Yes, I know the term ‘personal branding’ has many of you cringing, reaching for the vomit bag or conjuring up images of people wearing red dresses, bow-ties, braces or oversized green glasses.And sure, at a very simplistic level, personal branding is in part that.
It’s the art of establishing a highly prescribed image or impression of yourself in the market – from your personal appearance, behaviour, your personal views, opinions and your verbal and non-verbal communications.
However, it’s more than just that. It’s about building your expertise in a specific area and providing your audience with really useful information that solves problems and provides genuine value.
I personally loathe the term ‘personal branding’ as it suggests a serious preoccupation with self. I would prefer terminology such as ‘reputation-building’, ‘profile-raising’, ‘building credibility and visibility’ or ‘positioning as an expert’. However, these terms have long been associated with business public relations, not personal public relations.
So folks, if you’re looking to build your thought leadership as an individual, like it or not … personal branding will be your starting point.
However, before I talk about how you should go about building your personal brand, here’s a quick reminder of what thought leadership is. Thought leaders are the go-to opinion leaders and authorities that people turn to for their wisdom and knowledge on a specific set of topics and ideas. They’re the folk who have their finger on the pulse of trending issues and can contribute meaningfully to the conversation.
How do you build your personal brand?
I have tapped into some fabulous advice provided by leading US thought leadership and personal branding expert, Wendy Marx, in this regard.
Focus on one area of expertise
Don’t try to be the expert at everything — people have a hard time wrapping their minds around someone with multiple areas of expertise. Instead, boil down your expertise to one area, and be as specific as possible with that. For example, instead of offering yourself as a Security Expert, sharpen it to Leading Security Expert Specializing in the Financial Sector, says Wendy. This level of precision differentiates you from the many security experts out there and highlights your particular area of expertise.
Create personal profiles that showcase that expertise.
This includes your personal profiles on social media, as well as your bio on your website. All your profiles should display a coherent and consistent message. This is not only an opportunity to display your qualifications as an expert, but also to present your views and what you stand for.
Write a regular blog on your area of expertise
Writing a regular blog is a fantastic way to address talk on issues associated with your area of expertise as well as problems, matters of interest and trends impacting your industry. Your blog also gives you the perfect place to articulate your point of view and begin engaging with your key stakeholders and future prospects.
Speaking engagements provide a wonderful platform for building your profile and positioning you as an expert in your field. As Wendy Marks says,
When you pair your expertise and viewpoint with a smooth and engaging delivery, you help establish your brand.
My key recommendation for public speaking: Start with small, local events, and as your confidence grows, branch out from there.
Create a signature piece of content
A signature piece of content, such as a book, special guide, or white paper, will set you apart from your peers. For starters, it takes dedication, a depth of knowledge, insight, and expertise to create such a piece of content. When people see your work, it will elevate you as a serious contender in your industry.
So how does personal branding contribute to thought leadership?
Nailing your personal branding and establishing yourself as an expert in your field does NOT make you a thought leader. However it does get you started on your journey and contributes by:
Building your networks. Wendy Marx says you should think of personal branding ‘like a name tag that tells others that you are a must-know person in your industry’.
People will recognize your brand and reach out to you on social media with connection requests. It also makes it easier to network with people at in-person events. As you engage people and they see your personal brand in action, it will make collaboration easier in the future.
A personal brand can help your business. As a known quantity, you can quickly move from lone entrepreneur to trusted, knowledgeable business person, says Wendy Marx.
Among personal brand examples of note, think for a minute about Seth Godin, best-selling author and entrepreneur. When Godin attaches his name to a new business, people stand up and take notice. Why? Because he has cultivated his personal brand to carry weight and stand for quality; it’s why his Kickstarter book project reached its monetary goal within a mere three hours!
Brings in media opportunities. Over time, as you develop and shape it, your personal brand will grow in importance. If Donald Trump, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffet have an announcement, says Wendy Marx, journalists flock to cover it. While few people can demand that level of attention, a well-respected personal brand will mean a ready ear from journalists and bloggers within your industry.
Future-proofs your career. Whether you plan on staying with your company forever, or are open to new ideas, a personal brand will help. Many who have developed a strong personal brand generally do not have to go far before being offered a new career opportunity. This is because their personal brand has provided a level of recognition and perceived expertise.
Parker Public Relations and West Island Digital provide thought leadership and personal branding coaching and workshops for CEOs, business and community leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, academics or individuals wanting to position themselves as experts and later progress to becoming thought leaders.
If you are interested in finding out more or to sign up for a FREE CONSULTATION, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 0422 694 503.