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Personal Branding: What’s the Big Deal?

Do you have a personal brand? No? Here's why it's so important.

Having and managing a personal brand is crucial to career and personal success. According to Forbes, “Developing your personal brand is essential for the advancement of your career and development as a leader.”

Forbes defines a personal brand as the total experience of someone having a relationship with who you are and what you represent as an individual; as a leader. I have only seen that definition in Forbes, but it is my favorite definition of a personal brand. Think about it. If someone interacts with you or has a relationship with you, what is their experience? What do you want their experience to be?

Everyone has a personal brand. Everyone has experiences and has an impression of you.

Where you begin to gain control is how you manage that personal brand and how you project aspects of yourself. In order to effectively manage your personal brand, you have to make a conscious effort to manage your brand all the time.

“View your personal brand as a trademark; an asset that you must protect while continuously molding and shaping it. Your personal brand must be managed with the intention of helping others benefit from having a relationship with you and/or being associated with your work and the industry you serve.”

The most effective way of protecting your brand is registering your identifiers as trademarks with the relevant intellectual property office, which helps you secure exclusive rights to their use. 

A trademark must be original to be eligible for registration, so you must conduct a trademark search. This Heer Law’s trademark research guide is a good read for everything you need to learn about the trademark registration process.

So what is your personal brand?

Begin to think about and write down what you believe in, what matters to you, your elevator speech, how you engage with people. Use those things to come up with what your brand is.

You may even want to write a personal brand statement (here is a great example).  Once you have begun to think of yourself as a brand, it is imperative that you begin to build and manage that brand. There are a lot of tips and tricks to building your personal brand.

1. Reevaluate your online presence.

You need to understand your current status before you can begin to build and move forward. Google yourself to see what pops up. Make a list of your social media outlets. Are you being consistent with your names and messaging? Would you want to follow your own social media accounts as is?

Did your Google search reveal the results you want to see? If not, consider deleting the accounts you no longer use or want to represent you digitally (so long, MySpace account).

2. Find ways to produce value.

There are times that I scroll down my news feed and wonder, “Why did that person post that ridiculous thing/video/sentence?” There are also times in which I scroll down, go to someone’s Facebook page and get lost in the wonderful content that they share and post.

Which would you rather be? Find ways to add values by posting and sharing content that is consistent with your brand. Have the kind of online presence that people want to follow.

3. Be purposeful in what you share.

Everything you post online contributes to your brand and to what people think of you. Once you decide how you want your brand to be viewed by others, you will have a much better understanding of what to post (and what not to post).

4. Associate with other strong brands.

It’s important to recognize that the associations your brand makes will reflect positively or negatively on you. Forbes recommends starting with the three C’s: company, college, colleagues. Highlight and share your experience and connection with these things to strengthen your own brand.

Branding Yourself Offline

Now that we have talked about your personal brand online, let’s talk about your personal brand offline. As someone who not only does research on personal brands, here are some of my tips to having a strong brand offline:

1. Events.

What events do you attend? Make sure you attend events that you think are consistent with your brand. If you are about non-profits and helping others, you need to be at those events. Additionally, you need to attend industry events. Part of your brand is where you work and what industry you are a part of. Lean into that and begin to market yourself as an expert.

2. Wardrobe.

Make sure your wardrobe consistently represents you and your brand. Think about having some staples in your wardrobe that can create a signature look. Maybe you always wear dresses. For me, I frequently wear a statement skirt with a neutral colored shirt. I have a friend who wears neutral clothes but always has cute, patterned shoes. Have fun with your fashion, but make sure it is a part of your brand.

3. Involvement.

I think it is important to be involved in your local community. Whether that is through a young professional group, or with a non-profit, you should be giving back to your community in some way. The organizations that you associate with and get involved in should be consistent with your personal brand.

Personal branding is vital to your success and it is best to begin controlling your personal brand now instead of waiting until later. Create your personal brand statement NOW and begin to manage your brand.

About the Author

Jessica Sharp

Jessica Sharp is passionate about empowering underserved and minority communities, diverse representation, and brain education. Jessica is the Founder and Chief Educator of Sharp Brain Consulting which works with public service agencies to provide education about the brain and its effect on organizational outcomes. Additionally, she is on the leadership team of Meals on Wheels in her town of Greenville, SC. She is completing a Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Missouri. Upon her completion, she will attend William James College to obtain a Doctorate of Psychology. Follow her on twitter at @sharpjes.