You’ve heard it said before: “success is all about marketing.” Think of personal branding as marketing yourself. We do this through stories, through developing and sharing our unique viewpoint, experience and dreams.
If this sounds a bit too kumbaya, like holding hands around a campfire, it’s not. Being able to clearly articulate what you are about and why that matters sets you apart from 99% of the population that is just content to “do their job.” Personal branding empowers you to remake your job into something you not only believe in but love doing. You build that brand by creating content and posting it online, leaving a “digital footprint” that sets you apart from the competition. To do this you need a solid framework to leverage the attention and convert eyeballs into returning customers.
Here’s your framework.
The Three Pillars of Personal Branding
There are three basic components to creating an engaging and effective personal brand:
- Soap Box
Each of these pillars will now be explained. As you read each one keep in mind these are guideposts, which work together to create your brand.
Pillar 1: Creating the Image
We are visual animals.
It’s the reason big brands pay so much money to protect their trademarks from being used by counterfeiters and posers.
They know that when someone sees a symbol connected to their brand, that consumer will unconsciously associate everything they know about the brand to the logo and vice versa.
For example, when you see the Nike swoosh, it is likely that you think of sports, winning, and if you are a child of the 1980’s like me, Michael Jordan. Apple’s logo brings to mind hip and stylish technology, innovation, and individuality; Cadillac: luxury, quality cars, and status.
Each of these brands knows about these associations and they work hard to create them in your mind. Even if the association is only suggestive, the brand has a certain image it wants to uphold, and they pay big money to make it happen.
Ever wonder why you see an Apple computer in almost every television show or movie? That’s not a decision the guy from the prop department made on the fly, and with Apple computers only being used by 10% of all computer users, it is not being done for realism. Apple pays big money for this prominent product placement, and by doing so, creates an association from Apple computers to the Entertainment Industry.
Developing an image for your personal brand is crucial.
Learn from what the big companies do. They have a memorable logo to start with. You need something visual that people associate with you. If you are promoting a business this is a logo and engaging profile photos of key people from the company who are going to be visible. If you are an individual seeking a job it is an authentic and engaging profile photo of yourself that you use consistently across the Internet (don’t pull up that headshot from 20 years ago where you had all your hair unless you still look like that).
A picture may speak a thousand words, but only if you’ve got something to say. At it’s core, the Image Pillar aims to get you very clear on who you are as a professional and how to communicate that to others in a way that is magnetic. It also provides insight to your dreams, provides a roadmap for your career, and helps you get honest about how much money you stand to make trudging your chosen path to greatness.
Pillar 2: Building the Soap Box
Before the Internet emerged giving us all a voice through the use of social media like blogs and social networks, when regular folks wanted to be heard they got up on their soap box.
The origin of the term “soap box” comes from the use of a wooden crate by impromptu street-corner orators. These guys would just set up shop wherever people would listen and start spreading their message.
If you want to start creating influence online you are going to need a place to do it. This is what I call “your digitial soapbox.”
It can be just about anything online, whether that’s a website, Linkedin profile, blog, YouTube channel, or Yahoo Answers, take your pick.
It doesn’t matter so much where you do it, so much as you claim that space, make it your own, and share your expertise from there.
Remember: the key to having an effective soap box is planning and consistency, so make sure you are not just throwing yourself out there and hoping something sticks. This is what I call the “throwing spaghetti at the wall strategy.”
It’s rarely effective and takes a huge amount of effort on your part to keep it up. The better approach is to view your soapbox activities as part of a larger personal branding strategy that you have written down before going online and continue to refine as you develop.
Pillar 3: Selling the Product
Now you may say to yourself that you are not trying to sell widgets or doodads. You want to brand yourself online. You want to establish authority or land a great job.
Remember, the product is you.
Even if you are not “not selling anything” in the traditional sense of the word, whatever you produce online in order to reach your goals is your product.
Lets say for some strange reason you want to be seen as an authority in underwater basket weaving.
You might create a channel on YouTube and post your videos there of you doing the deed in the deep. Then you might start a blog to embed those videos to and write more about your experiences
The product in this case is your expertise that you are sharing online, and the payoff might be notoriety, community, or just plain attention.
If you build a big enough following, chances are that someone with advertising dollars will want to invest in you. None of this is possible without a product, and that means producing content that can communicate your message to the people you are trying to influence.
By building a personal brand online you are creating a presence that precedes you. Since you’ve taken the time to strategically craft your brand by creating an image, claiming your soapbox, and building content, anyone you meet or interact with can view a body of work that demonstrates just how great you are.
In the law we call this: Res Ipsa Loquitor, which is a pretentious way of saying in Latin “the thing speaks for itself.”
A strategic, effective and compelling brand online means that when people go to look you up on Google (and they will look you up on Google) they are going to find a body of work that best represents who you are and what you are capable of.
Think about it: what’s more impressive, you going into someone’s office to tell them how great you are or being able to point to a body of work on the Internet along with a small army of followers and fans who all prove your greatness without you saying a thing?