Authenticity is the foundation of personal branding and if you can identify what is true, unique and genuine about you, you will have all the tools needed to build a successful ‘brand you’.
Authenticity is the foundation of personal branding and if you can identify what is true, unique and genuine about you, you will have all the tools needed to build a successful ‘brand you’. Remember, you cannot spin or fabricate a personal brand, and must actually reveal, rather than construct your values, your mission and your qualities. Creating an idealised personal brand that isn’t reflective of your persona, behaviour or experience will only make you appear disingenuous further down the line.
Whilst it pays to identify people you admire you should not copy their personal brand. Admiration and even a measure of emulation is fine but fundamentally you should use your own experience, values and skills to stand out in the crowded social media landscape.
Similarly, it is a common misconception that your personal brand has to be a carefully cultivated persona. Avoid the temptation to be too ‘polished’ even if those you admire have a seamless and slick online brand. The real you should be ‘human’; people will relate to this much more than a performative identity, and it will engender the trust that a more fabricated personal brand would eventually undermine.
However, you should obviously highlight the positive aspects of your brand: what have you learnt in your career that you could bring to a role? What unique skills or personality traits do you have? What values do you have that make you an exceptional candidate?
It is considered the best way to answer these questions is to ask people what they think of you; how you are viewed by those you know personally will be the guide for your brand. Friends, family colleagues and acquaintances will reflect back your best qualities and allow you to create your authentic personal brand for an online audience who have never met you. Similarly, a good way to know how to position yourself is to look at the recommendations on your LinkedIn profile as these will crystalise how other people see your professional values and qualities.
Karen Kang, CEO of Branding Pays, says that whether or not you work for a company, you should consider yourself a ‘free agent or a company of one’. You have to position yourself in a unique way to distinguish yourself from those who will be your competition, just as large companies have to mark themselves out from their corporate rivals to ensure they are successful. You should make sure any content you put online is thought-leading, authoritative and positions you as an expert in your chosen field. Produce or share content that plays to your strengths and this will reinforce your brand values.
Make sure that your social media and online presence is cogent and consistent. Be mindful of the ‘digital breadcrumbs’ you will leave across the various social platforms you use; they are all conduits for your personal brand. Be thoughtful about how you represent yourself at all times; don’t, for example, present a persona on Twitter which contradicts the actions, activities and image you portray on your LinkedIn profile. Your audience will discover these contradictory aspects of your online presence and resultantly, you will lose credibility, authenticity and your audience’s trust. While the style and format of your content should be adapted to fit each particular online platform, you should have one brand and one tone of voice across all platforms to ensure ‘brand you’ is as authentic as possible.
For further reading on personal branding why not take a look at the following articles?