Intentional Personal Branding

Whether you are a stay at home mom or the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation you have a personal brand.  Read that again. It says, “you have a personal brand.” That’s intentional. Too often we read that you need a personal brand. The assumption is that you only have a personal brand if you put the time and energy into creating it.  But that assumption is wrong.  

Whether you put work into it or not, you have a personal brand.  Whether you have given it a second thought you have a personal brand.

Founder and creator of Amazon, Jeff Bezos defines personal brand as being “what people say about you when you are not in the room.”  I love this definition because it makes clear that you have a personal brand whether you want one or not.

Consider the people in your life:  

  • The friend whose daughter goes to school with yours who is a wealth of information.  She is the one you call when you can’t find the permission slip you know your child gave you two weeks ago.  She not only turned hers in, she kept a pdf of the form for just this sort of eventuality.

  • The CEO, who works 19 hour days, never takes a vacation and is happy to explain the concept of hustle to everybody he encounters.  

  • How about your Facebook friend you had to block because the only time he stops talking about politics is to post a photo of the “fat chick” sitting across from him at the bar.

All of these friends and acquaintances have a personal brand.  They may not understand that. They probably aren’t cultivating it.  But they have one nonetheless.

Why Your Personal Brand Matters

Your personal brand matters.  I believe this so fully that I actively teach my children about cultivating a personal brand.  Not only what they don’t want to post on social media but what it is they want people to say about them when they aren’t in the room.

What do you want people to say about you? Do you want them to believe you are caring, passionate, intelligent, or creative?  Why does this matter to you?  

Although there are days on which we feel like we will never see another human being again, the truth is that we are more social now than ever before.  Not only does it matter how our work colleagues, church members or neighbors see us, it matters how we are seen on social media, in the press and beyond.  Our reputations have a much wider reach.  

You may have had the talk with your teens about not posting photos of themselves at parties, about not taking inappropriate selfies, or about protecting their online privacy.  But have you considered your own online reputation. When you comment politically, post a negative post about your job or neighbor or take a stance on a charity are you creating the impression that will help you get that next job, be chosen for the local charity’s board or invited to the neighborhood Labor Day gathering?

Intentional Personal Branding

As true as it is that everybody has a personal brand, it is equally true that everyone should cultivate their personal brand. Creating the personal brand you want starts with taking the time to get to know yourself.  

Core Values

Do you know your core values?  If not, don’t worry. Most people don’t.  We are so busy doing that we don’t take the time to stop long enough to consider the question. Consider this list of core values.  It’s easy to go down the list and think, yes, accountability is important to me, but so are courage, confidence and harmony.  And wait, what about security, optimism and wealth?

How do you narrow them down?

Confession:  I wrote a blog on the mental side of running for 10 years.  I have spoken on branding and marketing for the past 5 years and still, in January, as I was reading Brene Brown’s Dare To Lead, I realized I had never stopped long enough to answer that question. The good news is that when I took the time to stop and think about it, the answer came easily. I value gratitude and authenticity over all else.  These two values run through everything I do and fortunately, they are positive.  

Your core values should run through everything you do in life, but this is not always the case.  Often times, because we don’t know our core values we go against them. We say we value family and God over all else but we work 16 hour days and volunteer several times a month.  How much time does that leave us to pay attention to our family and God. When we take the time to understand our values, we may find that while family and God are important to us, our true core values center around security and financial stability. 

Core values come from our core.  When you trace your values back, you will likely find they have been a part of everything you have done since you were a child.

For me, growing up in a trailer in North Carolina, I clung to gratitude because it was in being grateful for what I had that I found joy in life.  Not focusing on the negative allowed me to move outside of a difficult life. Authenticity can also be traced back to my childhood. My aunts were kind not just to their family and friends but to everybody they met.  They were the same person in private as they were in public. My mother was loved in our community. She put on a great face at church and school. But at home she was angry and mean. The lie that was my family life was incredibly hard for me.  Always being myself is a core value that runs deeper than almost anything else in my life. 

Real Life Versus Virtual Life

A few years back I listened to a podcast in which the host spoke about your online avatar.  He suggested that who you are online is not who you are in real life. Although, I see this on a regular basis, I believe that living a real life versus a virtual life is equal to living two lives.  

When we are living our true core values it doesn’t work to live two lives.  This doesn’t mean you have to share everything online but it does mean that the values that run through one will run through the other.  

I came across a great example of this recently.  An attorney friend has created an online personal brand as a specialist in law.  But he also posts about music on a regular basis. It is clear when reading his posts that these are two major areas of his life.  But equally clear is that humility and quality work are core values for him. This became even more clear to me when I discovered that this friend is not only a sought-after attorney but an accomplished musician as well.  Although he chooses what to share online, he allows his values to shine through. 

What’s next?

So, what’s next?  How do you cultivate your personal brand so that you have more control over what people say about you when you are not in the room?

  1. Take stock - You already have a personal brand?  What is it? Taking the time to look at what you say in public, how you act when you are out with friends, and what you are posting online, will help you discover what your personal brand is.  Based on what you find, consider how others might perceive you? Is this how you want to be seen?

  2. Uncover your core values - This will be easier than you think.  Consider your conversations with friends, consider the incidents that have upset you recently, think about what is truly important to you in life and why.  As you look at these things your core values will probably reveal themselves.  

  3. Consider your core values daily - If you have not been living your life with your core values at the top of mind, this part will be difficult. You will have to question your actions.  Does this align with my core values? It’s easiest to start with your social media platforms. Before posting anything, make sure it aligns with what you want people to say about you.  Make sure it is something you would be happy for a future employer or even a future spouse to see.

First Impressions

In today’s world of social media, the old saying, “You only have one chance at a first impression,” no longer applies.  You now have the opportunity to make an impression on a daily or even hourly basis. Because of this you can make up for those “fat chick” posts, you can start posting something more aligned with what you care about, and you can influence the things people say about you when you are not in the room.