If you read my blog regularly, you'll know I often write about branding, not only for companies but also for people. Personal branding means more today than it ever has; image is everything. For me, a person's brand is about authenticity. One of the first blogs I ever wrote was about the "Five I Ams", which help you define your brand. The premise was to list five ways of describing yourself, which sounded easy enough, but it was one of the first times I ever stopped to think, how do I define myself?
There are a lot of people who don't know how to define themselves or have a clear personal brand. Maybe they don't know what their brand is yet. Where do you even start looking? And how do you decide upon a personal brand anyway? What factors go into figuring it out and then living it authentically?
Here's what having a personal brand means to me and how you can find your own:
It's when WHO you are becomes WHAT you are.
A brand helps me define who I am, always. It helps you set parameters for yourself in a good way. I believe consistency builds awareness in defining who you are and it also helps you acknowledge when you're evolving as a person. Having a brand that evolves with you is key. A personal brand defines you and it is what makes you unique, a leader in your own life, not a follower. And what makes you unique is not just what you do for a career but all of your interests around it. It's what makes you tick. For me, I care about people, I believe in love. I am a supporter of women. I like the colour black and am unapologetic about it. I am interested in art, I am philanthropic, I believe in mentorship and encouraging people to be the BEST they can be. All this and more makes up the brand that is me.
Your true brand develops organically, but social media lends a hand.
I feel that social media encourages brand development. It's a great way to refine and define your brand, and how you present yourself to the world. Doesn't everyone project a better version of themselves when they think someone is watching? Social media removes the distinction between being "on" and "off". You no longer only want to be that fabulous person when you go out. Nowadays, people are injecting their "public" brand persona into their private lives and taking photos to prove it! But social media can also overwhelm you when you're still trying to figure out your brand. You can either pay attention to all those people that are building their brands and try to copy it or you can focus on yourself and what sets YOU apart. Lead or follow -- it's a choice. Being authentic is key, and you'll find that what comes organically to you, those things you don't have to force, are the best inspiration to start shaping your own brand. Be unique and true to yourself and likeminded individuals will find you.
Consistency is key.
Think of some of the big name corporate and celebrity brands out there: Nike, Coca-Cola, Lululemon, Drake, Beyoncé, Gwyneth Paltrow. All of them remain consistent with their brands across everything they do. Sure they have branding specialists to help them, but here are some tips to keep you on track. The way you dress, where you live, HOW you live, how you decorate, where you work, what you do for fun, where you go out, how you spend your free time, all of these parts work together to make the whole brand that is YOU. Take your authenticity and transfer it to all areas in your life: are you an artsy type who loves nature? Why not look for a job in a cultural industry and move to a leafier neighbourhood? Wear handmade artisanal jewellery crafted from organic materials, shop local, volunteer to plant trees in the community. Take those qualities that make up who you are, what your "Five I Ams" are, and then apply them to everything you do. It's funny how freeing putting restrictions on yourself can actually be. It's about streamlining and curating your life.
Look for role models who are doing it well.
Without copying someone else entirely, look at the public figures you admire and see how they shape their brand and how they carry it through their work and life. What elements would you like to emulate? What are their unique qualities and what are yours? How has their brand helped them in their career and personal relationships and how has it hindered them? What do you want YOUR brand to do for you? What are you willing to do to successfully shape your brand? What are you realistically capable of doing? Would you compromise on certain things? As an example, I used to feel pressure to wear colour and then one day I admitted to myself that I don't like colour but I LOVE black, so wearing black became my thing.
You have to work to maintain your brand.
In my experience, your personal brand is shaped by what happens to you as you mature, begin to lay down roots, gain responsibilities and refine your tastes, but it is also something you actively CHOOSE to be. You need to envision the brand you want to be and continually work hard towards it. A brand doesn't just happen for a company or a person. You need to put the effort in to become the person you want to be, just like you do to have the career you want to have. And if you make mistakes, learn from them and move forward into an even better you. I try my best to always be mindful of the responsibility I have towards being the person I am.
Overall, I truly believe that the key to defining your personal brand is determining who you are, what sets you apart. Ask yourself what you want people around you to remember about you and what are you going to do to change the world? Enter into finding your brand with a genuine goal, a purpose for creating a brand and an authentic passion for living it everyday, in every way!
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