What comes to mind when you think of brands? Probably your favorite one—whether it’s Starbucks, Apple jailbreak iPhone 4 , Nike or something else, we each have personal brand preferences that we identify with. The aforementioned brands are highly recognized not just because they produce great products, but also because they exemplify stellar branding. There’s a reason why when someone says, “Just do it,” most people think of Nike.
Interning for an Austin, Texas based creative agency with a solid repertoire of branding experience, I can attest to the value of having a strong brand. What many of us don’t realize, though, is that people are brands, too. It’s crucial to establish a personal brand for yourself so that you stand out in an increasingly competitive environment. Here are some tips I’ve compiled to help you get started on creating your own personal brand.
Figure out what makes you unique. Take some time to think about what sets you apart from your peers. Consider your strengths, your goals and your passions. Recognizing what makes you (and your “brand”) different from others is what will ultimately make you stand out in the long run. Do you pride yourself on paying attention to detail? Do you spend large chunks of time volunteering for a particular charity? Whether it’s a professional or personal characteristic, find something to brag about. Then, use that unique quality to differentiate yourself in the market—product differentiation applies to personal branding, too.
Take Apple, for example. Apple is constantly coming out with new innovations to existing products to make sure they remain unique among their competition. When they released their iPhone 5, they upgraded their traditional USB charging cord to their Lightning 30-pin cord plus adapter. While some viewed this change as an annoyance, it was a smart move on Apple’s part because it required all iPhone 5 users to invest in new Apple brand charging devices and accessories to be compatible with their unique Apple devices.
Identify your weaknesses. One of the hardest things for people to do is to recognize and admit their flaws. But once they do, they can accept them, fix them, or in the best case, use them to their advantage. For instance, if you identify one of your flaws as being overly controlling, turn yourself into the go-to planner, coordinator and organizer. Turn a negative trait into a positive attribute and utilize it as a function of your personal brand.
Create an online presence. Establish yourself online with social media accounts. Post things that interest you, information relevant to the industry you’re in, and don’t forget have fun with it (not too much fun—keep the tacky jokes and tasteless photographs between your friends offline). It doesn’t hurt to have a personal blog or website with a link to your résumé attached. And definitely have a LinkedIn profile; it’s a great resource to connect you to other professionals. One of the key responsibilities with having an online presence, however, is keeping it updated. Just like any other brand, your personal brand can become outdated. Make sure to consistently update and maintain your brand online (and offline) so it stays fresh and current. With an online presence, it’s not enough to simply have an account—engagement is the key word here. Make sure you’re checking your social networks daily and engaging with people you follow and who follow you. Social media is a two-way street!
Let’s take a look Oreo’s online presence. Oreo does a fantastic job of maintaining brand relevancy while simultaneously engaging with their customers. They’re timely, consistent and fun—their tweet from the most recent Super Bowl, for instance, was enormously effective in terms of consumer engagement. We can look at their online presence as a benchmark of this crucial component of personal branding.
Build brand recognition. Share your brand with other people. Get people talking about you, give them your business card, get their email addresses. Don’t underestimate the power of networking. Make friends, and keep in touch with them—don’t burn bridges because you never know who could wind up helping you out in the future.
This is in no way an all-encompassing guide to creating your own personal brand; it’s simply a way to get started. Do you have any tips on establishing personal brands amongst growing competition? I’d love to hear them!