Today people are looking for more control over their lives. Creating a truly unique asset that can be branded and marketed becomes essential. What we are here to discuss and decode is how does one unlock this ability. It is through a process called personal branding, first defined by Tom Peters in his article “The Brand Called You” in 1997. We will unlock some of that mystery in the following paper. Remember, this is a framework and starting point, each individual is different. There is no magic bullet that will allow for duplication. While reading, realize that what each individual draws out of this article is unique to them. If this is something that sparks interest join us on the journey as we define what personal branding means and then layout the beginning steps to start the process.
The Definition of Personal Branding
Personal branding can be defined in many different ways. The reason for this is even among experts there is not truly a one definition fits all. So looking at the definition requires more than just a simple search on the word. Googling personal branding will bring you to the definition in Wikipedia. According to it and those editing it, personal branding is defined as, “the process whereby people and their careers are marked as brands. It has been noted that while previous self-help management techniques were about self- improvement , the personal branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self- packaging . ” Yet another way people have defined personal branding is to look at it as an extension of the social networking craze, making it as technology based and treating it like internet marketing. However, both of those definitions have short comings based on the fact that they ignore aspects of the process that are keys to personal branding. First they ignore the fact that there is more to personal branding than just “self-packaging”, and it discounts the “self-improvement” part. Secondly personal branding did not start with the advent of the internet. There is a strong history of personal branding where people like JC Penny, Sears and Roebuck or Deloitte and Touché used personal branding to launch vast empires. Therefore, I offer my definition of personal branding as follows:
“The creation of an asset that pertains to a particular person or individual; this includes but is not limited to the body, clothing, appearance and knowledge contained within, leading to an indelible impression that is uniquely distinguishable.”
This definition allows for each individual to have a chance of becoming and creating their own personal brand, without believing that packaging alone or presentation alone makes the brand. Of course defining personal branding is just a starting point for once the term has been defined there must be steps that can be taken to start the process.
Steps to Starting Your Personal Brand
Step 1: Get to know yourself.
This step is the foundation of it all. As has been stated by many if one is “not sure of one’s self how can they be sure of anything.” To attempt to start a personal brand before one becomes sure of who they are is virtually impossible. So a careful examination of the individual’s desires and dreams is tantamount to launching a successful personal brand. There is a key reason for this. The person branding themselves must decide what they love. By getting to know themselves they become aware of what topic, hobby or area they love the most. This directly impacts the next step.
Step 2: Become an expert at what you love.
Does this mean that there is only one expert in that topic or area, more than likely not. That actually makes one work harder to improve. This also means research and a deeper understanding on this topic or area. It will mean keeping up with the changes, so a continuing education in this topic or area as well. This is where one must concentrate on changing behaviors and modifying how they act to fit this new part of life. Remember that keeping the brand fresh is an important key in making the brand desirable. That can only be done if the brand is continually putting out new information and a desirable message.
Step 3: Figure out who benefits the most from this brand.
This is not an easy step, and the true fact is that some of the largest and most well known brands have made horrible gaffs in this area (see example 1 below). Knowing the base of the brand’s market allows the brand to craft a solid message that targets that market specifically. When working with companies, marketing firms generally do thousands and sometimes millions of dollars worth of research to find a market. However, with each of the personal brands mentioned above they started out with a simple message, because there was only one person to create, mold and execute the message. This step is not one to take lightly however as inconsistency with the message can cost credibility with a new brand and set an established brand back significantly.
Step 4: Find the best way to get out the message.
This is the area that people confuse with internet marketing. It is the most misunderstood area of personal branding. Plastering the information all over the place is not an effective way to deliver a message. That will cost the brand control over the message and make it harder to improve and maximize. Realize that rules exist in every area and they are there for a reason. Plenty of people will tell you how to bend the rules, change the rules and even in some cases break the rules but unfortunately as with everything when the rules are broken the effect can be devastating. When looking at this step it is imperative that a plan is laid out and a program followed that will allow for a person to fully control their message. The last thing that any brand wants is someone else controlling what others see with their brand. (See Example 2).
Step 5: Make the message consistent at all times.
As I ended the last step so I begin with the truest example of why execution is so vital. The brand message must be consistent. This means management of the brand message must become habitual and constant. It is not good enough to do the first four steps and put something out there to establish a personal brand and then forget about it. There are plenty of people that do just that and they are not establishing a personal brand, they are just posting information. Establishing a personal brand means that one is watching not only what is put out, but also what people are looking at and watching when it comes to that brand. There are free tools available to help one accomplish just that and when the brand is being created researching what tools will be the most effective for that brand is part of the plan and program that must be laid out.
As one can see, establishing a personal brand is not something that is done in a few minutes of time on the computer while connected to the internet. In fact of the five steps above only one has to do with the internet at all, and that is not the case if one chooses to use traditional media as the best way to put out their message.
By following these steps and keeping the definition above in mind any individual can begin the process of setting up a personal brand. The fact that it is not as easy as one might make it look should not be a barrier for someone if this is what they truly want to do. In fact, the point that it is harder than it seems should should make everyone a little more convinced this is something worth doing. Remember that the only barrier to making an effective personal brand around any person is the limitations that they put on their own individuality. So take pride in your individuality, discover what makes you unique and begin your path towards a personal brand.
Example 1: The New Coke Incident
“In April 1985, the management of the Coca-Cola Company announced its decision to change the flavor of the company flagship brand. This decision was made based on the fact that Pepsi consumer research discovered in blind taste tests that a majority of consumers preferred the taste of Pepsi to that of Coke. The “Pepsi Challenge” campaign made this public knowledge and Coke executives quickly moved to change America’s top brand. New Coke came in a new can, with updated red and silver graphics replacing the traditional red and white look Although taste tests of the New Coke had shown that majority of those tested preferred the new product, these tests could not gauge the emotional appeal of the “old” Coke. In other words, consumers want their cake and eat it too. A large public outcry ensued during the 79 days when old Coke was no longer on the shelves. Coca-Cola quickly reintroduced the “old” Coke when they realized market share was falling and christened it Classic Coke. ”
This article is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Coke
Example 2: The Michael Phelps Incident
This example played out in public with a well known public figure who if needed could have had anyone working with him to keep something like this from happening. In early 2009 a story broke in Britain published in the News of the World. They had in their possession a picture that showed the newest American hero Michael Phelps using a bong. This according to the Wikipedia article and the News of the World websites, linked at the end of the example. An occurrence like this is an example of what can happen when someone else is controlling the message of a personal brand. Michael Phelps and his winning attitude and down home personality have helped make him an incredible spokes person for numerous products. This was all backed up by his internet sites and the fans sites that were all over the internet. Yet, all it took was one picture to provide a major setback and ultimately lead to suspensions from US Swimming for 3 months and Kellogg’s not renewing his endorsement deals.
Reference Sources: http://www.newsoftheworld.co.uk/ .