Personal branding is often misunderstood.
People have the misconception that personal branding entails, by definition, narcissistic and self-promoting behaviour.
This is not the case. In fact, successful personal branding is the product of precisely the opposite kinds of activities.
In an excellent post, Build a brand — not just a career, Laura Ries writes:
You can’t make yourself famous. Only other people can do that for you. So if you want to have a successful career, don’t focus all your efforts on yourself.
Think about other people. Think about the impressions you are making on friends, neighbors, business associates. Think about your brand.
So personal brand isn’t all about self-promotion. It’s about the impression you are having on people around you.
If you treat people well and if you are genuine in your interactions, people will think well of you. If you are intentional and strategic about adding value to your interpersonal interactions, you will build a positive personal brand.
One of the best practical descriptions I’ve seen recently of how to do personal branding comes from James Altucher who, when asked how he promotes himself, described the following:
In November 2010 I decided, screw it, I just want to say what’s on my mind. I wanted to say I was scared also. I wanted to stop pretending. We now live in what I call “The Choose Yourself Era”. I’m sick of relying on other people to choose me. Starting in 2010 I chose myself.
I started writing on this blog. I started making new friends. I started building new business opportunities for myself and meeting new groups of people. Not just people who were going to have me around to suit their own purposes but people who respected what I had to say because they knew they were getting honest answers based on my limited experiences in a variety of areas.
I told people it was okay to fail, because everyone fails. That it’s ok to be disappointed in yourself. Okay to be angry sometimes. Okay to not always achieve every goal and that there are other ways to find happiness. Okay to sometimes be sad because life is mostly about failure and sadness, punctuated with occasional success. I gave my own methods for networking. I described my different businesses, the successes and the failures. The things I was ashamed of. It made a difference. Without planning it, I built trust.
Sometimes it’s even alright to hate what you’ve become, to realize that 20 years of hard work have put you in a place where you feel stuck and lonely. Everyone feels this way sometimes. After working 100 hours a week for 15 years, I was mentally and emotionally lost. I had to rebuild. Writing this blog helped me with that.
And when you relate to what everyone feels, and help them find permission inside themselves to feel that way, and express this in forums and formats that everyone reads (blogs, twitter, facebook, comments on other blogs, syndicate to other blogs, books, etc) then this is effective self-promotion. You don’t need one million followers. Snooki needs that. You just need one person that you really, sincerely help. Then they will share that help with someone else. And so on. And if you keep persisting with the thought in mind that you are a radio transmitter for the feelings that are always out there, always in the ether effecting everyone, then people will tune in and hear your message. That is self-promotion.
Personal branding is, it turns out, highly personal. It is based on the expression of something you really feel and believe in. Your brand is built one person at a time and you don’t have to be a globally recognized expert at anything to succeed. You just need to be known, liked and trusted within the networks that you have built.
Effective personal branding strategies will serve most people very well in most business situations. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an executive, a sales person or a practice professional, investing your time in building your personal brand will have many benefits. As Anthony Iannarino put it:
You are the only asset that makes up “brand you,” and you are the only real asset you have to produce results in business and in life. (from Start Investing in Brand You)
So start investing in your brand today. Tune in to the signals your social networks are sending you and focus on helping people help themselves.