Think of a brand and what do you get? A Nike swoosh? The golden
arches of McDonalds? Coca-Cola and its Marilyn Monroe-shaped
bottles? Yes, these are all examples of recognisable brands - but
these days, there's a new brand about: you.
Personal branding takes an individual and makes them instantly recognisable: like a corporate brand, it packages you. From your career, to your appearance, to your accent - it all becomes a part of your personal brand.
It may sound tawdry, but when it comes to getting yourself noticed, personal branding makes sense. It's a way of getting yourself, your skills and ultimately, your business noticed by the wider world.
A recent New York Times piece showed everyone is at it. From Columbia University, which now teaches its students how to brand themselves, to training firms in India and China and even big business such as Microsoft and PricewaterhouseCoopers, everyone is catching on.
How to create the perfect one-man brand? According to US author and personal branding expert Gary Vaynerchuk, it's about being yourself. There is 'opportunity in transparency', so don't try to construct anything new - just get out there and start shouting about yourself.
1. Use your passion
In his book 'Crush It! Why now is the time to cash in on your passion', Vaynerchuk describes how he made money out of his passion: wine. He started WineLibrary.tv, a video blog about wine, in 2005. Thanks to his sense of humour, easy style and simple descriptions of flavours, Vaynerchuk built up thousands of followers, turning his New Jersey-based shop, Wine Library, into a website with an international following - and turning himself into an international brand in the process.
2. Define your brand
Just as you'd spend time defining a business' brand, make sure you define your personal brand. Think about what you do. Sum up your vision (your mission statement to the outside world) and your purpose (what you think you really do). Neither should be longer than five words. Think about Starbucks: famously, it purports not to sell coffee, but to sell the experience. Ask yourself what you offer.
3. Create a marketing plan
Again - no business would just launch into a marketing campaign without planning it first. Do some market research: what are your competitors like? What could your market reach be like? How do you plan to get your word out there? Set yourself goals - x number of new Twitter followers each month, for example.
4. View social media as a permanent marketing campaign
What attracts consumers to marketing campaigns? Value - so start delivering. Stop using Twitter to tell people what colour socks you are wearing, and instead use it to tweet links to blogs, news stories and websites you know your followers will find interesting. That said, don't be dull - keep things personal. The odd sock comment or amusing Twitpic will make your followers feel closer to you. Remember: it's easier to trust individuals than faceless companies.
5. Live your brand
"Whether you know it or not... everybody today is in the branding and customer service business," Vaynerchuk told Entrepreneur magazine. That means whether you're selling LED lighting or running a web design firm, satisfied customers are your ultimate goal, and living your brand is the best way to know your customer. Most of it is obvious: if you're selling organic baby-food, it's probably best not to swear profusely on Twitter, while the owner of a PR company should try to avoid criticising her clients on Facebook. Authenticity and transparency are the key words when it comes to personal branding.
6. Start measuring your return on investment (ROI)
If you're using social media as a stepping stone, chances are your major investment is time - but if you're not getting as much out of it as you could be, it's time to adopt a new strategy. Come up with metrics by with you could be measuring it (number of retweets, for example, or number of comments on your blog) and set targets.
7. Make yourself memorable.
We all think popstars give their children silly names - but at least Apple, Peaches and Trixibelle will be memorable to their peers. Lamentably, not everyone is blessed with a jazzy name - so find something else to set yourself apart. This doesn't mean you need to pull a Lady GaGa: Carsonified founder Ryan Carson has made himself instantly recognisable in the tech scene by always wearing a trilby.Whether it's a pair of glasses or a beard, find some way for people to recognise you.
8. Get your word out
Public speaking can be nervewracking, but try to do it often and you will position yourself as an expert in your field perfect for building your personal brand. To get gigs, identify your area of expertise and blog, tweet and discuss it frequently. Progress to pitching articles or guest blogs on the subjects for websites or magazines, making sure your website or blog is attributed at the end of each article. When you attend conferences, try to ask informed questions, and forge contacts with the conferences' organisers - you never know, they might want you for the nextone.
9. Be nice to everyone.
Newspepper founder Hermione Way says she sees everyone as a potential contact - which means she treats everyone as though she's going to do business with them. Take the time to listen to feedback and give time to people, and they're far more likely to give time back - and recommend you to others. It's surprising how far a bit of generosity can take you.
Jamie Oliver has got personal branding off to a fine art - his cheery chappie demeanour, Essex-boy lingo and look of deep concern has taken him from 23-year-old sous chef to international health crusader in just a few years. Jamie's lesson is simple: find a cause, and your brand will reap the benefits.
The Bow Tie Cigars founder named his business after his favourite accessory - and he hasn't looked back. Each cigar he produces has a different coloured band around it, cashing in on basic psychology. "People remember two things: shape and colour," he told Entrepreneur magazine. And people will never fail to associate the man who wears bow ties with their favourite cigars.
Outspoken and to-the-point; networking expert Brad Burton's books, talks and networking company all capitalise on his no-nonsense approach to business. His book, 'Get off your arse', uses examples from Burton's own experiences to reinforce its plain-speaking message that anyone can run a business - a message Burton's loyal army of 'Bradfans' take very much to heart.
Ling Valentine's car leasing website, Ling's Cars, is something of a point of conflict among internet users: covered in flashing text, moving gifs and cheap stock images, it should be the sort of site you close as soon as it opens. But, plastered as it is with dozens of images of Valentine herself, complete with her catchphrase, 'Wah!', it's really rather endearing. From its shouty price cuts to odd additions such as 'spider food' for Google's spiders, Valentine's personality is completely encapsulated by the website, which has in turn gained her a huge amount of notoriety.
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