Creating and Maintaining Your Personal Brand
Many of you might think that branding is something only businesses engage in. On the contrary! These days having a personal brand is also incredibly important. Last year, in an article for the Huffington Post, Rebecca Shambaugh wrote, “Having a brand that defines your best elements and differentiates you from others in a positive way is key to achieving your career goals and aspirations.”
So how do you go about branding yourself? More importantly, how do you make sure that your brand is one that people see in a positive light? Here are some tips to help you accomplish both of these goals:
It All Starts With the Idea
Much like creating a personal style or look, creating your personal brand is all about projecting a single and coherent idea. What do you want people to think of when they think of you? Do you want them to think you’re professional? Funny? Classy? Elegant? Silly? All of these are viable ideas. Pick two or three and combine them into a one or two-sentence phrase that you can use as your guidepost. This phrase is what you will measure all of your future decisions against.
It isn’t enough to make overt displays of your brand. For example, most people–when they start to integrate their personal brand into their lives and lifestyles– focus primarily on wardrobes and websites. Personal branding, however, goes further than that. It is just as much about the small details as it is the large ones.
For example, you will poke a lot of holes in your “bright and friendly organized professional” brand if you forget birthdays and you send notes out on blank printer paper or pages torn off of a legal pad. Instead, invest in custom stationery. The paper, label and envelope designs are all reflective of the idea you want to convey.
Your personal brand isn’t just about keeping up appearances. It is also about the energy you project. Your actions will tell people just as much about your personal brand as your wardrobe, your business cards, your home furnishings, etc. Are there bad habits that you’ve been wanting to give up? Do you currently participate in activities that detract from the brand you’re trying to sell? Think about your daily activities, your habits, your attitudes. Do all of these things gel with what you’re projecting? Or do they detract or interfere with that brand?
Here’s an example: you’ve been working hard to build that “bright and friendly organized professional” brand. You’ve revamped your clothing, cleaned up your desk at work, organized your files, etc. But you’re still getting to work at least ten minutes late. You forgot your cube-mate’s birthday. The report you just turned in was missing a section. Each of these foibles detracts from your personal brand.
Look for tools and techniques that will help you better manage these bad habits and missteps. Even a simple app on your phone that lets you set reminders for birthdays and appointments, a to-do list that you get into the habit of checking off before you turn in assignments, can go a long way toward your success.
One of the most important aspects of your personal brand is how much you buy into it yourself. If your brand is simply a costume you put on for the public, it won’t take long for it to fall apart as you fall back into old habits. You need to believe that you are the brand you’re trying to project. If you believe that you are already that person (or can become that person) you will automatically begin to work that brand into your life–almost without meaning to!
There are lots of tips and tricks for creating and maintaining a personal brand. But what we’ve talked about here helps you get to the heart of the idea. When you incorporate these suggestions, your personal brand will be more cohesive and easy to interpret.