Your 3-step guide to establishing a personal brand that connects with people and separates you from the rest.
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Turns out we all have a personal brand, be it intentional or not, as there are 3 key factors that define how we are identified, recognised and remembered by others - I'll come back to these soon. But another way of describing your personal brand is that it's a fancier term for describing your identity. This hopefully makes it easier to understand and also make things a little clearer when I say I'm a brand identity designer - I help businesses discover, develop and design their identity to distinguish themselves from others. A lot of D's there. Just wait till we get to the C's and S's!
Now, I think it'd be fair to say that we can use the term personal brand instead of identity as a way to describe our intentional efforts to brand ourselves for others to connect with us. But what makes a personal brand and is it just about making a logo that represents you as a person?
The short answer to the latter part of that rhetorical question is, no. Just the same as developing a brand identity for a business is not just developing a pretty logo, picking colours and choosing some appropriate fonts to make your marketing look sexier and your business more presentable.
So let me pose a less rhetorical question and give yourself a few seconds, minutes, hours or days to take this one in:
What are you (going to be) most known for?
You can see that I've added 'going to be' in the parentheses within the question as you may not yet know the answer to this question or you may have a goal to position yourself in front of your consumers as the person most known for a particular thing. However, if an answer came quickly did it come to because of one or of the following:
You're probably thinking, what's he on about? Soul, Sound, Sight... what is that?
Let me give you examples of 3 personal brands you might know of first and then you'll start to see what I mean, but if you wanna get to the nuts and bolts, you can simply skip past the next 4 paragraphs.
Gary Vaynerchuck (better known as Gary Vee) is the figurehead placed as the drawcard to Vaynermedia, Vaynersports, Empathy Wine, The Sasha Group, Resy and a handful more. He is the person that people connect with first as a personal brand and leads many to do business with him or buy into his endeavours like NFTs or his books. Gary gets up on stage and you recognise his stature, his face, his black tee and grey jeans + K-Swiss shoes. Now combine that with his brash New Yorker accent, his family story of immigrating from Belarus in the former Soviet Union and his family upbringing to help his dad grow his liquor store business. There is a personal brand you are captivated by and can connect with. This is something a business typically struggles to do without individuals and their personal brands acting as connection points to the business brand at large - which is why many use the personal brand of others that many consumers can better relate to like influencers or brand ambassadors, like Serena Williams for Nike.
Oprah Winfrey is who she is not just for hosting a daytime talk show for decades. She is a woman that represents others like her, be they people of colour, creed or fellow Americans who, like her, can see a way to overcome a poverty-stricken childhood, abuse and many other unknown adversities to find success in life. You'd recognise her voice with your eyes closed. Her presence when she enters a room, her vibrant fashion choices and hair-dos over the years. Does Oprah need a logo to represent her? No. But much like Gary, their logo if anything, is their signature.
The late Steve Jobs was much the same as Gary and Oprah and most will remember Steve as the Apple Mac guy. The man that gave us 1,000 songs in our pocket. An iPod, a phone and an internet communicator all in one device, which became the ridiculously successful iPhone. You might remember his glasses or stern look. His love for Bob Dylan and his Californian accent. Or even his black turtleneck shirt and daggy dad jeans. When you thought of who made Apple you thought of Steve Jobs and like him or not he was a connection point to the Apple brand. Had he lived for longer he may have left Apple and contributed to society in other ways like others who have filled his shoes in the tech space like Elon Musk.
So to me, a personal brand includes these 3 key facets amongst many others as they represent your identity that is much the same as what many in branding call a brand strategy. I call it an identity because in the context of a personal brand they make up who you are, what you look/sound like, where you're going, what you hope to achieve and ultimately what you're going to be known for, recognised by and remembered for:
Purpose (what, how and why do you do the thing(s) you do)
Values & Beliefs (your moral compass)
Behaviour (what you like and dislike doing + why you choose one thing over others)
Story (where you came from and life experiences that got you to this point)
Goals (where you are headed)
Your Story could easily be a 4th 'S' as it's one of the most engaging facets to your personal brand for others to connect with you. But let's try make things easy for us all to remember these by.
Tone of voice (accent, energy, loudness, character)
Personality (emotions, energy, aura/presence)
Vernacular of words/phrases you commonly use
Elevator pitch (introducing yourself to others of who you are, what you do and why)
Body language and eccentricities (eg. a laugh, gestures)
Your face (facial features, facial hair, eye colour, etc)
Your hair (colour, style or no hair)
Your body & shape (height, weight, curves or no curves, skin colour)
Your clothing & accessories (jewellery, nails, tattoos glasses, hat, etc)
I know all of these are super vain but we have 2 eyes that most of us are blessed to use to recognise one another and it forms how we subconsciously identify one other initially.
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THIS?
What you do with these three S's is up to you. Some are inherently part of you, while others are engineered or enhanced to lean into 1-3 things you believe make you unique or more easily identifiable and relatable to those you best connect with or want to connect with.
But what do you then do with this? Where does the rubber meet the road, you might ask? Well, I'm gonna throw you another S. This article is starting to sound a bit like a game of Wheel of Fortune..."I'd like to buy a vowel thanks, Frank"
The next S to toss your way is SHOW or 'Show up'.
Where people will find you (eg. in-person events, Instagram, podcast)
How you'll show up (video, audio, written, photos, in-person)
What you're going to share with others (eg. education, entertainment)
So if you look at these 4 S's they act as a funnel filtering everything down and then out the other end into a reverse funnel that is there acting as a loudspeaker to connect with your consumers and I've said it before and I'll say it many times over... If you’re the person your consumers are connecting with, why are you hiding your face? Especially if you're the drawcard to your business like Gary Vee is who I mentioned before.
You'll see that intersecting the two is where the offering sits - be it your own value add or the offering of your business. Because at the end of the day you're going to show up to share something in particular. Either something you do best (eg. self-help coaching) or talking about the products/services your business offers (eg. in my case, it's branding).
Where personal branding can also make an impact on achieving success in life is that it helps you in the process of working towards being known for something and/or as someone people turn to. It might help you seek a promotion or get hired at a new company. It might help set you on a totally different career trajectory from employment to self-employment. Or you might even become a go-to thought leader in your field of expertise. But as I like to quote Uncle Ben in Spiderman, "with great power comes great responsibility". So make it a brand that is true to you and isn't too far removed from who you are on a day-to-day. Sure it can be an elevated version of yourself, which is something I consciously do. But don't go crazy is all I'm saying if you know what I mean.
NO LOGO REQUIRED
None of this explicitly requires a logo. Though there are two exceptions to this...there is probably more but the following two caveats stick out the most.
This first is if you decide to commercialise your personal brand into a product or service. Be it a training course or merchandise/product range. Sports stars, celebrities and coaches typically fall into this the most as their name is not just put on the product to elevate the credibility but it becomes a physically branded commodity once it has an identifiable logo that represents the commercial side of their personal brand and basically becomes a business brand as it grows. Think Rafael Nadal's bull logo developed in partnership with Nike.
The second is that if you believe a logo, colours, and other assets will give you added confidence to put your brand out there for others to connect with, please don't let what has been said pour cold water over what you have or are thinking of creating. Because my point here is to share with you a broader understanding of how branding can make an impact beyond the pretty graphically designed elements we typically turn to as a crutch to lean on.
CAN I HELP YOU DEVELOP YOUR PERSONAL BRAND?
The part that I find the hardest to develop for another person is their Sound, or as I call it in a business branding context, 'brand messaging'. To realise and embrace your sound and message is extremely difficult from my standpoint as a person objectively determining what that is for you.
For a business, the brand messaging process brings together many voices into a unified voice that is removed from any one person. Which I find much easier than developing this for an individual person. I believe it's because it's something you need to discover yourself and have the conviction to stick with it to remain consistent, especially when it doesn't correlate to revenue as a result of executing it well. And that discovery I mentioned, or 'clarity' as I like to call it in branding, comes from identifying the Soul of your personal brand first. Because without that your Sound lacks purpose and your Sight as a result will just be there to look pretty.
However this is the biggest kicker - if you've not figured out what your purpose is in life, at least for the short term, I can't effectively help. Personal branding can become ridiculously vain where you draw people in because of your image. So if people get to know you and you have no substance to articulate and communicate that harmonises with your Sight, things fall flat. So if you've not worked out the internal things that make you tick or at least give you some direction of who you want to be for others; to help them, to guide them, to connect with them and be remembered for something - it's time to work on that first. However, don't be too hard on yourself if this is where you feel you're at as it might simply come down to life experience and not yet getting to that point of realisation. I didn't until I was 31 and many people don't find it till even later in life.
For these reasons, I err on the side of helping people develop their personal brands. Instead, these are steps I want to share with you to help you try and develop them for yourselves. Because I know you can do it and I ultimately don't believe you need a logo and graphic assets from me to make an impact on those you wish to connect with. However, if you do need a guiding hand in the process, then I can help.
Lastly, if you're in a similar position to me where you are the face of your business, consider these things I've mentioned. You have a great headstart to lean on your business' brand identity as they might align with your own. So you might use the same colours, fonts and graphic assets in content, other touchpoints or even your clothing/accessories, values, purpose or message. Which is just the same as what I do to borrow similar identity traits from my G'day Frank brand.
WHEN DO I NEED TO CONSIDER PERSONAL BRANDING
I see a brand as a 'captivating moment of connection' and the act of branding builds upon that definition by saying it's the process of 'creating captivating moments of connection from clarity with your consumers'. Told you there'd be a heap of S's and C's to come.
Where I'm going with that is that if you want to create connections with consumers, be they clients, customers, buyers or audience, know who you want to connect with first and understand what you can offer them in return for their attention. From there you'll better understand how you can create captivating moments that compel others to connect with you.
This can be of great benefit to your business too, especially if you are the person your consumers are going to be dealing with. As they'll know who they're buying from or buying into, which can help build a little more trust from the get-go and even influence a buying decision.
To be honest, and you might see the similarity, this is not too far off from dating and relationships. But if you take a leaf from dating books and you put others first by giving them an identity to connect with, empathise with, easily recognise and remember to come back to time and time again, you'll be nailing your personal brand if it's coupled with something of value to add in the form of an offering - no matter if it's for your own success or the success of the business you represent.
So when you need it is when you want to make an impact on and for others as an individual. Just know that you've most likely already developed it as it's who you are deep down and it's just a case of finding that clarity. But if you need to "jush it up" and turn things up to 11 to create more captivating moments of connection with others, you'll no doubt have some ideas up your sleeve that is unique to you. My word of warning to reiterate an earlier point is just don't be excessive with it to the point of it not being authentic to who you are or who you want to be.
Now, to finish things off, I posed you a question at the start of this, which was:
What are you (going to be) most known for?
I want to add a final question (or two) for your consideration in finding clarity and hone in on what will make you stand out so that you can better connect with others:
How are you going to make it easier for people to connect with you?
If you're unsure of what makes you YOU, start by asking those you know:
What are the first things that come to mind when you think of me?
Best of luck and remember, don't hide behind a logo. Be the person your consumers want to see, hear and connect with.