Three Keys You Need to Know About Personal Branding, But Probably Aren't Doing

Posted on January 9th 2010

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

There is an awful lot of conversation about personal branding these days — books, blogs, social media, webinars, conferences, etc. And a lot of what they all say is important.

I was talking with my friend Stephanie A. Lloyd about her 2010 plans the other day, and she was telling me some of her thinking about personal branding.

She helped boil down my thinking on personal branding to a mere three critical steps. And they aren't complicated, despite so many people making this process harder than it has to be. They are:

1. The need for FOCUS and CLARITY on your specialty. You cannot be all things to all people. You much be clear about the one thing you can do to serve and help people. You can't be known as a master of ten different things. A lot of people can't really tell you the one thing they do well, because they don't want to miss an opportunity by being too narrowly defined. Get over that fear. It will kill you.

2. The ability to clearly articulate what that is. You've heard people say that you should be able to describe your story in one sentence. As in, “FDR got us out of the Depression and helped win WWII.” If you cannot clearly articulate what your specialty or skill is, your personal brand will be muddled and confusing. You have to make it clear. You have to make it easy to understand. And if you have to explain in detail what you do, you've already lost.

3. Consistency delivering this well-articulated message both online and offline. Most people's problem? They aren't consistent in telling their story over and over. Or they say one thing on Twitter, and another thing at a Chamber mixer. Or explaining what you do in different ways, to different people. Or changing what you do again and again and again. I tell my political clients to stay on message. Same thing applies here.

The three concepts above aren't rocket science. So what's the hard part? Being disciplined enough to execute on these three points over time. If you can do that, you will be on the right path…and your personal brand will be one that resonates and helps you go-to-market with strength and clarity.

So ask yourself, “Am I really following these three key steps?” Be honest, and good luck. Got any other thoughts?


ToddSchnick1

Todd Schnick

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Comments

Hi Todd,

Love your article - am not to happy about your cartoon.  I have always told my daughters that they can't do any better than their best - hope they don't read your article and see the cartoon that says their best isn't good enough :) I particularly agree with your point about being clear, consistent and concise.  However for some small business owners, especially ones who offer solutions-oriented products or services, they have a hard time focusing in on what they do.  A typical response is "It is hard to identify the one thing we do because we do so many different things".  But as we know, they have to hone in on their offerings in order to be clear about their value proposition.  Thanks for sharing.

Hi Todd,

re: Julie's point about the difficulty solutions-oriented business owners have in nailing down the "one thing." There are two ways to handle this. First, there's the option to determine and then ask a couple of key questions to assess which of the many offerings are most relevant to the person with whom you are speaking. Then, tailor the message to fit the audience's interest. The second option is to figure out what the common denominator is across all of those many things that makes the company/individual unique. For example, at a networking event today a gentleman was listing off all of the services his lawn care business does. It was certainly a helpful list but he may have done better to simply say he is residential and commercial lawncare covering a specific region and then telling us something compelling that would make us choose him over other lawn care businesses. He might be faster, cheaper, higher quality, provide a special scheduling website for convenience? I know what he does and I did like the guy. But, I can't tell you why you should choose his business over someone else.

Todd, your steps about personal branding are directed at "independent" business people. The same advice should apply to people working inside of companies/corporations/organizations. A great way to avoid being arbitrarily "cut" when the downsizing-machine plows through the organization is to make sure as many people as possible know what you do and believe in the value that you bring to the organization. It's not a guarantee, but it's certainly a way to take control and protect your position.

 

--Nicole

BTW Julie--John Wooden would agree with your discomfort with the cartoon!
Thanks Nicole for the suggestions on how to help narrow down what a solutions-oriented business owner might be able to do to pinpoint exactly what his/her brand is. Another suggestion is to look at how their competitors are branding themselves.  Business owners know who their competition is and this is a great resource for suggestions.  I used this approach with a customer and it enabled us to come up with his tagline - a very specific one at that. It worked for me :).  So true about using the same personal branding techniques to help protect onesself within a corporation.
It's interesting that we live in an era where we have 11 words to describe one of the greatest presidents in our country's history because what he accomplished in 13 turbulent years has to be made easy to understand.