Chanel.  BMW.  FedEx.   What do these companies have in common?  They all have strong, memorable brands.   Their names immediately invoke certain images and impressions.

Think of Chanel and you think of luxury, class, and elegance.   Think of BMW and you think of precision engineering, quality, and expert handling.   Think of FedEx and you think of reliability and consistency.

Companies create strong brands to build a memorable presence, create consumer trust through consistency, and ensure enduring market value.

Similarly, many celebrities have built strong brands.   Kim Kardashian, Martha Stewart, and Michael Jordan are all great examples of people with memorable brands that have helped them gain more fame, wealth, and opportunity.

But if you’re not a company or celebrity, do you need to build a personal brand?

Well, if you think of your “brand” as the impression that people have of you, wouldn’t you want to be proactive in creating and controlling it?

The reality is, people will create their impression of you regardless of what you do, but if you want your image to be positive and stand out among the competition, you’ll need a strong personal brand.

Here are 5 steps to creating a strong personal brand:

1)  Decide what you want to be known for 

What do you want people to think of when they hear your name?  Think about what your values are, what makes you unique, and what would help you stand out among a crowd.  Brainstorm a list of adjectives or nouns that come to mind, and then pick the top 2-3 that really resonate with you and best describes how you want to be seen.    If you have trouble generating the right words, think about a few people you really admire, and what 3-5 qualities about them you most like and respect. 

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2)  Ensure your brand is clear to others and fits who you are

Once you’ve chosen a few words, ask for input about whether the words stir up the types of images you intend them to.    Words often mean different things to different people and you want to make sure that the image you want to convey has the intended positive impression.  For example, if you want to be seen as a team player and chose the word “collaborator”, you might find that some Europeans view this word somewhat negatively due to its connotation during World War 2.   So, it’s always a good idea to “road test” your brand a bit.

Also ask if the words seem authentic to who you are.  The last thing you want is a big disconnect between how you are trying to project yourself with your brand and how others tend to see you every day.

Not to say that you can’t have aspirations with your brand image, but you don’t want your personal brand to be so far off from your authentic self that people don’t trust the image you are portraying because it doesn’t “seem” like you.


3)  Reinforce your brand with your words and actions

Remember that what you say and do on a day-to-day basis has an impact on your brand.    Think about everything from what wording you use in emails/business cards/resumes/websites (if you have one) to what organizations you get involved with and what you say/do on social media.   Be consistent.  Avoid publishing/posting anything that doesn’t fit with your brand or detracts from your positive image.   Always assume that your online presence is discoverable by anyone searching to find out about you. 


4)  Invest in good marketing materials to support your brand

Think about business cards, email signatures, social media accounts, personal websites (if you have one), wardrobe choices, and even phone/ipad/laptop cases.  What colors, patterns, fonts are a good fit with your brand?  

Consider developing a logo for your name/initials that you can use for social communication and personal business cards.    

Even if you work for a company that provides you with business cards with their logo on it, you can still have personal brand business cards made for your private life.   You could use your own logo for personal emails, resume/CV headers, and social media, and the branding cards at social (non-work related) networking events.


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5)  Develop a way to introduce yourself in 15-seconds

Often described as an “elevator pitch”, this succinct statement describes who you are and how you spend your time.  This is key to being memorable and complimenting your brand.   For most people, this a quick 1-2 sentence explanation of what they do for a living.   But you could also have an elevator pitch for something you are doing in your personal life (like belonging to a certain type of club where members introduce themselves).   You may even decide that you have a self-introduction for your work life and a separate one for your personal life.

While there are a number of formats you can use to structure your statement, a common one is something like “ I am a __________ who helps/does ________.”  

For example, “I am a Finance manager with aerospace and entertainment industry experience that helps companies with their accounting and financial reporting.   Or “I am a Registered Nurse who works primarily in hospital settings, most often in Emergency Rooms or the ICU”.    Or “I am a 10-year Army Vet who works with several military-related charities, such as Wounded Warriors.”

Keep in mind that your self-introduction doesn’t necessarily have to use any of the exact branding words you brainstormed earlier.   The words are more of a guide to help you think about how you act, what you say, how to choose marketing materials, etc. 

But if you feel your words are vital to a specific message you want to convey, then it’s certainly ok to use them in an introduction.   Just ensure that adding the words doesn’t overload the statement to the point that it doesn’t sound natural or authentic.   

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