You may think that personal branding is something new. But it’s not. And you may think you don’t have a personal brand. But you do. You’ve just been calling it something else.
Your signature style, the first impression you always seem to make (good or bad), what you’re “known for,” are other ways you and people around you describe your personal brand. And intentionally, accidentally, or incrementally, it’s the personal brand you’ve been cultivating ever since you’ve made your entrance onto the stage (or stages) you’ve chosen: work, school, community – or the spotlight of your own creative business.
Subtle or bold, polarizing or completely plain vanilla, your personal brand is making itself known whether you like it or not. In fact, being completely plain vanilla is so extreme, one could argue it’s the hallmark of a personal brand in itself. “Oh that Kate, she’s so plain vanilla. But I love it. I love how what you see is just what you get, and I wish I could be so edited, I’m all over the place!”
How many of us just love taking personality tests: What’s your color? Your fascination formula? Your spirit animal? Your Mad Men character? Why do we love that “label” we get at the end so much? Maybe it’s because we love to identify with an uncomplicated idea, feeling, or message that sums up in a perfect little bow the oh-so-complicated people we are. And what is a brand if not a packaged look, feel and message that relays in an instant what it represents and the experience it will no doubt deliver?
The idea of a personal brand may feel flat, shallow or one dimensional… um, that’s because they’re supposed to be. Sort of. I’ve been talking about layers lately in my Letters for Creatives, and a personal brand is simply a layer of you. The outer one that lets people (i.e. peers, bosses, dream clients and dream followers) know what you’re about and what they can expect to learn and get to know from you if they care to venture past the outer layer.
An outer layer, unlike the name implies, isn’t just about appearances, though that can play a part. We’re creatives, and many of us visual creatives, so our own exterior styling can be an expression of our brand. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be how we tell stories, how we are great listeners, how we always cut to the chase with a zinger one-liner that leaves everyone laughing or cringing. But it’s hard to know what your outer layer is, when you, yourself inhabit a whole lifetime’s worth of layers under it.
Define your outer layer:
I love writing fill-in-the-blank statements to help make otherwise blurry ideas feel clear. Try filling in a few of these, and start to tap into your personal brand. You can fill them in a few ways, actually.
A. Fill these statements out one time based on your outward style.
B. Now fill these statements out a second time based on your conversation and words.
C. Okay now that you’ve touched on the personality aspect (remember, we’re not talking your inner values and core here, we’re talking outer-layer personality) fill these statements out a third time based on your work and/or business, and an easy way to do that is use your website or blog as a way to think about that outer layer:
1. First Impression. “People always think I’m ______ when they first meet me.”
2. Behind Your Back (In a Good Way). “I’ve heard people say that you can always count on me to ______________________.”
3. Apples to Oranges (Comparison). “I know that _______ wishes they could _____ like I do.”
4. Love You or Hate You. “But I also know that when I _______________, people either love it or hate it. That’s okay, it’s just part of my personal brand.”
5. Ah, The Twist (a.k.a. The Next Layer). But it always surprises people after they (meet me, work with me, get to know me) that I _____________________, and they really love/respect it.”
I know I said this was all outer layer stuff here. But the thing is, these are the kind of simple statements that start to hint at the deeper content and conversations that unfold along with the layers of you and your business. You can think of content as blogging or explaining what you do, but I would also challenge you to think of content as conversations: the working, learning, networking, selling, and sharing conversations that are constantly defining and redefining who you are – and what you do.
If you’d like to continue this “layered” conversation, heh, heh, you can always comment on any of the conversations we start here on Facebook.
The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.