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Is Personal Branding Really That Important?

Six personal branding tips to implement in 2018

Let’s discuss the importance of personal branding, more specifically how your professional presence, or lack thereof – can positively or negatively impact your career advancement. Whether you are actively in control and strategically refining your personal brand on an ongoing basis or mindlessly allowing it to dwindle out in the social media stratosphere, understand that your personal brand is continually being judged by prospective clients, customers and hiring managers – online and off. However, before we delve further into the meat and potatoes of building your personal brand I think it would be best for us to first explore and further define the elusive concept of personal branding.

Below are three quotes from notable leaders who, I believe, have captured the essence of what personal branding is; thus, further clarifying, in my opinion, how one should move forward in creating and strategically positioning their personal brand as a dynamic thought leader within their chosen industry.

“We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You – It’s that simple and that hard. And that inescapable.” Personal Branding Guru, Tom Peters – Fast Company 1997

“Personal branding, much like social media, is about making a full-time commitment to the journey of defining yourself as a leader and how this will shape the manner in which you will serve others.” Thought Leader and Business Strategist, Glenn Llopis – Forbes 2013

“It’s become my brand in a way, you know, speaking the truth even though it was not politically correct.” French Lawyer and Politician, Christine Lagarde

As such, it’s important that an individual authentically embody and immerse themselves into all aspects of their personal brand – visually, intelligently and emotionally. The result should be a succinct, uniquely identifiable personal brand that evokes a positive reaction from that individual’s intended audience; ultimately, enabling that brand to responsibly capitalize on its unique value proposition.

So, just how do you begin to create and strategically position your personal brand to compete within a saturated social media landscape that is abundantly occupied by smart, savvy entrepreneurs such as yourself? Listed below are my top 6 personal branding tips you should carefully consider when you are revamping a brand called you. Of course, there are other considerations that play an integral role in building your personal brand; however, the 6 tips I offer below will hopefully position you in the right direction.

Tip 1. Get clear about your core personal values

Your core personal values are intrinsically apart of who you are as a person first and foremost. What you value as being most important to you in your life, personal or otherwise, will ultimately influence how your personal brand will be interpreted by others, thus leaving an indelible impression upon them. As such, core personal values can be considered the anchor or foundation of your personal brand; it will help to guide you in the process of creating an influential brand that represents the essence of who you truly are – visually, intelligently and emotionally.

Tip 2. Figure out what sets you apart from the competition and authentically capitalize on it.

We’ve all heard the term Unique Value Proposition (UVP) used in the business marketing industry, but how does the concept of UVP apply to an individual’s personal brand? If your core personal values, for example, is a commitment to be of service to others and leadership within your community then your next move will be to figure out how your personal values can effectively be translated into a visually stimulating, intelligent and emotionally coherent personal brand. The medium is indeed the message and how you choose to convey your core personal values can be the catalyst of launching your career into a new direction.

Tip 3. Become the wordsmith of your unique talents, skills and quirky interest – publish content.

In today’s ever diverse and competitive society part of the personal branding journey is to strategically keep yourself visible and relevant. Publishing relevant and timeless content that focuses on your core personal values will build upon your credibility and establish the roots of your reputation – online and off. You do not have to be the next Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or Sheryl Sandberg, but you do need to become the author of your own personal story. Just how does one do that if they are not knowledgeable of what social communicative tool to use or worse yet have a fear of publicly sharing one’s thoughts and ideas with the world in less than 140 characters? Research social media platforms that you feel comfortable communicating on and when you do decide on one or two social platforms, do it in fear until it becomes second nature to you; perhaps only publish one article or tweet something relevant that illuminates your values once a week; until you have built your tribe of followers and have found your sweet spot (your authentic voice). The most important thing to remember is to be consistent, be yourself, and be authentic.

Tip 4. Authority + Strong Partnerships = Strategic positioning

Beyoncé and Oprah didn’t become icons overnight, but what they did do was commit to becoming one of the best in their industry and overtime they raised their brands profile and became a trusted authority in their respective industry. Competition is a natural part of life and how you choose to navigate the competitive waters of your industry will either entice likeminded sponsors and partners who are on the same path as you to want to collaborate and help you build your brand or repel them away from you because you have not shown that you are authentically passionate about what your personal brand represents.

Tip 5. Put your mark on it

Close your eyes, what image comes to mind when you think about or hear the names of notable brands such as Tory Burch, Tiffany & Co. and Serena Williams? I can bet the first few images were the brands signature style, unique product offerings or prominent logo – their visual identity. Tory Burch is the CEO, Lead Designer and Chairman of the American lifestyle brand Tory Burch. The brand is shaped and molded after the essence of who Tory Burch authentically is as a mother, business mogul and philanthropist; thus, the products that are created and sold by the Tory Burch brand are an extension of her life. Similarly, Tiffany & Co. is recognized globally for the brands impeccable craftsmanship and elegant diamonds. Tiffany’s Robin Blue signature packaging, more specifically the Tiffany blue box is uniquely identifiable and a coveted possession, by most women, who are familiar with the Tiffany brand. In addition, Serena Williams tennis career is synonymous with strength, endurance and victory – Williams is the 2016 Wimbledon Grand Slam winner. Williams continues to dominate in the tennis arena and has recently transitioned her superstar sporting career into a prominent international brand that embodies women’s empowerment, more specifically – gender equality (read here). Williams athletic portfolio is an impressive collection of lucrative brand endorsements including Nike and Delta Airlines. If there is anything you take away from this article remember this – Your personal brand overtime should be prominently positioned in such a way that it leaves a lasting and memorable impression that is easily identifiable and emits your brand’s strength, character and unique value within your professional industry.

Tip 6. What is your personal brands visual perception?

Sylvia Ann Hewlett observes that “appearance [is] typically the filter through which gravitas and communication skills [are] evaluated; [which] explains why high-performing junior employees oftentimes get knocked out of contention for key roles and promotions – they simply don’t look the part.” Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success (page 81).

As an image consultant and personal stylist, I wholeheartedly agree with this comment and further believe that because we as women continue to confront gender equality issues – especially in the workforce – how we consciously present ourselves visually is equally as important as our employable skills, education and acquired experience. As noted in my article What is Style Personality? And Why is It Important? I highlight the importance of making a memorable first impression and that our style speaks volumes about who we are long before we have formally introduced ourselves to a potential high-profile client or HR manager. I highly suggest that women spend time going through their current wardrobe and accessories including handbags and shoes; and ask themselves if their current image and personal style is effectively representing your professional title or desired career path? For example, a woman who has achieved the title of Dr. Natasha Brown, Gynecologist or Professor Kate Smith, Professor of Art History who is presenting at an industry conference in front of their medical or academic peers wearing a casual sundress, ballet flats and hair pulled into a ponytail does not visually communicate educated, forward thinking thought leader. Unfortunately, ladies, this is our reality. I would love to report to you all that times have changed and how women choose to present themselves at work in front of their clients and colleagues shouldn’t be a deciding factor whether your career progresses forward or not, but the reality of it all is that women are in fact judged more harshly on their appearance than their male counterparts.

Hewlett further notes that “get this appearance thing wrong and you’re struck off the list. No one even bothers to assess your communication skills or your thought leadership capabilities if your appearance telegraphs you are clueless.” (page 81) – Point noted.

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