Your personal brand matters. Jim Joseph, chief marketing officer and president of Cohn & Wolfe, recently explained, “As I watched people wrestle with career and personal decisions, I began to realize one thing: managing a career is like managing a brand.”
In other words, it’s essential. But what exactly is a personal brand? Is it your individual identity? A uniquely personal value proposition? A comprehensive catalog of advantages, experiences and skills?
The truth is, creating a personal brand involves a wide range of aspects all of which revolve around one thing: positioning yourself in the most authentic and captivating way possible. It’s about intentionally crafting not only the way others see you, but the way you see yourself.
That’s a tall order. So, to cut through the clutter, I’ve put together four behind-the-scenes steps packed full of real-life example to help you empower your own personal brand.
1. Know what you want.
First, the starting point for your personal brand isn’t about who you are. It’s about whom you want to be. That sounds counter-intuitive, especially considering everything we're normally taught about crafting a resume.
So why focus on who you want to be? Because above all your personal brand must be aspirational. A powerful personal brand is about connecting with other real humans at a visceral, emotional level. And if your own personal brand doesn’t inspire you to invest in yourself -- that is, if it doesn’t paint a powerful picture of what’s possible -- it’ll never inspire anyone else to do the same.
Elon Musk, for example, has built his personal brand no so much around what he’s done -- as impressive as that might be, but rather around what he’s planning to do. And it’s precisely that kind of future-orientation that makes him such a galvanizing, nearly superhuman figure.
It’s a lot like the great Peter Drucker said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
2. Acquire and share wisdom.
Second, empowering your personal brand comes from being a lifelong learner. That’s why broad-based knowledge is number one on the list of the Top 10 tips CEOs have for everyone dreaming of getting to the top.
A person with a good personal brand is constantly improving their position by acquiring wisdom. However, a person with a great personal brand doesn’t stop there. They also share what they’ve learned with others. Coaching, blogging, social media, speaking, contributing or just spending time with real people through meetups or mastermind groups are all excellent avenues to do both.
Another simple way to acquire and share wisdom is by intentionally using collaborative tools like Evernote, Pocket or memit in your daily work and personal life. memit, for example, allows you to not only amass wisdom by clipping and organizing inspiring content but to also collaborate with colleagues and friends through shared collections and social media.
However you go about it, heed the words of Albert Einstein: “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
3. Tell your honest story.
Jeffrey Madoff, the man behind massive successful campaigns at Victoria’s Secret and Ralph Lauren, defines a brand as “a story well told.” That’s a phenomenal summary and one that applies as much to companies as it does to individuals.
The third step to empowering your personal brand is to get really clear about the narrative that formed and is forming you. Instead of listing your achievements or skills, think more along the lines of “once upon a time...”
But be careful: Powerful personal stories aren’t puff pieces. They’re honest... brutally honest. The reason for this is simple: It took both successes and failures to create the unique person you are today. What’s more, not only are failures more memorable and formative for us, they actually connect us with other people at far deeper level than do our successes.
In the words of Bill Gates, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
4. Differentiate through passion.
Passion is contagious. And powerful brands are built on them. Upon his return to Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs put it like this: "Apple is not about making boxes for people to get their jobs done, although we do that well. Apple is about something more. Its core value is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.
How does that apply to your personal brand? Sally Hogshead -- a creative director for brands like Coca-Cola, BMW, Nike and Mini Cooper -- coined the term “fascination advantage” to answer that question: "The best brands are exceptionally good at identifying what sets them apart from the pack and then laser-focusing their resources on maintaining and strengthening that single characteristic. People, on the other hand, kind of stink at this."
This means, when it comes to your passions, the question to ask yourself is, “What makes me different?” And, according to Sally, you only get three words.
Although it might sound cliché and more than a bit touchy-feely, this means digging deep into heart-level issues like, “What do I love? What do I hate? What are my dreams? What are my nightmares?”
Be shameless about your passion.
After all, as Jeff Bezo explains, “One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you.”