Estimated read time: 10 minutes
Personal brands aren’t a new concept in the digital age. Everyone has a brand. Whether that’s locally or globally or online and offline or just offline.
Building your brand at the same time is easier than ever before, but it’s also harder.
Sure, I can post my stories. And I can share them. But that doesn’t mean anyone will read them.
And communicating across the globe has never been easier…
Jo Miller also joined me on the podcast to share why everyone should consider building a personal brand and she shares some personal branding tips.
To build a personal brand:
- Make sure you know what you stand for
- Pick the networks and content types that work for you. For example, you aren’t going to see me dancing on TikTok but that works for some personal brands.
- Share stories that are interesting and engage your audience.
- Make sure it aligns with your professional life.
Personal branding tips as part of companies
Some companies seem afraid of personal brands. I find that interesting and even puzzling. Having strong personal brands in-house can help the business and the person.
Sometimes, it comes down to perceived control. Who owns the brands? And some employers want to own brands. Or at least they want to feel like they are in control. But who actually owns brands?
The real answer, of course, is: Our audiences. Some might call them communities. You know what I mean: The people that listen to us and that we interact with. They own our brands. Whatever they say our brand is is indeed our brand – no matter how much we might disagree.
As Mark Schaefer mentioned on the podcast: How marketing works is changing. He calls it a marketing rebellion.
For example, I like to say my brand is storytelling and building a content performance culture. But the most read articles on here are all about social media. That’s kind of storytelling, but not quite.
There are certain levels of brands.
The business brand
This one is easy. It’s the business brand and related accounts. Company A is owned by its owners, shareholders, etc., and the accounts are clearly identifiable and have the business name in them. The business (let’s hope) has a strategy and a person or team update this account in line with that strategy.
The leaders brands
This is the first of two kinds of accounts that involve people as the public face. You may notice that I don’t call them personal accounts. Having true personal accounts will become harder and harder as work and lives integrate more and more and become more open online. Especially for leaders in an organization, it’ll be hard to see a difference between their “personal” and “professional” identities. If those two identities don’t align, it’s hard for employees and external audiences to align them with each other. One’s trustworthiness could suffer.
The people (employees) brands
I call these people vs. employees brands because for many people nowadays it’s less and less likely to work for the same company for an entire career. The people brands are company independent, but when all three brands truly align internally and externally that’s when companies, their leaders and employees can all help each other by:
- Strengthening each other’s brands
- Acquiring more customers
- Learning from each other
- Being a participant in our communities
Smart people build their own brands and then integrate them with the companies they lead or work for. Smart companies and leaders encourage it and even help the three circles work together authentically and transparently with simple rules outlined.
Where there might be a rub
In the past, I’ve heard about journalists and other communications professionals who have established their brand on social media and then the organizations they work for claim they own those people’s social media brand. Usually, they just call that “the accounts.” Probably because it’s hard to argue for owning somebody else’s brand.
Typically, this is only a topic of discussion, of course, when an employee with a strong brand is planning on leaving a company that was reaping some benefit of the strong personal brand.
On one side, there might be some truth to that, that an organization helped an individual built their brand. But the organization’s brand also benefited from the person’s brand. And what would an organization do with a person’s accounts when that person leaves anyway? It’s not like they can have somebody else take over.
“Hi, I’m your new @ctrappe.” Right, that doesn’t make any sense at all.
Make sure the ownership of accounts is clear before starting.
When these discussions happen they are really a holdover from a time when (some) business owners thought they could control everything. In a world of abundance, there’s no reason we can’t all have our own pieces, which can operate on their own at times and at other times come together and support each other.
Can personal branding techniques be used in the corporate world?
I hear this quite often still – usually from VP or C-level leaders. Can we build personal brands in a corporate world? Yes. Chantelle Marcelle joined me on the podcast to share how to that specifically.
How to protect brands
Once you have the brand you want, life’s humming along at a good pace and you are making meaningful connections, it can be easy to think that we now need to protect the brand. And that’s true, but how do you protect a brand in an ever-evolving and fluid digital world?
People can blog about other people. They can even rate them and their products.
A few years ago I published my own “Mean Tweets video.” It’s okay when not everyone loves us. And part of my brand is to share stories like that.
I’ve had people disagree with me – online and offline. Some exchanges throughout my life were positive and some weren’t. One guy from middle school Facebooked me once to let me know I wasn’t nice to him back then. Sorry. We learn as we grow (and go).
But how do I protect my brand? Here are some of my guiding principles and personal branding tips:
- All decisions are made in line with my values – honesty, authenticity, openness, curiosity, learning, empathy, etc.
- I try to understand other people’s situations and viewpoints – even when I can’t or won’t budge on my opinion.
- I communicate quickly. Yes, sometimes that leads to saying something not vetted or thought-through for 19 days. It does allow me to be authentic. I do reserve the right to change my opinion.
Protecting our brand in this still new digital world – which connects more and more with our offline selves – isn’t actually about building up that wall to keep out intruders. It’s about:
- Understanding what we stand for.
- How we participate publicly.
- How we explain ourselves.
- Knowing when to bow out of a discussion.
- Living by our values – relentlessly.
- Being willing to change our opinion.
I’m protective of my brand, too. Sure. If somebody misquotes me, that can hurt my brand. I can choose to respond quickly on here or on another channel. But aside from protecting, I’m much more interested in being secure in what my brand stands for and participating in a meaningful way. When that happens maybe our advocates even protect our brands on our behalf.
Also remember what the other person’s motivation might be. Do they want you to respond, share what they are saying and maybe even link to them as part of their marketing strategy? It’s possible!
Knowing what others are saying about your brand
One thing to remember is that it’s good to keep an eye out for what people are saying about us. Some tips on how to do that:
- See who is linking to your site
- Set up Google Alerts for brand mentions and your name
- Check mentions on social accounts
The options and tools are endless when it comes to monitoring, but these three easy items are a quick way to stay in the know.
Personal branding tips while living anywhere
I was on the Wild Business Growth Business Podcast and Host Max Branstetter asked me about how hard it was to build a global brand while living in Iowa.
Thanks for saying that I have a global brand and I do get that Iowa comment here and there as I live in Marion, Iowa, with a population of under 40,000, I certainly don’t live in a metropolis, though there are many positives.
This blog is read by people from all kinds of countries from the USA, United Kingdom, India, Canada, Australia, Philippines, Malaysia, Germany, Singapore and South Africa. My podcast has been downloaded over 90,000 times from listeners in 100-plus countries. During the coronavirus pandemic I gave keynotes in Singapore and Istanbul, all from my basement office in Iowa.
And of course, building a brand doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go anywhere – though it helps to see people face to face at times.
You can build a brand by simple producing rock-star content on your blog and on social media. Maybe write a book – maybe from your blog content! Do a podcast. Live Twitter audio or other live streams.
Read next: How to start a video podcast simply
The ways to build your brand that don’t require you to go anywhere are endless. Sure, many channels now require some kind of budget to get in front of people, but as long as you have that, you can still sit at home on your recliner, blog and share content that is helpful. And the new channels can often be maximized with no budget – even when it’s just temporarily.
Just don’t forget that building a brand and then monetizing a brand are different things! 🙂
Even though I live in a smaller area of the country population-wise, there are three airports near me and I can reach just about all parts of the United States by noon time – after leaving in the morning. So getting to places isn’t that big of a deal!
Certainly, there are stories of companies whose success torpedoed when they moved to a bigger metro. And that’s great to hear and I applaud them for making the move. And that can be a necessary move.
Just keep in mind that it’s not always about location, location, location. It’s about knowledge and what you are sharing and whether or not people think it’s helpful.
When people book me to speak at their conferences – anywhere in the world – they hardly ever realize that I’m coming from Cedar Rapids. Once at a conference in Mumbai, somebody asked me how I would be flying back.
“Oh that’s a trip.”
“… Cedar Rapids.”
“Oh, Chicago isn’t the final?”
But anyway, don’t let your location stop you from sharing stories, creating value and driving your business goals forward. Build your brand by sharing your stories no matter where you are – and that’s a concept that can be used by people and companies alike.
Building a personal brand can be good for you, your company and your customers. Being relevant and meaningful can be a win-win-win for all involved.