When I talk with people about their personal brands, I often hear the same things come up over and over. Most professionals have enough self-awareness to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. I also hear a lot of people saying that they would like to work on their personal brands, but they’re not sure where to begin.
If this sounds familiar, keep reading to learn a few of my proven steps to get you focused on building your brand with purpose.
Know who you are. The key here is to take the time to reflect on your past experiences and where you are now in your life. What were the defining moments that shaped who you are today? What do you want to carry with you into the future and what is best left in your past?
Part of understanding yourself is accepting that we all have flaws and limitations. Some of these limitations, such as a fear of public speaking, you can work through. But sometimes the best path forward is to accept what you cannot change and let go of the expectations that do not serve you in creating your best self.
Clearly define your brand goals. Set realistic goals for yourself and create a step by step plan to help you achieve them. One of the most important parts of setting realistic goals, is to take the time to consider any potential hurdles you might encounter. You can then make sure you have the right tools and support at your disposal to help you on your journey.
Understand how other people perceive you. This is a tough step for many people. One of the greatest threats to your success is to assume that people see you the way you want to be seen. This is not always the case. Be sure to take the time to really understand how people perceive you in various situations. I know this can be an intimidating endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. Remind yourself that this is a valuable step in your personal journey of self-discovery that will help you achieve your goals.
It is helpful to enlist trusted friends, colleagues and family members in this process. I find it useful to write a script, this way you can be confident that you are clearly communicating your values and goals for getting the feedback you need to grow. When you are asking for help, be sure to clearly define how you would like feedback and what you plan to do with it. If you’re not comfortable having these conversations directly, you can use email or a free online survey tool like Survey Monkey to collect this feedback anonymously.
Examine your behavior. Does your behavior clearly demonstrate who you are to the world? When people engage with you, do they walk away from those encounters with an understanding of who you are? Your values? What they can expect from you?
As you go through your week, keep these questions in the back of your mind. Check in with yourself periodically and evaluate whether you are demonstrating your brand values through your behavior. Are you late to every meeting? Do you spend more time staring at your phone during conversations than looking at the person you’re speaking with? When you take the time to go through your week more conscientiously you might be surprised by some of your patterns of behavior. Once you’ve identified areas for improvement, get to work immediately on strategies to resolve these discrepancies between your real behavior and your intended brand.
Communicate your brand. Don’t be shy in communicating who you are with the world. When we talk about brand communication most people think about their verbal and written communication skills. These skills are important, but don’t forget there are many other ways to communicate your brand. These include body language, your physical image (such as your style and personal grooming choices), and your listening skills. Take the time to work through each of these areas of your brand. In what ways do you think you communicate well? Where do you think your brand communication needs some improvement?
Don’t forget that our digital world is still real life. I know it sounds obvious, but I am still surprised by the number of professionals who manage their personal brands well in person only to stray from their brands online. A good example of this is how you use your social media accounts. I don’t care what your social media privacy settings are, if it’s online, it’s not private. Don’t fall into the trap of believing otherwise.
Make sure that the words you use and the images you share online (and that includes what you like and comment on) are really aligned with your values and the goals you outlined above. Nothing has the power to derail your reputation faster than an off the cuff comment online. Don’t let your future self be the victim of your carelessness today.
Show up consistently. If you want people to really know who you are then you better show up consistently. When you behave inconsistently you erode the trust you’ve built with others. We all know someone who we dread having to work with because we don’t know how they are going to behave from day to day. Make sure that person is not you. Stay clear on your personal values and then make sure that you are living them every single day.
Love yourself, love your brand. I realize this might sound trite but self-acceptance, and self-love matter. This looks different for all of us, but the principle remains the same. Before we can share our authentic selves with others, we must be comfortable with ourselves. We all have weaknesses. We all suffer from self-doubt now and then. And we all fail at some point in life. These things make us human.
Creating a personal brand is not about creating a false image of perfection. Why? Because there is no such thing as perfection. Creating a personal brand is a journey of self-discovery. It is a process in which you reflect on who you are, what matters to you, and what you want to achieve in life. And then it is about going out into the world and letting people know – unabashedly – who you are and where you are going.