Personal brands. Thanks to the advent of celebrity culture, the ubiquitousness of social media, and the development and dominance of influencers, you don’t have to work at a marketing agency to be familiar with the term.
Typically when we think of personal branding, we consider:
Aesthetics: Does someone dress a certain way or favor a type of fashion? What do their looks say about them? Are they fit and a “go-getter”? Are they older and “wise”—a “veteran” of their industry or field? Are they relaxed, self-assured, and the classic “coach”?
Presence: What are their social accounts like? Do they post regularly? What platforms do they favor—business information on LinkedIn or viral marketing content on TikTok? Do they prefer everyday vlogs and story updates with a more “raw” style, or weekly curated posts that follow a format?
Market: Who does this person interact with and why? What circles do they run in? What do they do and what are they looking to get?
Obviously, these are all elements that interact with a brand. A personal brand especially. BUT, here’s what we have found to be true time and time again across industries, company sizes, and demographics:
Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not around.
Because even though social media and the branding elements listed above ARE important, they won’t matter as much as one of your 17K followers telling a prospect, “Oh, him? Yeah, honestly he’s so fake—he sent the same email to me and four other people I work with to try and get our account and then forgot my name. Ugh, good luck with THAT call.”
Consider that businesses have personal brands, and imagine the catastrophic repercussions of the following: “Oh, ABC Company? Jeez, we just finished a project with them and, honestly, we’ll never do one again. They got it done on time, but it was so hard to communicate—they were late on emails and never took the blame when they screwed something up.”
SO . . . if social media and aesthetics aren’t the answer, how does one manage and even grow a true personal brand?
Three things we regularly coach clients to do:
Be of outstanding character: It sounds basic, but it’s not. Being honest, admitting your mistakes, admitting when you don’t know something, not trying to be an expert—these are uncommon actions in business where good people often take the easy way out by exaggerating, making tiny excuses, and sweeping small errors under the rug. People might let you get away with it—but they do notice. Be the person about whom people can (and will) say, “He’s always so honest! You know he actually made a mistake on our first order but called to tell us right away and figured it out.”
Be fun to be around: We all buy from folks who aren’t fun to be around. And so people have this notion that being fun and positive when doing business is unnecessary or gimmicky. Here’s the truth: We would only buy from fun and positive people if we had the option. Rather than pretending to be happy to get a sale, invest in your self-care, hobbies, family, and mental health so you are a generally fun and happy person! More often than not, people will love you for it and be pleased to do business with you.
Be clear: No one likes being confused. And no one likes feeling unsure of what is going on. When you communicate clearly and memorably, people will appreciate and go to bat for you whether you’re around or not. In a world full of: “I’ll have to get back to you sometime early next week!” “Sure let’s touch base in a few weeks!” “I’m so swamped right now but I’m still interested, let me get back to you when things die down.” Be the change you want to see: “Unfortunately that’s not a meeting that makes sense for us—how about a phone call?” “We really don’t have a need at this time, but we appreciate your outreach!” “Next week is bad, but how about the following Tuesday at 2 p.m. over Zoom?”