Consistent personal branding can change the trajectory of your career completely – not to be dramatic or anything, but I’ve seen it happen. And the key to personal branding that has the power to welcome these big opportunities is the name – it needs to be personal. Now, I’m talking about sharing pictures of your dog on Facebook kind of personal. Your brand is your professional reputation; it’s a curated digital footprint and so much more. This blog will spell out the ins and outs of personal branding – why you should prioritise it, the challenges you’re likely to face while nurturing it, and the people completely acing it in 2023. Let’s go.
What is Personal Branding?
There’s a strong divide when it comes to personal branding. There are those who reap its benefits and shout about their secrets; the rest think it’s cringey and overrated. However, both are actively growing their brands whether they like it or not. You see, everything you do in your career involving other people contributes to your personal brand. Just like a business with its marketing communications, your words have power, and how you use them is extremely important.
The Influencer Marketing Hub note that your personal brand is built by a ‘unique combination’ of your skills, experiences and personality; it’s your attitude, your behaviour, the words you use and the way you conduct yourself online and in person. Your personal brand is what sets you apart from others; it’s what sits in front of your mind when you leave the room. And although many of these actions we perform without thought, resulting in an organic brand growing from the trail of interactions we leave behind, with social media and the online world, we have the power to mould our brands into something more exciting.
The Benefits of Personal Branding
Building a personal brand wouldn’t be at the top of my list of recommendations if it didn’t deliver. In fact, actively growing my personal brand has opened doors I didn’t realise even existed. By talking about experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly – online, I’ve received invites to speak at events, been featured on the radio and even walked a few red carpets. And all of the latter have come off the back of a handful of LinkedIn posts that landed in front of the eyes of the right people. Not to toot my own horn, but I think that’s magical stuff. Would you agree? Here are three more benefits you can expect when growing your personal brand.
You’ll Stand Out From the Crowd
According to Movement to Work, an average job posting will receive over 100 applications. That is 100 faces that you need to prove to a hiring manager that you are better than others. An active personal brand will give you the best shot at putting your experience, expertise and knowledge into action beyond your CV and personal statement. Think of it as a live portfolio that is updated and maintained regularly.
You’ll Get Yourself in Front of New Faces
There are over 930 million members in more than 200 countries signed up to LinkedIn. And when LinkedIn is the number one platform for growing your professional brand, why would you sleep on the possibility of 930 million opportunities showing up at your door? The LinkedIn algorithm works in your favour; if you’re engaging with the right kind of content and the people you’d like to work alongside, chances are your content will reach them. The social media platform is all about making connections, and when a simple message is sometimes all it takes, nurturing professional relationships couldn’t be easier.
You’ll Increase Your Chance for Opportunity
They say it’s often who you know, and chances are they’re right. 85% of jobs are filled through networking, with 70% of those jobs never being published publicly. This hidden job market is one any career-savvy individual needs to tap into, and the best way to do so is by growing your personal brand. When your personal brand is all about being you, showing the online world who you are is going to naturally increase your chances for success. Trust me.
Growing Your Personal Brand: The Essentials
So how do you do it? Here are six steps you must follow to hit the ground running and start building a personal brand set to make great things happen.
Get on LinkedIn
A straightforward first step. As I mentioned, LinkedIn is a powerhouse for personal branding opportunities. It really can change your life – without sounding gushing. Social media manager and founder of Pretty Little Marketer, Sophie Miller, screams the latter from the rooftops. In her often viral LinkedIn posts, she claims that showing up on LinkedIn and her consistent efforts to prioritise her personal brand are responsible for the 350,000-person community she nurtures across platforms – not to mention the guest lecturing, YouTube partnership and guest appearances that fill her calendar. Sophie now makes a living from sharing her social secrets, and boy, is she flying. The proof is really in the pudding – LinkedIn is a tool you need at your disposal.
Figure Out Your Thing
What do you want to be known for? As marketers, our job is to make brands stand out. And the thing that makes these brands stand out is often their values. Just like business branding, your personal brand needs to stand for something. Maybe you want to be renowned for creating quality content for eCommerce brands. Or perhaps you want to be top of mind for marketing campaign know-how? Whatever floats your boat, figure this out and write it down as an action statement.
Take my LinkedIn for example. My LinkedIn headline starts with my personal brand action statement: “I help people and brands bring important stories to life.” I wrote this statement because it embodies and explains pretty much everything I do in my career and sets an expectation for the kind of things you can expect me to talk about online. Whether I’m giving away the cheats I use to create snappy social media copy in my work with Big Star, or sharing the experiences I’ve learnt while running one of my many side hustles, everything I do leads back to that statement.
A clear action statement will keep your content on track while allowing you to create clear content pillars. Content pillars are the, well, pillars, that hold up your action statement for the world to see. Choose three of four that categorise the types of content you’re likely to post. Not only will you find the content process a lot easier, but content pillars will give your audience a rough indicator of what to expect and enough information to figure out if they want to stay for the encore.
Start With One Post
Once you’ve mastered the bare bones of your content strategy (i.e., your action statement and content pillars), it’s time to start posting. Your first post might feel a little like your first day at school – daunting and scary. But you know what they say when something scares the sh*t out of you? It can be a good thing. The thing is, the world – nor your personal brand – is going to crumble if your first post flops. Chances are it might (or probably will). But there is also a great chance that it could go viral.
Ellie Middleton had only been on LinkedIn for a couple of weeks when she sent a post into the online world that quite literally sent her career sideways. That one post snowballed; she was offered a job, she delivered a TEDx talk, Google flew her out to New York, and fast forward to now, she’s recently announced a book deal with Penguin Life. All of the latter may have happened without her efforts to grow her brand and share her thoughts online, but it definitely wouldn’t have happened with such intensity. Today, Ellie is making moves wilder than many of our wildest dreams, and her success alone should be enough to encourage you to feel the fear of posting your first post and do it anyway.
The uphill struggle of growing your personal brand is most definitely staying on top of it. It’s easy to fall off the wagon; we get bored, lack inspiration and sometimes, just can’t be bothered. It’s a demanding old thing, and focus of some kind is paramount. Now, despite what some ‘LinkedIn gurus’ claim (and I use that term lightly), you do not need to post every day of your life. But you do need to post consistently enough to make enough noise that draws eager eyes in and keeps familiar faces on your side.
Start by setting yourself the goal of posting three times a week. Choose times that you know you can show up regularly. Monday, Wednesday and Friday work well for me, but for our MD Derryck, he sees the most engagement on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It’s all about when you have enough time – and brain space – to post, reply to comments and engage with others to ensure your content flows as far as possible.
But don’t be fooled – growing your personal brand isn’t a lifelong contract where you’ve precariously signed your life away on the dotted line. You can take breaks – weeks off, LinkedIn free weekends – you get the gist. Drop your brand for a few days here and there, and the world isn’t going to come crashing down. As long as you make small, consistent efforts to nurture connections and conversations with the right people, you’ll do just fine.
Tell Your Story
Your personal brand is all about being personal. It’s easy to be a cookie-cutter copycat and mimic the content of the big creators that came before you, but then your personal brand wouldn’t be defined by what makes it unique – you. People want to hear from you. What were your experiences with X? What did you think about that Y? How did you conquer that Z? If you dot the Is and cross the Ts with your personal experiences, you’re more likely to build an audience who are willing to stay. And why? Because content that is personal to you is something others will struggle to find anywhere else.
So, you’ve got LinkedIn nailed; you’re publishing content that is getting great traction, and your follower count is rising by the day. It’s an ideal world. But it doesn’t stop there. As we mentioned at the start of this blog, your personal brand is rooted in every communication you make, albeit online or in person. Therefore, getting your name in front of the right people, in as many interactions is key. Start by direct messaging the creators, hiring managers and business executives that control the gates to your dream roles; attend events, webinars and networking sessions; go to in-person meet-ups with creators in your niche. In short, show up where it counts and where knowledge of you and your brand will grow.
The Challenges of Personal Branding
Like anything, building a personal brand has its challenges. It’s not a leisurely stroll in the park, and although luck sometimes does help, creating content with a little strategy behind it does boost your chances for success. Three distinct challenges hold many back, but here’s how to avoid them.
Lack of Consistency
A lack of consistency is what actually killed the cat. As mentioned above, consistency doesn’t have to be every day, but it has to be enough to make a difference. And a lack of the latter can be attributed to many personal brand demises. Even if your first post goes viral, it will all be for nothing if the momentum fizzles out. You’ve got to keep at it, even if in small chunks, to ensure positive growth.
Unsure of Your Career Direction
“But I don’t know what I want to do?” So what? You not knowing what you want to do in the long run is still your personal brand right now. Take us on that journey of self-discovery. Spoiler alert – your brand can change as you do.
Many of us find talking about ourselves and our achievements difficult. And I get it, you don’t want to risk coming across badly online. But the best thing you can do, and probably the easiest, is to just be yourself. Talk like you talk, and act like you’d act in real life. Authenticity is all about being you and not about trying to be a version of yourself that you’d think the internet would prefer.
The People Acing Their Personal Brands
So, with all of the above in mind, let’s take a look at the pioneers of personal branding; the individuals making waves in their industries and growing their personal brands like there’s no tomorrow. You’ll want to take a leaf or two out of their books…
Personal branding examples:
Izzy nailed her personal brand and she now builds brands for other people. Founder of Spark Social Media and a LinkedIn Top Voice, her content resonates with young business owners finding their feet in the big old world of entrepreneurship.
Isobel’s personal brand helped her land a job at her current company, Kurugo. Fast-forward to now, and she has since been promoted to Head of Social. Isobel’s candid take on navigating her managerial role as a twenty-something creative is what many love about her content, resulting in a current audience of 77,000 followers on LinkedIn. This is a great example of personal branding on Linkedin.
Steven Bartlett is probably most known for his podcast, Diary of a CEO, but it was on LinkedIn that his success sky-rocketed, reaching nearly 1.5 million followers this year. His content is known for its motivational narratives and encouraging statements; his followers love what he does, and people trust him with their stories.
Another LinkedIn OG that has made her career from posting on the platform. Amelia Sordell worked in recruitment when she started growing her brand. She is honest and opinionated – and people love it. Today, she is the founder and director of Klowt, the personal branding agency responsible for some of the biggest brands we see online.
After perfecting his personal brand, Matt Swain knew he could help others take their brands to the next level. And that’s exactly what he does. Matt’s industry breakdowns, marketing advice and content tips are easy to eat up, and that’s why it works. He makes it seem simple, which, in turn, ensures his audience comes back for more.
The Heart of Great Personal Branding? Well-Written Copy
You may have noticed there’s a bit of a running theme throughout this blog – great content. Well-crafted content gives your personal brand a fighting chance, and well-written copy ensures your content’s success. Your voice is everything; it’s what people remember. But mastering the right tone and finding the right words can be tricky if you’re not a seasoned writer. That’s where we come in.
Our team has been crafting compelling copy since before the iPhone (yep, we’ve been around for a while!), and we know a thing or two about how to make it resonate with audiences and drive results. We won’t subject you to robotic copy (or AI-generated copy, on that note), and we won’t send you to sleep with words that hold no value. You can trust us with your copywriting and marketing communications. It’s what we are here for. For more information, get in touch – we’d love to help.