Personal Brands: The Practical Guide For Brand Owners

Personal Brands Ultimate Guide
Does a person have to become a brand if the person’s business has to succeed? 
The truth is that all business owners already are brands reflecting some value to others. But, unless they consciously take control of their personal branding, their brands’ cues may not be what they want to be known for.

What is a personal brand, and what is the benefit of being one? Wikipedia has an answer that explains the advantage: 
“Personal branding is the conscious and intentional effort to create a public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry and elevating their credibility. The process of personal branding involves finding your uniqueness and building a reputation on the things you want to be known for. Ultimately, the goal is to create some value that conveys a message, and that can be monetized.”
With this definition in hand, let’s get to the next steps: how to build a personal brand with values that can be strategically monetized …

Contents ...

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The 6 types of personal brands that psychologists emphasize

Which type of personal brand would you fall into?

Bryan Kramer writes on his blog that even though there are as many personal brands as there are people in this world, six types of personal brands stand out (according to a 2011 New York Times article).
What are these 6 types of dominant personal brands? Here’s the list …
  • Altruists are individuals who are highly recognized brands for their determination and zeal to help others.
  • Careerists are those personal brands motivated by professional advancement more than any other type of goal.
  • Hipsters are well-known personal brands that already are, or want to be seen, as highly individualistic.
  • Boomerangs are those personal brands that love attracting attention to themselves by starting controversies.
  • Connectors are personal brands that go out of their way to bring people together.
  • Selectives are personal brands that carefully curate what others should be allowed to know about them.

If we try to look at famous personal brands in business – like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, or Mark Zuckerberg – which type would you say each one is?

Beware of trying to be a brand type that you are not

In his article, though, Bryan Kramer says trying to be one of these standout brand persona types would not be authentic.

Bryan Kramer

"At its best, your brand should be a true reflection of who you are. This includes everything from your current skillset to your personal values. If showcased correctly, those who identify with who you are will recognize you as a thought leader within your community. Which is why it’s so important for you to correctly personify what makes you truly unique."

Beware of trying so hard to be brand that you lose your self

While building personal brands has distinct advantages, especially in online business, there is also a flip side to it that we must be careful of. Anand Giridharadas, writing in the New York Times, has this to say:

Anand Giridharadas

"Personal branding will, of course, change not just big institutions but also the lives of brandable individuals. Will it improve job security or simply increase our anxiety? Will it divert power and influence from the well-educated to the merely well-branded? Will brand-building distract us? And in marketing ourselves, will we neglect the pursuit of actually improving?"

Clearly, personal branding has become imperative, but it has to go hand in hand with authenticity … and we have to beware of trying to be a brand while lacking real substance.

The 8 solid steps to take to build a dominant personal brand

Here is my list of 8 solid steps to take to build a personal brand that can stamp itself on the online space as a leader. Just follow this formula consistently – and persistently – because I have done this all my professional life and have seen great growth as a result. I want that for you too!
8 Solid Steps To Personal Branding
(Please use this infographic with credits intact.)

1. Define your brand and target audience with total clarity

The three ways you could create your personal brand

There are generally three ways that personal brands are created. Some entrepreneurs or business owners who want to become strong personal brands first check the market and identify the “lucrative” target audience segments. They then shape their personal brands to attract these target segments.

Some other personal brand builders – primarily those who have had strong professional backgrounds and careers already – may like to look at their accumulated experience, expertise, and competence in an area where they have achieved much. They may then look for audience segments to whom their wealth of knowledge or skills may be attractive.

The third group of personal brand builders are those who may or may not have had previous areas of expertise but would like to cultivate a passion area into an area of specialization as a personal brand. If this is the route you want to take, it may require acquiring some depth and breadth in your passion topic. But you can always find a target segment to whom you can impart what you know or sell products or services.

The way forward to personal branding that I would recommend

My recommendation is that you, as a personal brand, determine first how you want to project your experience or passion as a brand and what you’d like to sell. Finding audiences must come second.

I favor this method because unless you are engaged in a field where you enjoy life, you can’t become someone you are not comfortable with, just to serve a lucrative target segment.

A framework that helps clarify your personal brand

Anna Lundberg has created a pyramidic framework that has helped her articulate what her personal brand stands for. If you, too, would like to delve into all the layers that go into your personal brand, this is a great framework to follow.

I like the way Anna has arrayed her levels of analysis, starting from her “tangible brand” at the bottom layer to the more intangible concepts that her brand resonates with towards the top of the pyramid. Right on top is her brand purpose.

Notice also that her purpose is to live by her definition of her success and help others to do so. Therein lies her value to her audiences.

Personal Brand Framework
(Image credits: Anna Lundberg)

2. Develop your unique value proposition – your promise

Know what a Unique Value Proposition (UVP) means

What is your Unique Value Proposition (also known as UVP)? It is a statement of intent of how your personal brand plans to provide unique or exceptional value to your customers. Remember that it also has to be a promise that differentiates you clearly from your competitors. So you have to think a bit deeper into this UVP articulation.

Factors that count in deciding your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)

There are two factors to consider when planning your UVP. One, your UVP must not be what you can promise, but it needs to be about how the customer can derive a benefit. Two, you may have many different customer segments to target, so your value to each segment may need to be differently articulated, even if the core value of your UVP is basically the same.

Another factor that most personal brands don’t consider is the value customers see in a brand as compared to the price. Customers always do a mental “cost-benefit” analysis. They wouldn’t say to themselves, “Hello, we have a great brand here. Let me try it!” They would say, “For its price, this brand seems to offer good value to me!” So it always helps to frame your UVP with some idea in your mind about your pricing strategy. At least know whether you are going to price low, medium, or high as a principle.

Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) can create opportunities

Sometimes, it may happen that if you manage to find a new and unique value proposition for your personal brand, you may actually open a whole new untapped market.

For instance, a man who was great at fitting shoes for artificial legs for amputees realized his skill could be used to create stylish shoes for women with tiny feet compared to their body size (normally, they had to get children’s sizes and designs). He found an underserved target market.

A formula for writing your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)

I chanced upon a great video from Stephen Houraghan of Brand Master Academy that explains a simple three-step process to defining your Unique Value Proposition. The best part of this video is that it explains a formula for writing down your value proposition statement.

When you use this simple formula to define your UVP, you are forced to think through exactly how you, as a brand, offer a set of customers a differentiated value. You are made to articulate your customer segment, precisely what you offer, and how it differs from competitive offerings. It’s a practical way to get to your best UVP articulation.

3. Create a consistent online presence that's harmonious

Will your personal brand resonate with multi-screen consumers?

We are now in an age of “multi-screen consumers”. Have many personal brands thought about how best to stay consistent in the messaging to multi-screen consumers? Many expert marketers have come up with very interesting views. 

One line of thought from some experts says that despite the plethora of screens of all sizes becoming more available to consumers, the smartphone will remain the center of the multi-screen world, and therein lies the potential for coherence in the creation of cross-screen brand campaigns. In fact, the mobile screen may become the “remote control” to all the other screens in our lives.

Another line of expert thought says that the key challenge that brands will face in trying to make sense to multi-screen consumers will be to ensure that the consumer journey is seamlessly connected across screens and devices. Brands will therefore have to ensure that information sets on different screens augment each other and do not replicate each other … while also providing a cohesive experience.

Let your personal brand be coherent and harmonious

The broader perspective of every thought-leader is that it’s imperative for all brands (including personal brands) to maintain a coherent and harmonious online presence, whichever type of screen the reader uses, regularly or sporadically.

Building a Brand Style Manual will help you stay consistent. A brand style manual is a comprehensive set of rules and guidelines that define the visual and messaging elements of a brand. It outlines the specific elements that make up the brand’s visual identity, such as logo usage, color palette, typography, imagery, and other design elements. It may provide examples of good and bad brand usage to ensure that all communications reflect the brand in the best possible light.

You can make you Brand Style Manual firm and flexible ... see how!

Of all the brand style manuals I have seen, the one that keeps lingering in my memory is the one from Skype. It follows an informal style that makes branding sound fun and engaging. But at the same time, it delivers all the right punches on what can and cannot be done with Skype’s branding elements to maintain that consistent presence wherever it’s seen online. Personal brands would do well to follow a similar style. 

A sample of some of the pages of the Skype Brand Manual is shown below … but you should use the link below the image to download and go through the whole manual. Build one exactly like this for your personal brand.

Skype Brand Manual
(Download the full Skype Brand Manual)

4. Network a lot and maintain all your valuable contacts

Your contacts from networking can be counted as your wealth

A beautiful quote (by someone I’ve never discovered) says, “I count my wealth in contacts, not money!” I liked it so much that I made it part of my personal brand credo.

There are no two opinions on this topic. Networking and growing your contact base are among the most powerful things you can ever do to raise your personal brand to dominance.

Have you heard of the Dunbar magic number of contacts?

British anthropologist Robin Dunbar says the “magic number” is 150. He has done extensive research to declare that the maximum number of active contacts a human can have is 150; if you exceed 150, your network is unlikely to last long or cohere well.

Dunbar also said more: “The tightest circle has just five people – loved ones. That’s followed by successive layers of 15 (good friends), 50 (friends), 150 (meaningful contacts), 500 (acquaintances), and 1500 (people you can recognize). People migrate in and out of these layers, but the idea is that space must be carved out for new entrants.”

Contacts made are of no use if constant contact is not maintained

One more thing. Rather than just expanding your network of friends, professionals, peers, potential partners, fans, followers, or consumers, it’s vital to maintain contact with at least the most important people you’ve pulled into your network.

It’s not about how many friends you’ve made but about how many are being actively cultivated and kept as “alive contacts.” 

How to network correctly for maximum brand benefit

Bedros Keuilian has an excellent video in which he discusses the right way to network – and that, too, networking with people who have great bucks or great sway over hundreds of others. The power networking idea here is this: “Don’t wait for events to be held in which you can join; you should be the event creator so you can invite who you want to network with.”

I like this video because he makes it all seem easy (which networking is). It’s frightful to some of us, which it shouldn’t be. So learn how to power up your networking game by taking the initiative in your hands.

To find a special gift waiting for you on this page, click the button below to take a peek, before you read on … 

5. Aim to keep sharing your expertise with your audiences

Pay It Forward is an awesome personal brand building idea

You may have heard of the concept called “Pay It Forward.” It’s a beautiful expression of irrefutable truth. If you help someone with genuine sincerity, without any hope of reciprocity, the Universe somehow finds a way to repay you.

It may not be a return gesture of help (or money) from the same person you helped, but whatever you need at a future time will somehow find its way to you. I suppose this is the meaning of “In giving, you receive.”

Freely sharing your expertise can earn you big money

What does this have to do with gaining massively for your personal brand? Marketing experts will tell you that the more free information you give to genuinely help people, the more money you will make eventually. How does this work?

People get familiar with your messages, free ebooks, templates, or whatever you offer – and realize your true worth as a brand. They get a taste of what your caliber is. You linger in their minds as an absolute authority source in your niche. When the time comes to buy, those who took those free offerings will prefer to purchase from you – because your brand and expertise are known quantities.

SEO expert Bruce Clay exploited this idea very successfully

Bruce Clay is a great personal brand in the SEO space who uses this approach. He was often called out because he would give away everything he knew for free on his website. But he always said, “I give it all free because people will see how much I know. Soon they will also see that it’s better to hand over their SEO to me rather than attempt it themselves … since it’s a complex subject.”

This is an example of sharing your expertise for the betterment of your brand.

Sharing your expertise with brevity is another art form

The video below is very short … and for a good reason. Teresa Easler, the founder of Connect To The Core, has something important to say to people who want to maximize their personal brands by sharing their expertise with their target audiences. She believes in the brevity of messaging.

Her opinion is that even if you have a lot to share, and want to give your audiences a whole lot of it, the ability of your audiences to take all that in is very limited. So being sensitive and caring to audiences means sharing your vast expertise in consumable nuggets.

Watch this video not just for the message it delivers but also to see how Teresa actually implements her own advice about brevity.

6. Be authentic to keep augmenting credibility and trust

What does personal authenticity really mean?

Great leaders and experts always exhort us to be “authentic”. While this sounds good, most of us don’t quite understand what being authentic means. We understand that being authentic is in some way connected to being “true to ourselves.” We also know we will gain “credibility” if we are “authentic”. But what exactly does “authenticity” mean?

Will your personal brand be seen as more authentic if you throw away that officious suit and tie and always present yourself in a T-shirt with your deepest belief printed on it? Or will you be seen as authentic if you say, “I am not going to try and look less affluent than I truly am, so here I am with my best suit and tie?”

Be true to who you are, even as you evolve and mature

If you think hard about it, we are all evolving beings, so who we truly are also will keep changing. Does that then mean that we will lose our credibility if we present ourselves as we are at a given stage of personal evolution, and if we don’t always wear our old selves and “look down-to-earth”?

There can never be a hard answer to this question of what is authenticity and how to be true to who you are. The best we can all do is to be true to who we are at the moment we interact with others, and if we have evolved since we last met, be honest and say so to the other person. To me, authenticity is about having the courage to change and to be true to whoever I am at the moment, as an ever-evolving personal brand. 

Build trust in your personal brand with authenticity

Jill Celeste is a branding authenticity coach and the owner of Celestial University. In the video below, she explains in her own inimitable style what personal branding authenticity is, why it’s important and how to cultivate authenticity. In her words.”Without being ‘you,’ you are canceling out everything else you’re doing to grow your personal brand.”

In the video, you’ll notice Jill refers to a book titled “Embrace Your Magnificence” by Fabienne Fredrickson. It is one of the best books I have read on how to be yourself (your greatest self). Get it pronto if you haven’t read it already. 

7. Seek out opportunities to collaborate with influencers

Your personal brand could do with some active influencers

Your personal brand is never an island. It needs the help of many others – especially in social media – to put the word out on your behalf. 

Brand influencers abound on social media channels like Instagram or Twitter, but they differ from one another based on their follower range, niche, and content presentation style.

Choose your influencers whose size matches your needs

There are four sizes of influencers to consider:

Mega influencers have a follower range of 1M or more. These are the A-listers or celebrity influencers. They can expose your brand to a vast audience base. Sometimes you need this wide diffusion, but sometimes that’s what you don’t want.

Macro influencers are those with a follower range of 1,00,000 to 10,00,000. They are usually industry or niche experts. They may have a better command over their followers compared to mega influencers. 

Micro-influencers are those followers between 10,000 to 1,00,000. They usually have less number of followers, but they typically have a very dedicated audience that is genuinely interested in their content and niche.

Nano influencers are a new class that has followers anywhere between 1000 to 10,000. They tend to be highly successful because they have tightly-knit trusting audiences who believe in their authenticity.

Hire an influencer agency if you're new to the game

One caveat: the rules of influencer marketing are changing, and so are the expectations of both brands and influencers.

It helps to get an influencer agency to help you if you are a beginner in influencer collaboration. 

How to plan your best influencer collaborations

Engaio Digital has developed an infographic of the ten best types of campaigns to use influencers for. They believe (as I do) that having influencers for daily postings on social media or blogs is not the way to go. A campaign has to be created with a fair amount of excitement and buzz around it when the influencer can be given a series of tasks to complete, like a blitzkrieg. This kind of spike in campaigning works best.

The infographic below includes ideas like creating special contests or sweepstakes, events, brand ambassador programs, or unboxing days for product launches. Apart from that, there are some ideas to run as a short series – like guest blogs, sponsored posts, or social media takeovers (when the influencer runs your social media account for a few days of heightened activity).

10 Types of Influencer Campaigns
(Infographic credits: Engaio)

8. Make continuous learning and improvement your credo

You keep learning a lot from change – so welcome it

One of the things I love best about being a personal brand is that I get to keep learning something new every day. I know some other people rue that they have to keep up with fast-changing technology and trends all the time, but to me, that’s part and parcel of being an entrepreneur.

When you stop growing as an individual, your brand starts withering away. It’s the freshness of life infused into your brand every day that keeps its appeal going and its audience growing. Of course, change is never easy because you are in constant “plan-tweaking” mode. But if you get disconcerted by having to change plans and strategies often, you are not quite cut out for entrepreneurship and blooming as a personal brand.

Growth will never throw you if you willingly embrace it

What I have done in my life (after much trial and error) is not to let change shake me. Instead, I have created time and space to accommodate and embrace change. So, for instance, I have made some schedules to follow.

I learn a new course every quarter – not those flimsy ones, but something substantial and usually related to some new technology hitting the horizon. I attend at least one monthly seminar or webinar on a subject I want a deeper understanding of. I spend two hours every Saturday catching up on the latest videos and blogs from some of the experts I follow – in my niche or outside of it. Plus, my weekly newsletter, where I curate the latest in content marketing, helps me keep in touch with what’s happening in my world.

Seek constant learning and upskilling for its disruption value

Learning is, by nature, a disruptive idea. Learning something new will shake up your neat little routine, your comfortable mindset, and the priorities you have so carefully arranged.

But without constant learning, your personal brand will get dated and die. So what’s the choice?

How to improve your personal brand through continuous learning

This video I’ve picked for you is a must-watch. It’s by no less an expert than Jack Canfield, the guru of maximizing your potential. Every personal brand could use his five techniques to make continuous learning a natural and regular part of life.

Think about it this way: the time you spend in continuous learning is an investment in your brand. Knowing more widens the target audiences you can reach with your new knowledge. Knowing more helps you do things more cost-effectively and efficiently. Knowing more allows you spend less on useless tools. Overall, continuous learning impacts your ROI as a personal brand.

As Jack Canfield says, “You need to seize every opportunity to expand your knowledge, improve your skills, and build on your expertise. That’s how you will be able to perform at higher and higher levels and achieve such extraordinary results in your life.”

Pro tips to take away in summary ...

1. Building a personal is a labor of love. It also involves some commitments to make and some steps to take. You can learn how to grow your personal brand to a dominant position if you set your sights firmly on that goal.

2. Don’t try – or expect to succeed – in one go. It may take time to find your métier and your differentiation, but once you do, nothing can stop you. Investing in your personal brand is the best thing you can do for your business, whether you’re a solopreneur or the CEO of a geographically vast team.

3. Feel free to use my list of eminently practical steps to get your personal brand onto the right growth trajectory. These are ideas I have used to grow my own and my clients’ businesses, and they can help grow yours too.

The important takeaway from all this is that the online business world increasingly relies on the trust, authority, and credibility that business owners, as personal brands, can earn. Businesses no longer create brands out of their owners. It’s the entrepreneurs as personal brands that drive their business growth based on personal power. 

BONUS: How to get help with your branding and content marketing

Branding and content marketing are tough because they require a deep understanding of the target audience, a commitment to delivering high-quality content consistently, and ongoing optimization to remain effective. This is where an expert hand can be invaluable.

With cutting-edge knowledge of the latest industry trends and best practices, an expert can help provide the guidance and support needed to achieve the desired results.

Rather than slog at it yourself and spend time and money on trial-and-error, make it simple … let me help you.
Let’s have a free, no-obligations Zoom chat. We can locate the potential to power up your branding and content marketing. Let me know your goals and budgets, and I will offer you some readily implementable suggestions. 
If we’re a good fit for each other, you could consider outsourcing your branding and content marketing projects to me. I am confident I can take your business to an enviable position. 
Click the button below to book a free 30-45 minute online ZOOM meeting; we’ll take it from there!
Shobha Ponnappa

"I am committed to elevating my clients' branding and content marketing to a dominant position because I believe that a strong and distinctive brand identity, coupled with high-quality content, can be a game-changer for businesses. I've done it over and over for 40+ years and 125+ clients."

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