It is easy to understand why so many people get personal branding so wrong.
For starters, the term ‘personal branding’ can be confusing. The word ‘branding’ typically suggests a fixed product or image. Given we are multi-dimensional beings that are ever-evolving, the notion of attempting to create anything ‘fixed’ in our life is futile.
Secondly, the market is flooded with experts and thought leaders attempting to push their ideas and opinions about who we are meant to be, how we are meant to dress and what we are meant to do. They would like us to believe there is a fixed and logical path to success that we all must follow.
Personal branding is about putting your true self out there and consciously shaping the way you are recognised and remembered.
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The journey to creating and articulating your personal brand starts the moment you are brave enough to own your story, trust your truth and allow yourself to be seen, heard and celebrated for who you truly choose to be. In a world where we are often encouraged to follow the crowd and trust the opinions of others over our intuition and instinct, we must push against the grain. For this reason, the laws of personal branding are counter-intuitive.
Our ability to make a unique mark on the world is directly proportionate to our willingness to lean into the power of our individuality. We can only do this when we are willing to be different, do different, and at times, expose ourselves to rejection, disapproval and criticism. On the upside, a powerful personal brand allows a person to attract the right people, places and opportunities into their life in abundance.
The moment we attempt to create an image or message that is not aligned with who we really want to be is the moment we invite all the wrong people and opportunities into our life. In the wise words of Steve Jobs offered during his Stanford commencement speech in 2005: “Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
So, if you are ready to start putting your true self out there, be sure to familiarise yourself with the following three counter-intuitive laws of personal branding and rise above the pull of the average.
1. There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ strategy
There is only so far the idea of ‘faking it until you make it’ can really stretch. Personal branding is a long-term mindset, not a short-term activity, and consistency is very easy when you are being true to who you want to be.
Think of some of the most powerful personal brands in the world today: Richard Branson, Oprah, Gordon Ramsey and Ellen DeGeneres. We believe what they say because we know they are being themselves. Their ability to consistently show up as themselves is proof alone their actions are not being dictated by a clever team of publicists. Their rise to worldwide recognition has not only been shaped by their wins, it is also their failures that have amplified their brands.
As with everything in life, trial and error is part of the game. Is there room for expert advice? Absolutely. As long as you are directing the show, you are welcome to have as many team members as you feel necessary.
2. Your message needs to come before your audience
Traditional marketing suggests we put the customer first; we tell them what they want to hear and in a language they can understand. When it comes to personal branding, however, the first question needs to be: ‘What do I want to be known for and what is the message I want to share?’ Once you have identified what you want to represent in the world and what you have to give, only then do you need to work out the audience you are best suited to serve.
Sometimes not telling people what they want to hear is precisely the best way forward.
3. Who you are as a person is more important than what you do
The majority of people shape their personal brand around what they do rather than who they are. They have positional power based upon their job title and the brands they represent. While there is nothing wrong with leveraging the power of your position to build your personal brand, it is important to remember you are more than what you do. Your personal brand is the sum of everything that goes into making you who you are. It is not about how you fit into a role, it is about how the role fits in with who you are and your ultimate life purpose.
We all have a powerful desire to be seen and understood. In order for others to see us for who we are, we first need to know, trust and be ourselves. Personal branding is simply the art of living your legacy on a daily basis. It is about being the person you want to be remembered as and if you truly want to stand out from the crowd. As Shakespeare would say “to thine own self be true”.