll find it next to impossible to catch up. 


Irene McConnell runs Arielle Careers, Australia's #1 executive personal branding agency.

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