It’s no surprise that to advance in this digital age driven by social media, you need to have a personal and yet relevant digital footprint. While many have painted building a personal brand as a millennial pursuit fueled by self-indulgence, it’s far from such a concept. As someone who brings products to life and develops go-to-market strategies for a portfolio of products at a global fortune 500 company, I know this to be true.
"Building a remarkable brand is no secret it’s simply the synergy of strategy and design." - Steve Jobs
Why personal branding?
It is no longer a luxury to take ownership of your personal brand – it’s a necessity. With the onslaught of apps and social media, your digital footprint can be the catalyst to your promotion through the corporate world. When I started to dig deeper to understand the role personal branding plays, I quickly realized that there are similar principles that apply when bringing products and solutions to market for businesses as there are with for personal brands. We live in a day and age where technology has handed us a plethora of brand creation and management platforms. We get to tell our story, live our lives, and encourage others on their paths for free, with these social tools. But that’s not all. You've never had a more exceptional ability to grow your network or build your resume than you do in today's digital world. This is why it is so important to be intentional about how you craft your brand.
Subject matter expertise
While you may not aspire to be an internet celebrity, you’re still hard at work climbing the ladder to success. Very hard at work, actually.
You want people to take you seriously and know that you are a force to be reckoned with. I get it because I've been there. My story, and how it started, is not paved with privilege and a first-class education. It is one of loss, loneliness, and struggle. But I turned that story into one that I am proud to tell. I turned foster care, no high-school diploma, and no college degree into the narrative of a professional woman sitting at the top of a world-renowned company, innovating, winning awards, and setting new records. If you looked at my past, you’d see I wasn’t supposed to be in the role I am today. Yet here I am, at the top of my game, at a major corporation. I’m successful in ways I never dreamed possible, but always had an inclination that could be in my future. This goes to show that the definition of who you are on paper doesn’t determine your path forward. You can change the narrative, albeit your brand, at any point in time that you choose. If you were to look at my life on paper, it would seem like the only option for me would have been a life on the streets. My upbringing, or lack thereof, gave me the skills needed to thrive in a professional capacity. Because of that, I’m passionate about helping others learn how to chart their own path and turn their liabilities into the exact things that propel them forward.
To summarize: no diploma, no connections, no clue.
Establishing my own brand
Being an influencer was never my dream. Being a director of anything wasn’t a goal I wrote down until far into my professional career. When I envisioned my future, magazine covers and awards were not included in it. Creating a lifestyle different than the one I was living in was. I’ve taken what was given to me and turned it into a personal brand that screams success. I steer the narrative around who I have become.
And if you want to be successful in today’s world, you need to do the same. How you may ask? By becoming the CEO of your own brand.
My quote from The Cannata Report’s 2016 Influencers Edition still guides me today:
“You are the CEO of your own brand and how you represent yourself matters.
Build relationships and establish creditability with your customers and colleges – become a trusted advisor.”
CEOs see the big picture. They craft their brand story. They steer the ship.
In order to be the CEO of your brand, you need to do the same. For your own life. Whether you run your own business or work in a corporate setting, the most valuable asset you have is you.
You are your brand. It’s time you started acting like the CEO of it.
What does a CEO do?
To understand what it means to be the CEO of your own brand, you must first understand what a CEO does.
Regularly, CEOs set the strategy and the vision for an organization. They are strategic. They are in charge of everything that happens within a company, and they are the driver of a company’s success.
Which is precisely what you need to do for your own brand. You have to be in the driver's seat.
And you can be in the driver’s seat, acting as the CEO of your own brand, by asking yourself these three questions:
· How do you want people to perceive you?
· How do you want to be remembered?
· What do you want your name to be synonymous with?
How to build your personal brand
Why am I sharing all this info with you now? Because it's something I've done successfully. I know it works. So, if you want to be successful in today’s world, you need to do the same. As someone with experience showing up digitally and navigating telling my journey while simultaneously having a corporate brand, I’ve learned quite a few lessons about building a personal brand the right way.
One of the first things I learned about building a brand was that I needed to become the CEO of my own brand and share my story—the way that I wanted it shared—before anyone else had the chance to do it for me. So, I took this advice to heart and became the CEO of my own brand. And with it, I built an authentic and powerful digital community. Now, with the successful launch of my personal brand, I’m sharing the best practices I used to help businesses and professionals do the same.
Define your brand
One of the things that I mistakenly learned on my own personal branding journey is that the people who dare to dream and work towards those dreams with daily activities, eventually create the life they want. Your personal brand strategy is who you are, where you're headed, and how you plan to get there. Your strategy will help you define your brand and help guide you in managing your marketing efforts and determining success. You can’t become what you can’t envision. So, let’s envision where you want your life to be. In the vision stage, take a look at who you are and create a vision for who you will become.
Determine your why
If you need a boost to define your vision, take it a step further by asking yourself these questions:
· Why do you do what you do? This isn’t about making money. Instead, think of your purpose, cause, or belief. What is the reason you exist?
· How do you do what you do differently? What are the things that you do that makes you unique or sets you apart from the competition?
· What do you do that others cannot? The answers can be as simple as the things that you do, the products you sell, or the services that you offer.
Write your story
Sharing our story with others isn’t the easiest thing to do; for some, it’s nearly incapacitating. If you feel this way, it’s essential to look at your journey and be thankful for all the challenges that made you who you are today. Start by identifying your strengths and talents.
The secret to storytelling your personal brand is to have a variety of content that leads your audience on a journey. And on this journey, they learn where you developed your passions, the lessons that made you decide on your values, and what brought you to where you are today.
Make a plan
You can’t become what you can’t envision. And you can’t get to where you want your life to be without a plan. As the saying goes, “Plan your work and work your plan.” Take a moment to picture where you live, how you dress, and your career. Is this where you see yourself being next year? In five years? Longer? If not, begin to make small adjustments to create your reality look more like the future you envision. Ask yourself: Who do you need to become to be the you that you see in your future?
Brand with intention
Know the path that you want to be on, and brand yourself every day with intention.
Branding with intention is crucial. And, to ensure you're sticking with it, as yourself these questions:
- What parts of your story are you telling?
- What message are you sharing over and over?
- How are you taking what you’ve been given and using that to rewrite the story people associate with you?
- Are you using social media intentionally, as in are you having meaningful conversations?
Asking these questions will help ensure that you’re branding yourself with intent.
Determine your goals
To take your personal brand another step farther, spend time thinking about your answers to these questions:
- What do you want your brand to look like in one year?
- What do you need from your personal brand to feel like it was a success?
- What do you need from your personal brand to feel fulfilled?
- What do you think will be your biggest obstacle in overcoming this?
As you can see, building a personal brand you can be proud of doesn't require big teams of experts or fancy equipment. It merely takes a few hours of dedicated reflection and planning.
Curious to learn more about stepping into the role of CEO of your own brand? I’ve compiled a list of books and other resources I found helpful while on my personal branding journey. I know you also may find them useful.
Reinventing You by Dorie Clark
How to Be a Media Darling by KJ Blattenbauer
Getting Your Personal Brand Story Straight by Joanne Tombrakos
Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding by Cynthia Johnson
Social Media Marketing Mastery 2020 by Robert Miller