George Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself”. Do people recognize you, care about your name, what you do, what you’re about, what you represent, what you stand for and what you’re working on? Does a specific activity or expertise come to mind when they hear your name? Do you get inbound inquiries and solicitations to offer your insights and services in a specific context?
That’s what I call a personal brand. Select people develop this organically due to their success, uniqueness, and/or visibility in business and socio-political arenas. Many of us however wish we had the same cache and pull effect to pave the path for our own success, career prospects and social and industry recognition. The truth is, it is something that can be built.
In order to thrive in this daunting new world, there is an acute need to stand out and develop a strong personal brand, but we struggle with making it happen. Here are 5 simple (yes simple!) steps to building a strong personal brand.
Step 1: Identify your passions
Passion is what pulls you, makes you ignore the reasons why you shouldn’t pursue something, makes you feel alive while living it and is something that you feel naturally cut out for. It’s something that you’re good at and actually enjoy engaging in with more enthusiasm than others. It can be singing, dancing, writing, speaking, repairing cars, building furniture, etc.
But in the context of building a strong personal brand, the passions that you see as merely hobbies are not good candidates for what should be the core passion you want to pursue every day. The best candidates are the things you enjoy doing, are good at and if you had a chance to pursue them, could be a source of living.
Exercise: Write down your top 5 passions and why they’re things that motivate you.
Step 2: Focus on “one”
An arrow can only hit a target when we pull back, aim in one direction and release. While you may be tempted to pursue multiple passions, the people who have developed the strongest personal brands have evaluated the “one” passion that allows them to harness their best talents, provide them with the most opportunities to create value and offer the most satisfaction in their daily lives.
If you’re thinking you don’t have a clue, here is the process to finding the answer. First, ask yourself, which of the following do I enjoy doing the most?
- Leading and managing people, situations and processes to create value
- Identifying opportunities, needs or gaps in order to build something new
- Leveraging your own expertise to deliver value directly to the customer
Now think of your answer in relation to your passion. Could you envision yourself doing that task day in and day out and still find fulfillment from your passion? Will it help you make enough money to sustain yourself? Are you okay being known as only one thing?
Focusing on “one” has its risks. Many choose to hedge their bets and become a jack of all trades. But the satisfaction of being an individual is well worth it.
One word of caution: don’t announce to others that you have made a choice. Once you start living it and watching your personal brand unfold, the world will come to know who you are.
Exercise: Identify and write down the “one” that you plan to focus on.
Step 3: Be authentic and principal driven while living it
Oscar Wilde said “Be yourself, as everything else is taken”. As you start living the journey, you may find yourself not to be as thrilled as you expected or your goal to be hard to sustain. Don’t quit just yet. Give it all you have and carefully examine the external factors that are causing this ride to be a roller coaster.
If outlooks are still looking bleak, it’s okay to go back to the drawing board. It is one thing to be a quitter, and it’s another to have your ego write a check that can’t be cashed.
Exercise: Define what core principles you wish to live by.
Step 4: Deliver excellent value and experience consistently
All great brands have one thing in common. They always offer products and services that deliver more than what you actually pay for because the entire product experience has a “Wow” factor. Customer service is great, the reliability is consistent, the products actually add value and the quality is excellent. What’s your “Wow” factor?
This takes time to develop, but listening to who you serve and making a commitment to exceeding expectations can help you get there. Instead of spending time to acquire way too many new customers, work on satisfying the ones you have.
Exercise: Define your “Wow” factor.
Step 5: Share your learning and lessons
As you go about this journey of discovering yourself and maximizing your potential, you will make discoveries, learn lessons, understand how to deal with challenges, what factors you can’t control and find what truly works best for you and your endeavors. But don’t let the services and goods you deliver be the only things you offer to the world. Share the lessons you’ve learned as a way of helping others. What good is knowledge or wisdom that isn’t shared?
Make a commitment to share all this through multiple channels of expression. Speak and write about it in targeted forums, engage in related discussions online and offer advice to anyone seeking it. This will help you get discovered in context of your area of expertise, you will be admired because of your openness, and you’ll build that brand association that will make people think of you as someone who can be trusted.
Finally remember, the key to building a successful personal brand is to always strive to innovate and improve upon your brand and build relationships along the way. The best and biggest investment you can make toward building a strong and unique personal brand is to keep the interests of who you serve above yours. Remember, you are building your personal brand among humans, and to make it effective, there needs to be an emotional connection between you and who you serve.
So, what are you doing to build your personal brand?