Building A Personal Brand
Branding is a marketing concept, designed to help people identify and distinguish one product, service or concept from another. One of the earliest brands, Kellogg, was simply the signature of the company owner, reproduced on every packet. This approach was designed to show that the packet contained genuine Kellogg’s breakfast cereal.
Your personal brand, therefore, is what distinguishes you from other people: what you want people to think and say about you. Broadly speaking, it is a combination of your skills and expertise, how you behave and appear to others, and the values that underpin your actions and choices. This page describes how to build and understand your personal brand, so that it is an accurate reflection of you and your values.
The Importance of a Personal Brand
You may be wondering why you need a personal brand.
The answer is that you don’t need one, you already have one. Actually, you are your personal brand.
Everything that you think, do, say or show others is part of your personal brand. You have been building your personal brand all your life, and certainly all your working life.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that it is necessarily either consistent or coherent.
We often project different personas depending on who we are with. We might, for example, feel more comfortable with our friends, and therefore behave very differently than we would with a manager or supervisor.
With this in mind, it should be clear that it is worth taking time to ensure that your personal brand—that is, what you project to others, and what they recognise as being unique about you—reflects what is really important to you.
Building the right personal brand is a vital career management skill. However, it also matters in all your interpersonal relationships, at work and at home. It is a good idea to make sure that all your relationships inside and outside work are built on an honest and solid foundation that reflects the real you.
The Basis of Your Brand: Your Strengths and Values
Your personal brand needs solid foundations. It must be built upon your key values, and particularly, it must be consistent with those values.
If it is not consistent with your values, you will feel insincere in projecting your brand—and that will show. Others will perceive inconsistencies in what you say and how you feel, and will be uncomfortable. This is unlikely to be a good start to building or maintaining good relationships.
Our page on Career Management: Discovering Your Values explains more about how to explore and develop your values.
Your values tend to be internalised much of the time. Others may perceive them from how you behave, but few of us spend time telling others what is really important to us.
The more outward-facing and public manifestation of your personal brand is your strengths, and particularly your super-strengths.
These are the skills in which you really excel. They help you stand out from the crowd and are therefore an essential part of your personal brand. If you think about what others would say about you in your absence, or when introducing you to someone, it is likely that they might mention your super-strengths.
“This is Amy, she’s one of our project managers. If you need to get something done in this organisation, start with her!”
“This is Cal, he’s our expert on writing technical manuals. Actually, he’s your go-to person if you need help with writing anything, he’s just so good with words.”
Our page on Career Management: Developing Your Super-Strengths provides more information about identifying and developing your strengths.
The Outward Manifestation of Your Personal Brand: Appearance and Presentation
As well as your behaviour, your personal brand is also manifest in your appearance, and how you present yourself.
Like it or not, people inevitably make judgements about others when they first meet. First impressions are hugely important. This is not just about what you say, but also about how you look, and your unconscious mannerisms and body language.
You may not like this, but it is undoubtedly true.
How you look and present yourself is therefore an important part of your personal brand. It is worth taking time to consider your personal appearance, and how it might affect what people think of you.
There is more about the importance of outward appearance, and how to build a better impression, in our page on personal appearance.
Personal presentation is not just about your appearance, but also about how you present yourself in real life and online.
There are two aspects of this.
The first is what we might call in-person presentation: what you say, how you say it, and the way that you behave as you say it, as well as your appearance. These are all affected by your beliefs about yourself, including your self-esteem and confidence.
There is more about this in our page on personal presentation.
The second is what is available about you online, or your digital footprint. This includes content that you have created yourself, such as your own social media profile and posts, and also what others have said about you. This might be on websites—for example, each member of the SkillsYouNeed team has a brief bio on the site—or in other people’s social media posts.
Presenting yourself effectively online starts with checking what is already there—and then starting to manage it. Google yourself (and don’t forget to clear your browsing cache beforehand, or browse anonymously, so that you see what others will see).
This is part damage-limitation exercise, and part positive impression-building. Take time to look at everything that’s there. As far as you can, remove anything that might be off-putting to a potential employee or new contact, and emphasise the positive aspects.
You can find out more about how to identify what is available about you online, and how to start to manage this information, in our page on Managing Your Online Presence.
However, there is also a more positive way of looking at your online presence.
Social media is full of what is known as user-created content. This means that you can create content that will showcase your personal brand. You can post and share information that will highlight your strengths and values. You can build a carefully curated image of you as expert in a particular field. You can even apply for a domain name and create your own website, perhaps for a blog or vlog, or to showcase your portfolio in a creative industry. All these actions will help to improve your projection of your personal brand and make it clearer to others.
There are more ideas about how to do this in our page on Using LinkedIn Effectively.
A Long-Term Project
It should be clear by now that building your personal brand is a long-term and ongoing project.
It is not something that you are going to do in a morning, or even in a day. Instead, it is a process that you have already been going through for many years, and which will continue for the rest of your (working) life.
It also follows that your personal brand is not static. Your values will probably be consistent over time, but you may develop new strengths—and you will certainly develop new ways to showcase your abilities and yourself.