Part 1: The Fundamental Elements Of Personal Branding


Whether you plan to start blogging about your daily life or building your own media company, if your goal is to become a household name then you need to define your personal brand, and it’s not enough to stop there. In today's hyper-competitive market, where people ask for your Instagram handle instead of your resume, being able to clearly communicate your brand on social platforms isn’t an option, it’s a requirement. On the outset this may seem complex and difficult to define, with no clear starting point; but the fundamental elements of building a personal brand are no different than those of building any other business, except this time you are the product or the service. So let’s leverage those fundamentals as the starting point, and use them to build your brand.

1) Define your vision: Who/what are you trying to become

Just like any organization, you have to start with clearly defining your vision: who/what are you trying to become? What is your goal in 3, 5, 10 years? Where is this brand taking you? These answers will serve as the foundation for everything that you are building and as a constant reference point for decision making to keep you in line with your path. For this step, be completely honest with yourself and as eager as possible, remove any constraints and paint the ideal ending to your story. Remember that building your personal brand is also, for many of you, building your career, so it should be focused around your passion and what will make you happy. If you are not truly passionate about what you are building and what you are trying to become then it will be difficult for your message and image to be believed by others. 

2) What is your Personal competitive advantage?

This is critical. How are you going to compete in that space? What makes you different? What is no one else doing that you can do?  Leverage what is unique about you that will allow you to stand out amongst others in your space. Think of this in terms of skill sets, resources, or access to something that an audience would be interested in. An interesting angle to your story. But it’s not enough just to standout now. Your competitive advantage has to be something sustainable, something that you can use to build your brand over the long-run. 

Let’s walk through an example.

Example: Say you are passionate about personal styling, your vision is to build a strong brand as a personal stylist.  That is an extremely competitive space, what can you offer over and above what other personal stylists are offering? What is your unique value proposition? Let’s say you went to school for fashion design, but on the side spent the past five years working at Nike. So not only do you have a vision for style, but you are an expert on how to pair luxury with street wear. This is unique and gives you an advantage over other stylists. This is your competitive angle, this is how you will stand out.  

3) Define Your Target Audience

Whether you are trying to get people to buy things from you or simply to follow you, you need to define who it is that would see the value in what you are offering. Figure out what motivates this audience- what brands/people/icons they are influenced by, and where you fit into that ecosystem. For example, are you competing with the brands that they like or are you showing them how to wear and use the brands they like? Why are they turning to your page? When we apply this concept to social media we are thinking in terms of images and followers. Your images should be reinforcing your competitive advantage, consistently curating your experience, knowledge, and stand out factor for this audience. Your audience needs to know that you are speaking to them. 

Cater to the group that will help you go viral. Once you have secured your market and your offering you can work on expanding what is already working.

4) Own your space

Don’t just be in a space, own it. Become an expert in the field that your brand is about. Continuously read and learn about your passion. The top designers, executives, magazine editors, are constantly learning, studying, reviewing material, and reading up on icons and influencers. Aside from the fact that it should excite you to always be finding new sources of inspirations in your field, this is also a mandatory due diligence step. If you want to have a reputation in something you have to know what you are talking about. If this step seems like a chore to you then you are likely not being honest with yourself about what you are trying to become, or why you want to become it. 

5) Showcase your credibility 

This is where your platforms come in. Be in all the places that your target market would expect to find you, and where you can showcase your value offering. There are a few key factors when it comes to showcasing credibility:

  •  Make sure what you are displaying is actually valuable, credible content that is going to build your brand.  Stay consistent with your message, and always think about how each piece of content that you post adds value for your audience. Think of your platforms as your resume; your content illustrates why you should get the job. 
  •  Don’t just think in terms of social media. Instagram is a platform to connect you with your audience. Social platforms change. Build branding locations that you can control (i.e., websites, podcasts, vlogs).
  • Be physically present too! Attend trade-shows, host seminars, set up coffee chats- start building a reputation and connection points in your industry.
  •  Claim a name. In order to build traction there needs to be consistency in what people know you as. Pick a name/logo that you can reinforce across all your platforms. This could be your given name, or perhaps a catchy pseudo name or phrase (if it’s on brand). But secure all the domains with this name (websites, email, social media). 

6) Always stay true to your destination 

Use your vision as your sounding board. From the types of projects that you take on to the images that you post, continually ask yourself, “is this consistent with where I am trying to go?” Be patient, and stay dedicated to the game. Building a brand takes time, but it will be worth it once you get there. 

Next week we will look at adding in the technical side of personal branding:

  •  How to build a good website

  • What makes a successful social media page

  • Should you have a logo

  •  When to invest in paid marketing and promotion

  • Etc.,

And hear advice from 10 of Instagram’s fastest growing accounts!

Yours truly,