7 Steps to Building a Recognized Personal Brand

The concept of building a brand is not new. While we normally think of brands as companies or products, people are brands, too. In fact, you've been cultivating your personal brand since childhood in the form of word-of-mouth reputation and your digital footprint.
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Notepad with Personal Branding on office wooden table.
Notepad with Personal Branding on office wooden table.

The concept of building a brand is not new. While we normally think of brands as companies or products, people are brands, too. In fact, you've been cultivating your personal brand since childhood in the form of word-of-mouth reputation and your digital footprint. Today, the stakes are higher than ever: when people make incorrect assumptions about who you are,it impacts the sales of your products, services, and opportunities for career advancement.

In today's hyper-connected world, creating a personal brand means so much more than redesigning your website. Whether you realize it or not, a new version of your brand is emerging on the social web, shaped by online reviews, peer referrals, conversations on social networks and the content consumed by your socially-connected audience.

Your personal brand is an extension of the reputation and relationships you have built over time. This includes your conversations, daily actions and interactions, and of course, all of the special sauce that makes you, well... you.

So how do you use these elements to build a personal brand that gets recognition, builds trust and accelerates your professional success? Here are 7 tips to help you build a recognized personal brand that fast tracks your professional and personal goals.

1. Define What Makes You Special
Knowing who you are and what you represent is essential to crafting a more resonant brand image. You can't be everything to all people.

Your brand is a signature, relaying the special skills, perspective and insight that make you unique.

Whether you are a looking to land your next job, get more customers for your current company, or and launch an altogether new endeavor, controlling your brand perception is crucial for growth.

You can start to hone your personal brand by asking yourself a few questions:

What's your brand story?

What makes you different?

What is your purpose?

Who is your ideal audience?

How do you add value to your audience?

What's the best way to communicate with your audience?

While these questions may seem simple on the surface, Fortune 500 companies routinely pay consultants thousands of dollars to help answer them. If you're willing to do the work, however, you don't have to hire an expert to achieve the same results.

2. Turn your website into a platform
Though you may have a long list of online marketing tactics and channels, your ultimate goal is to draw prospects to your home on the web. A good website will help you establish credibility. With it, you can showcase your unique talents and provide insight into who you are, what you are passionate about, and what niche or group you serve best.

Think of your website as a hub for all that you are doing, both offline and online. Make it the platform for your marketing, newsletter, social media, email, and any other location where you want your audience to find and connect with you.

You need to ensure that your website not only communicates your brand effectively and distinctively, but also that it serves as a 24/7 representative for your brand, your most powerful advocate. Standing out on the web is about providing the reasons and the vehicle for your audience to connect with you.

3. Embrace blogging like it's new again
Everything you do online shapes your personal brand--and most, if not all, of your online communications connect back to your blog. While some personal branding tactics may be optional, blogging is not. Blogging is an imperative discipline of the personal brander.

While I can't tell you what to write, I can suggest some of the tactics that have helped me turn my ideas into effective blog posts.

- Start by answering questions --Above all, put helpfulness at the center of your narrative. Listen closely to questions prospects and customers ask, then answer them in your posts.

- Teach, don't preach --Avoid making your blog a heavy-handed attempt to advertise your products. Adopt an educator's mentality, and you'll win your reader's trust.

- Converse --Ask questions of your readers. Encourage feedback, counterpoints and criticism. Respond to comments as promptly as possible.

- Use images --Take advantage of the appeal of photos, illustrations, screenshots, charts and infographics to increase your stopping power and make the posts more attractive.

- Make it easy on the eyes --Use short paragraphs, line breaks, white space, subheads and lists to make your posts look more inviting.

4. Make friends with Social Media
As social networks continue to evolve, having an established social media presence that connects with your audience is crucial to building your personal brand.

The first step in finding your voice on social is simply participating in the conversation. Determine where you can share and discuss topics that matter most to your niche, business or potential clients.

To begin building a presence across various social networks, consider these tips:

- Identify where your audience spends their time. Is it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest? Once you know where they want to receive your message, you can begin to craft it.

- Determine what you'll talk about that will add value to the other participants on social.

- Follow, like or retweet the influencers that inspire you. This is a great way to elevate the conversation and create strategic relationships.

- Ask lots of questions! This is a quick and easy way to find out what matters most to those connecting with you online.

5. Build a tribe of email subscribers
While having a presence on social media is crucial today, the sheer number of interruptions, pitches, and advertisements we receive means it's also important to create a touchpoint with your contacts outside of social. That's where email comes in.

By creating a tribe of email subscribers, you get permission to communicate regularly with fans that have raised their hand. This is your tribe, the audience that will help you hone your message, share your content and promote what you have to offer.

If you haven't tapped into the power of a good email list, you're missing opportunities to engage with people who want to hear from you. Email works because it's personal. It's casual, friendly and a great way to build trust. Email is also direct, cutting out the middleman and ensuring your message gets delivered right to your audience. Most importantly, it works on every device, and almost everyone has an email account.

6. Offer something of value
As you build an email list of people interested in your message, one of your first challenges is to grow that list--and in doing so, expand your reach and influence.

An effective strategy for accomplishing this is to offer your readers value-added content for a small price: their email address. Digital markers often call this offer a "lead magnet." You're probably familiar with this powerful give-to-get strategy.

You can choose from a wide variety of offers. Aim to develop something that helps your audience solve a problem while positioning yourself as an authority on the topic. When creating your first free offer, consider addressing common questions in the form of an ebook,white paper, resource guide, mini-course, email series, or research report. Alternatively, you may want to consider a shorter piece you can put together in short order, such as a tip sheet, checklist or template.

Finally, if you have the skills (or resources), consider richer media formats: A video or video series, an audio recording or podcast, a webinar or a slideshow presentation.

7. Bring your authenticity with you
Does anyone like a fake? Even the question sounds silly to ask. Of course we don't like phonies. The fact is, the more virtual our lives get, the more we hunger for something genuine. Today's consumers don't just want to purchase a product or a service: they want that product to have a soul. A soul that is honest, transparent and, in a word, authentic.

At its core, being authentic means staying true to who you are, what you do and who you serve. We're not talking about sharing every thought you've ever had:this is about connecting with people on a human level, as you would with someone you care about.

Of course, marketing by nature isn't always authentic. We all have a tendency to position ourselves in the best light, omitting any details that may be bad for our image. Yet, with unprecedented access to the internet and social media, the discovery of untruths is just a Google search and tweet away.

Whenever you broadcast yourself and your brand to the world, check your authenticity by asking these questions.

Am I Being Real?
Am I Being Charitable?
Am I Being Consistent?
Am I Being Truthful?
Am I Being Responsive?
Am I Being Respectful?
Am I Being Accountable?
Am I Being Honest?
Am I Being Appreciative?
Am I Being Thoughtful?

We all want to stand out, especially when building a personal brand. In this day and age, the best way to stand out is to be authentic. It's just a matter of finding that authenticity and using it to your advantage.

Whether you're just beginning your personal branding journey or are a seasoned pro, these 7 tips will help make your =brand shine. The process is as much about self-discovery as it is about communicating your special sauce and making yourself more marketable. The internet is a noisy place, so take control of your brand and your audience by being who no one else can be: you.

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