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Personal Branding Tips for Entrepreneurs

Meredith Liepelt is the Owner of Rich Life Marketing.

Perhaps no other two words can cause such anxiety as these: “personal branding.” What is a personal brand? Do I need a personal brand? Do I need to hire a graphic designer? What is all the fuss about, anyway?

First of all, it isn’t really scary or difficult. Let’s start with a definition. I think of personal branding starting with identifying the value you offer, what you believe in and care about, then expressing those things consistently so that you establish a firm identity in the mind of others. Put simply, your personal brand is the value that you promise and repeatedly deliver to your market.

An example here may help. Let’s take one of my favorites: Michelle Obama. By virtue of the things she says and does, and the people she aligns with, you know exactly what she believes in, cares about, and repeatedly delivers. These things include compassion, composure, health and wellness, style, and opportunities for women and girls. That’s her promise. That’s how she shows up and what she shows up for.

Do I need a Personal Brand?

You already have a personal brand. It’s true! You are already known for something, or more likely, several things. Just like Michelle Obama, you are already saying things, doing things, and aligning with others. For example, are you the one who volunteers to lead the committee? Are you known for being highly connected in a certain industry or your city? Are you an avid reader of mystery novels? Are you a fast talker? Do people confide in you or seek you out for advice on a certain topic? Are you chronically late? Are you a vocal activist for a certain group or cause? Do you attend certain events every year? Are you known for your snarky comments? Do you travel the world? Are you tired and cranky a lot or a happy-go-lucky person? Are you the one who stands up to ask a question at a large conference? Do people say they love your sense of humor? Or style?

These are just a few examples of how you may already be known. If you aren’t already aware what you’re known for, ask a small handful of people what they think of when they think of you. What words, terms, phrases, or experiences come to mind when they think about you? If you carefully select a few people who know you well professionally, you will likely see some similarities in their answers, even if they don’t say the exact same words.

After gathering this information, consider the following: How am I currently perceived? What is my current personal brand saying about me and do I like it or want to change or modify it? How can I step further into my personal brand? What do I truly value and are my values reflected in my words and actions? Moving forward, do I want to show up differently in some way?

How do I know if I have a strong personal brand?

You may have heard people say that a personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. That’s true. When you have consciously created your personal brand, magic starts to happen, even when you’re not there. People send you articles, videos, and book recommendations that they know you’ll love. You’ll randomly hear that someone saw something and thought of you. People refer the right kind of business to you and seek you out for opportunities that light you up. You get the kind of speaking invitations and other opportunities you want. In addition, decisions about who you will and will not partner with become crystal clear and your marketing will become easier because you know what you are delivering. These are just a few ways you profit from having a strong personal brand. Life becomes more enjoyable and dare I say, easier. No easy, mind you, but easier.

Is my personal brand separate from my business brand?

If you are a business owner, you may or may not have two different brands: one for your business as well as your personal brand. Or if you are like many of my clients who are coaches, consultants, speakers and authors, your business brand is closely tied to and practically indistinguishable from your personal brand. As long as you aren’t building your business to run on its own or to sell it at a later point, this is works very well. Some people in this situation use their personal name in the name of the business while others create a separate business name. I have opted for the latter, doing business under the name of Rising Star Publicity, LLC. Either way is fine, depending on your personal preference. If you use your name, you may want a tagline to give some context to your business brand. If you brand your business as a separate business name, don’t try to act bigger than you are by saying things like, “We believe….” when it’s really just you. Just be real. People can smell a fake a mile away.

If you want to position your business to run on its own or to sell, you should create a distinct line between your personal brand and your business brand. That way, when it comes time to step away from it, there is significant equity in the business that is separate from you, and it’s easier to free up your time to capitalize on your personal brand in new ways. In this situation, think of your business as having equity separate from your individual contributions, while and your personal brand centers around further opportunities for you as an individual such as investing in another business, or even starting a coaching, consulting, speaking or writing business of your own.

Why focus on both the business brand and personal brand if your end-goal is to sell your business?

A Nielsen Consumer Survey discovered that only 33 percent of buyers trust messages that come from a brand, whereas 90 percent of buyers are likely to put more trust into messages from an individual they know. So you, as a business owner, can gain your audience’s trust if you bond with them first as a human being. The good thing is that it doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but it does require a personal branding strategy where your promise of value is defined, including a point of view, key messages, and a mix of strategies and tactics to showcase your personal brand such contributing articles to blogs and other publications, media opportunities, awards, public speaking, and social media marketing.  

People are seeking authenticity and personal connections from the companies they patronize. Putting a face on a company by showcasing your personal brand in the spotlight can help your clients and customers to see your business as not just “peddling wares” but getting a glimpse into the real life of the trailblazer behind it all. It will help your audience to trust you when you do decide to put someone else in charge of your baby, ah-hem… business.

How do I use social media for my personal brand?

Have a strategy. Early on in the social media game, nobody really knew how to use it as a marketing tool. I was advised to add everyone I knew and met on every possible social channel and post motivational quotes. I really wish I hadn’t listened to that advice.

Fast forward to today, I think we all know that having a strategy for each social media channel is the way to go. Facebook is a great place to have conversations and get to know others socially. You can also create a community easily on Facebook by creating a Group. LinkedIn is a great place to research podcasters looking for guests, media contacts, and to showcase yourself as a speaker and expert. Instagram is great place for motivational posts. Twitter is a bit of a loose cannon these days, in my opinion. The bottom line is to know why you are on each channel and post appropriately.

Do I keep my personal social media separate from my professional social media?

The answer to this is unsatisfying: It depends.

It depends on how much you are willing to share, and there is no hard and fast rule on this. You have to decide how you want to use social media. I find that this is mostly an issue on Facebook, where people who are connected with real friends and family and are also faced with whether or not to accept friend requests from casual acquaintances they just met at the local networking event or international conference. It’s not always clear where to draw the line, especially when you are sharing photos of your kids or other personal things.

The good news is that you get to decide how you use social media. For example, you may want to have a separate personal page on Facebook to connect with actual friends and family where you share photos of your kids and so forth, and a Group or Page for your professional connections. However, keep in mind that your client, who has now become your friend, may feel put out by not being included on your personal page. When the point of social media is to be social and creating a more personal business environment, this may be seen as being standoffish.

Do keep in mind that social media is meant to be… er… social. If you only show up in a staged corporate way, even on a Page or Group in Facebook, you may as well not even use social media for your business. Share events and great articles that are relevant to your audience. Comment on other people’s posts. Ask thought-provoking questions. Provide thoughtful responses. Make strategic introductions. Be social no matter where you show up on social media.

Also, remember that no matter where you show up, you are always showcasing your personal brand, so be intentional about what you post. You may share more everyday things on Facebook like how you’re feeling, photos of your cat or kids, or a comment about the movie you just saw, while you use LinkedIn to position yourself as an expert by posting original articles, your media coverage, and so forth. Keep in mind that crossover happens where a personal friend may also be a professional colleague or even a potential client or referral partner, so consider posting some professional things on your personal page. How you use social media and what you share will differ depending on your strategy and which social platforms you want to use.

How can I use the media to build my personal brand?

You have a lot of choices here. First of all, in today’s market, no matter what industry you are in, you actually are your own media company. That means that you can create content and put it out there yourself. This is what’s called “owned media,” which simply means that you own the content that is disseminated. For example, your blog, web site, newsletter, social media posts, podcast, and videos are all your owned media. The goal of these media channels is usually to provide value and build your brand awareness and good will.

The term “earned media” refers to media coverage you’ve had to earn through pitching to other media outlets or somehow being asked to participate. Press mentions, articles online or in print, TV appearances, being a podcast or radio show guest, and contributing articles for an industry publication all fall under this category. This kind of media exposure adds instant credibility to your brand because you have to be selected for this coverage. Owned and earned media play off of each other extremely well when you put thought into using one to boost the other.

Personal branding is a very good use of your time and effort for those who commit to the long-game. Taking time to commit to your promise of value that you build around yourself, is arguably the most powerful way to stand out, be noticed, and live the personal and professional life you desire.

© 2018 Meredith Liepelt, Rising Star Publicity, LLC

Meredith Liepelt helps speakers, authors, and experts to build their brands by using publicity strategies. She offers personal branding coaching, media relations, and her flagship program where she books experts on lifestyle TV shows across the United States. For insights and inspiration, visit www.RisingStarPublicity.com.

This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included.

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