Creating your personal brand – it’s personal

Branding is a cornerstone in business, but can be one of the most difficult to perfect. A brand is an identity, and your identity in the world of business, in your marketplace, in your firm matters a lot.

And so does personal branding.

Taking a more granular perspective, we can look beyond firm branding and at the people working in your firm.  Each and every one of them will have a personal brand (whether they know it or not), that comprises of pre-conceived ideas and perceptions of them in the workplace, their reputation with clients and colleagues beyond your firm. While both personal and firm branding may intersect at times, your personal brand is yours alone. It speaks of you as an individual and who you are as a professional. It follows, or precedes you, wherever you go.

Many professionals look at their brand as an extension of their ego, but that’s not the case. You have to look at branding as an issue of ego vs. opportunity. As a general rule of thumb, your brand shouldn’t build you up for your own benefit, but instead for the benefit of others. You want to create opportunities for yourself through branding, not use branding as a means of gloating and preening.

This is just one rule of personal branding, however. The question is: how do you create a personal brand that speaks to who you are as a professional?

1. Start with a clear vision

Here are two questions to ask yourself in order to find out what exactly this vision is:

These questions help you to establish who you are as a brand. They also help to answer the question of who you’re branding yourself to.

2. Align your brand with a specific audience

How you market yourself to your peers is different to how you market yourself to businesses and firms. Branding isn’t so motile — you have a brand and it doesn’t move or change like your marketing might. Because of this, your brand has to align with one specific audience, and this audience should be a collective of people who will likely give you the most opportunity to flourish.

This is a good example of where ego vs. opportunity comes into your branding. Branding focused on ego will appeal to peers and others as a form of impressing them or marking them as inferior. Branding focused on opportunity is aimed at firms, businesses or other entities that are more likely to work with a person, not be intimidated by them.

3. Establish a brand building strategy

Your brand isn’t something you can just create and ignore. It’s your identity — you have to build it from the ground up! It’s not enough to say “the best legal analyst in the country,” you have to establish yourself and prove this statement to be true.

The best way to do this is through both exposure and thought leadership. Exposure refers to partnerships, media coverage, speaking opportunities (inside and outside your firm), advertising and the marketing profiling initiatives. Thought leadership refers to showcasing your expertise through opinion pieces, blogging and other personal forms of marketing with thought leadership in mind.

4. Use visuals

When you talk about an existing brand, one of the first things to pop into your head will be their logo. Logos for companies like Coca Cola and Apple are so iconic that they’ve entered into the global cultural zeitgeist, which illustrates how important branding visuals are.

Having a logo, a branding colour scheme and a graphic media package helps brands become more identifiable. For a personal brand, it would be odd to create your own logo, especially if you work inside a firm.  But you can curate your personal representation within your firm’s brand. Make sure that you choose a profile photo that speaks of your brand vision. If you are an advisor know for being innovative, don’t use a stoic photo, chose a more friendly, relatable and (maybe) quirky.  But remember to make sure that any photo or imagery you choose lines up with your demographic and target audience. Flashy branding is great…but only if you’re flashy person and your audience doesn’t immediately think of your price tag!

Finally, don’t forget to monitor your branding success. Just like every aspect of industry, you have to use analytics and data to see if your branding is succeeding. Without this important step, your branding efforts may all be for naught.

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