Branding has become a buzzword aimed indiscriminately at businesses, influencers and aspiring professionals. It is easy to confuse the logos, color palettes, and social media appearances with a brand. We see offers all over the internet that promise us recognition and sales, claiming that we need a personal brand to grow our careers. They tell us that we’ll get there if only we use this branding kit or follow that brand development guide. We want a quick fix. We want a silver bullet. I’m sorry to tell you that there isn’t one.
But we can create brands that are authentic. In case you didn’t know, you already have the core of your brand: it’s you!
1. Personal branding is about building your image
A brand is at the heart and soul of a business. Branding that reflects who you are makes a strong first impression. Present yourself in a way that helps you feel confident.
TRY THIS: Ask your friends about your personal style.
Just last week I was preparing for a TEDx talk and I phoned my right-hand team member: “I don’t know what to wear! I am talking about branding and I don’t have a style!” It’s pretty funny now but at the time, she reminded me that I have a badass nature. I always wear tight pants, chenille blouses, and kickass boots to meetings. She was totally right! Remembering this, my shopping trip was easy. I knew what to look for and I came out feeling like a boss!
TRY THIS: Become more intentional about how you present yourself.
When I know how my trusted circle of friends sees me professionally, I can expand on that image by having fun with accessories, intentionally changing it up with items that complement my appearance to continuously improve my image. Allow yourself to stay in touch with trends that feel right for you.
2. Personal Branding is About Curating Conversations
The most powerful marketing I have ever seen sparks a dialogue. Think about a billboard with a thought-provoking question or statement. The longer it circulates in your head the more impact it will have. The same goes for branding yourself as a professional. Think of ways to engage your peers and allow them to feel heard. People appreciate attention, so show interest and listen.
TRY THIS: Think of ways you can have quality conversations.
This more than just “being nice.” It’s about being aware of your peers’ concerns and about being truly being present, caring, and thoughtful in your responses. We work with humans and acknowledging that will help advance your career.
TRY THIS: Create a list of things you do (not) want to share.
The same way an art curator will selectively choose what to display at a gallery, branding gives you the unique opportunity to select what to share. It is not about being disingenuous, it is about exposing only what you are prepared to expose. Determine what your red lines are and keep them private. This is your story. You get to choose how to tell it.
TRY THIS: Create a list of things you like to see on social.
What kinds of things “spark joy” as Marie Kondo, the best-selling author, and host of her own Netflix special, would say? When you are scrolling, what makes you stop? Quotes? Stories? Ads? Create a list of the things you love and think about the kind of voice you have on social media. This will help you determine whether you need to add or take anything out of your current feeds.
TRY THIS: Think of ways you can create a community.
From Facebook groups, forums, or a once a month gathering to posts on social media designed to allow others to feel a sense of belonging. Think about the “culture” you are going to cultivate and how to welcome feedback and encourage engagement. We all want to belong. You can be a part of making this connection.
These outward expressions of your brand are important because they are a part of how you present your story to the public. I would suggest to you that visuals and embroidered sweaters are just the bow that a brand is tied up with. As it is with human beings, the way we look is not the actual gift of what we have to offer. If you want to build your career to a place of leadership, think about how you can present the best version of yourself and create a community in your workplace or business. Ultimately, the best thing you can do for your career is to be the best version of yourself. You’re powerful, embrace it.
Heather Murphy is a branding expert focused on empowering others in their business development, marketing, and self-care. After founding Authentically (Authentically: Business & Life Solutions) in 2016, she has transformed a range of businesses with an achievable, human-centered approach. A legacy of entrepreneurship, Heather owned her first business at 15. She paved her way through university graduating with distinction in 2010 to blogging, building businesses, and studying branding and graphic design as a freelance designer and strategist. In 2015 Heather led the Hillberg & Berk marketing team in building their blog H&B Life and since that time has transformed and crafted brand experiences for over 40 independent businesses and not for profit organisations. In 2018 Heather partnered with Candyce Fiessel to bring My Life Planner to life (MyLifePlanner.ca).