When it comes to the concept of “personal branding”, the idea of marketing yourself can be pretty intimidating. It’s one thing for celebrities to develop their own larger-than-life persona (take Jay-Z’s “I’m not a businessman, i’m a business, man” philosophy for example), but what about the rest of us? Do we really need a personal brand? After all, aren’t we just… people?

The reality is that personal branding is an important practice for the modern-day career and in an increasingly connected world, your brand identity is essential for establishing your credibility.

I write, therefore I am.

The rise of digital content has created the ability for anyone to put themselves out there into the world. Between blogs, online videos, e-books and the ever-changing universe of social media, anyone can instantly become a writer, a commentator, a teacher, or an expert. Today, your personal brand equates to your reputation, or as Jeff Bezos put it, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

To develop your personal brand, you first must define yourself.

1. Think about how you want to be perceived and the impact you want to leave on your audience. Write down words, feelings, personality traits, and expertise you want to be associated with.

2. Compare and contrast. Take time to dig into the voice of some of your favorite columnists, authors and bloggers. What makes their voice so appealing to you? How would you describe their personality and communication style? What impression do they make on an audience?

3. Line up those reflections with your own list of desired associations. Circle the common themes — that is where you should focus.

Set expectations — then meet them.

With content as king, it has never been easier to share your voice with the world; at the same time, it has never been harder to be heard. Access has become one of the most powerful social currencies and once you have someone’s attention, you must seize the opportunity to make an impression before they move on to the next shiny object. To establish your personal brand, focus on highlighting the unique perspective or experience that you bring to the table. What can people expect from their interaction with you? Whether it’s intellectual commentary, industry perspective, creative inspiration, technical how-tos, or a daily dose of humor – think about what you can offer that will add value to people’s lives.

This “give” is called a brand promise — and there are no take-backs allowed. By setting expectations that others can hold you accountable for – you are more likely to grow your reach through audience referrals. If you can build trust with your following through consistently delivering on your brand promise, people will feel more comfortable recommending you. Each time you go to click “post”, “submit”, or “share”, think about the possibility that someone just sent your link to their boss,subject line: “how fantastic is this?!”….don’t let them down.

You do you.

As important as it is to meet the expectations of others, the truth is that you will never win over everyone. Abandon the notion of being a “catch all” and focus on aligning yourself with your core values and what you know. Authenticity is key to earning the loyalty and respect of your audience, and a solid community of regulars is far more influential than a fleeting group of tourists simply passing through. Don’t get wrapped up in trying to be everything to everyone — people connect with people, not encyclopedias.

Look at a personal brand as an extension of yourself and what matters most to you –that is the differentiator. As Stephen King once said about his writing: “[it] isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”

Enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well…that sounds like a brand promise worth making, and even more so, a promise worth keeping.