Welcome to the era of personal branding

Outi Päivinen

by Outi Päivinen

The business dictionary defines branding as: “The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme.”

And for a long time, that’s exactly what branding entailed. However, with the advent of social media, branding has become everybody’s business. Today, we're all acting as our own ambassadors – and as such, we're entitled to a personal brand. 

Same same but different

So how does personal branding differ from the branding of products and services? Quite a lot, and not much at all.

First, let’s look at the objective, which is of course to identify, communicate and leverage the brand’s unique value proposition. While businesses spend millions and millions to ensure that their messaging remains fresh, consistent and appealing across channels and markets, individuals typically have fewer resources at their disposal. When a company manages to create a trending topic in social media, the CMO might well think that the marketing department has succeeded in its branding efforts. However, the aim of branding isn’t to create buzz around a single campaign. Instead, it’s all about creating a sustainable, positive image for the weeks, months and years to come. Simply put, that’s what personal branding is all about. It’s an ongoing process of establishing an impression in the minds of others. It’s about people marketing their name, professional skills and expertise.


The 5 rules of personal branding

At this day and age, being good at your job isn’t enough. Creating a successful and lasting personal brand isn’t exactly easy, which is why we went ahead and gathered a few general dos and don’ts on how to build yours.

Rule 1
Put your name out there. Personal brands are created and cultivated in social media. And if you don’t have a strong presence in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and / or Snapchat, your brand is likely to be as strong as your relationship to the man who works behind the register at your corner store.

Rule 2 
Learn from the experts. Follow some of the personal branding pioneers in your field, and observe what they are doing. When it comes to digital marketing, William Arruda and Ville Tolvanen are among the ones to follow. While Arruda was in the frontline of creating the concept of personal branding, Forbes recently recognized Tolvanen as the third most influential CMO based on social media influence. And that’s not a small achievement, considering the number of followers he has acquired on Twitter alone.

Rule 3 
Make your voice heard. We all have a story to tell, and your job is to transform yours into an open-ended narrative with room to evolve as your career progresses. The key to successful personal branding is to be authentic – pretending to be something you’re not will only harm your brand in the long run. As Peter Guber famously wrote: “Truth is a point of view, but authenticity can’t be faked.” As cheesy as it may sound, keeping it real is the only way forward.

Rule 4 
Get out of your comfort zone. The one thing that talented people have in common is that they are always looking for ways to develop their skills. Introvert or extrovert, you can really only succeed in personal branding if you’re willing to cross some unfamiliar terrain. Sure, your public speaking skills may not be up to par and yes, you may need to brush up on those networking skills, but every uncomfortable situation will get you that much closer to your goal.

Rule 5  
Do it for the team. Your personal brand will benefit the company you work for – or the company you own. And if you manage to make a name for yourself professionally, business will follow. Growing your personal brand will show the market that you know your business inside and out.

Lastly, remember that the question no longer lies whether you choose to have a personal brand or not but more likely how you choose to benefit of having one.