We usually associate brands with companies and products – particularly with big household names like Apple or Microsoft Word. But nowadays, anything can be a brand. Even as an individual, you have a personal brand. How should you deal with that?
Business branding is about creating a comprehensive message for your company and product or service, using names, logos, slogans, copy and other collateral. Branding actively creates the perception you hope consumers will have through coming into contact with your company, product or service.
Personal branding makes some people uncomfortable because it evokes an impression of falseness. If people spend time thinking about how they want to come across, surely that means they are being artificial rather than authentic? They might be too focused on creating the ‘right’ impression rather than just being themselves?
Personal branding is one small but necessary facet when it comes to constructing a solid and successful company brand. Whilst a CEO is not the poster child for the company, they are a linchpin and direct representative of the business so their personal brand should support the business while being completely authentic to themselves.
The notion that personal branding is for celebrities and major companies, actors, musicians, and athletes, and the big business characters like Steve Jobs is quite wrong. The world has changed. Nowadays we should all build our personal brands. Anyone willing to put in the time, and effort to build their niche can become a ‘thought leader’.
This will attract opportunities for the business they are associated with.
In the 21st century, being a CEO means building a brand that people believe in. That they really care about.
‘Personal branding’ is about establishing and then promoting what you stand for. Your personal brand is the unique combination of skills and experiences that make you YOU. Effective personal branding will differentiate you from other professionals in your field.
If you don’t take control of your personal brand you are missing out on opportunities. Founders of businesses are effectively opting to be a faceless organisation if they don’t develop their own separate brand. In a world that wants to know who is behind a brand, where people buy from people, this tendency to hide behind the business brand should be avoided.
It’s a natural tendency because many entrepreneurs are introverts at heart and want to build their businesses. So they wonder why they should focus attention on themselves.
How to tie in a personal brand with the business and whether there is a strong reason to opt for one approach rather than another are common questions many founders wonder about.
Whether the personal brand of the owner of the business is to be the main brand or just a personal brand that sits alongside the business brand doesn’t alter the fact that you need both brands to be out there.
It’s much easier to just have one brand obviously, such as Tony Robbins who is the main brand. Assuming yours is not a Tony Robbins style business, then you should look to entrepreneurs like Elon Musk to see how they use their personal brand.
Elon Musk promotes his personal brand separately to that of his business. Inevitably his brand impacts that of his business even though the business has its own separate identity and name.
The world's top CEOs construct online brands that embody their business philosophies. Their strategies can be easily applied to any emerging brand leader.
Take Mark Zuckerberg as an example. He has more than 80 million followers on his Facebook page where he talks about his latest travels, diseases he's trying to cure and his political opinions such as freedom of speech.
Branson is described on his own Facebook page as "a tie-loathing adventurer, philanthropist and troublemaker, who believes in turning ideas into reality,"
Bill Gates’ philanthropy is a trait that colours his personal branding in a very distinct way. Gates' commitment to philanthropy is undeniably his brand's defining trait and one that is reflected in his content, visuals, and social media strategy.
While you want to build a business, you also want your audience to connect to you. You want people to care about your story. A personal brand isn’t about making sales. It’s about connecting with people and getting them to engage with your vision. Your story becomes a part of their story, and vice versa. And when that happens, your personal brand becomes even more powerful.
Your brand isn’t something that just appears as a result of your work in your business. It’s something that you have to actively craft and maintain. That means you have to put the hours into building it.
When you have a personal brand, you become an influencer. People connect to you on an emotional level. That means your emotions can influence theirs.
Building a personal brand is all about creating emotional connections between you and your audience. Always consider the emotional impact of your message before you show it to the world.
A question that often comes up for founders is how to build their business and product brand alongside their personal brand if their resources are limited. Which should they prioritise?
Whether you’re building a business to exit, or a lifestyle business in which you will work till you drop, if your resources are limited focus on building your personal brand.
That’s because people buy from people. They prefer to follow people rather than logos. As I pointed out years ago in my book Legally Branded, back in 2012, people’s personal profiles generally have more followers than their business profiles.
If you decide that what you want to do is to build your business name recognition with a view to one day selling the business then it may seem at odds with this aim to focus on building your personal brand. However, that is what you would do well to do. Until you have the resources to maintain two separate profiles independently of one another, then build your personal brand as a priority. A compromise is to set up an account for your business and use it for yourself personally, by making it clear that you’re representing your business. Then you can focus your energies on building your personal brand while still supporting your business.
For example, you would use your own photo rather than your logo. And you would describe yourself, for example, in my case, as Shireen Smith of Azrights. So, you are effectively representing your business brand too.
I used this approach on Twitter for a few years and once I’d built up a following of nearly 5000 I then set up a personal account and announced to my followers that henceforth I would tweet in my personal capacity over at Shireen Smith and that the current account they were following would henceforth be the Azrights business account. I then used a logo instead of a picture of myself for the Azrights profile, and some of the followers followed me on my personal account.
I’m not aiming to create a business to exit so the separate identities I’ve created for my business and personal brand are good enough for me. I put the accent on building my personal brand now while maintaining some presence for the business name. To this day the business account on Twitter has a greater number of followers than my personal account. So, it’s a solid strategy for any platform you’re using to focus your energies in this way and then split out the identities later when you have more resources.
If you have any questions about building your business or personal brand, this is something I am well placed to assist with. Just sign up to the Brand Tuned webinar series to find out more.
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