One-man brand: personal branding for beginners
Worried you're not making the right impression? Emma Haslett finds out how personal branding can help.
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
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
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
How to create a personal brand
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Personal branding 101: those who have done it well
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
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