The Best Advice I’ve Ever Heard About Personal Branding

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a stellar professional reputation and be sought after for what you do best? That’s what building a strong personal brand can do.

For most people, the path to professional nirvana is rocky one at best—a journey where you find yourself taking a lot of unexpected twists and turns. This winding road can create gaps in your focus on building a strong personal brand.

When you land your first major job, the one that you are truly passionate about, It’s a beautiful thing, you get to align your training, craft, and aspirations into a unified focus. The challenge is, we have a tendency to ease our foot off the gas when things are going well, we stop doing the very things that make us the best person .

I wish I could point you to some form of universal career protection, but that ship sailed long ago. Your best bet today is a focused investment in you, yeah you. By actively investing in your brand, you get to make regular deposits in your career savings account. Building a career is more than just moving from one job to the next, it about building equity with your reputation and influence that you can leverage to go from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow.

I’ve interviewed hundreds of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders to get their opinions on the top dos—and don’ts—for building a successful career or switching to a new one. From networking to social media marketing, prospecting and building credibility once you get hired.

Just as there are tactics and strategies for succeeding with practically every other facet of your life or business, there’s both an art and a science to branding yourself well. But what does “well” mean? For me it’s simple.

Greater mindshare and credibility.

A steady stream of ideal clients.

Leadership opportunities.

And, overall higher perceived value…

This post includes some of the best advice I’ve ever received about building a personal brand.

My quest to understand personal branding started with the first interview on the Craft of Marketing podcast with Barry Feldman who’s a master at content marketing for personal branding. It then led me to chat with marketing strategy consultant Dorie Clark, who early in her career, had an unexpected job change that forced her to confront what it means to reinvent ones self and to think about standing out to create the life of her dreams, and not the life of circumstances.

Dorie has dedicated her career to exploring what components are needed for stellar branding and helping today’s entrepreneurs and companies leverage their branding and ultimately grow their bottom lines. Listen to Dorie Clark on the Craft of Marketing Podcast and read the post below to find out how to take control of your personal brand so it represents the best you.

Here’s some of the best advice I’ve ever heard about personal branding

1. Write down a list of all the words you want people to say about you when you’re not around.

Envision the words that people should utter after they hear about you, see you, talk to you or read about you. Some that come to mind: valuable, insightful, relentless, creative, supportive,  indomitable, determined, thoughtful, caring, or bad ass? Then, choose three.

2. Ask people you respect: “What’s my super power?

Ask them “If you had to be a reference for me, what would you say about me?” Take notes of the answers you get.

3. Make a list of at least five super successful people in your niche that you to aspire to be like.

Research everything you can about them. How are they similar? How are they different? What about their character captures your attention? Often what we admire is what we aspire to be. I happen to be an entrepreneurial marketer, so my list evolves around individuals that inhabit that world, with folks like Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner, marketing strategist Andrew Davis, Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, Lee Odden of Top Rank Marketing & Sujan Patel of ContentMarketer.io . I admire these professionals because they’re building businesses that inspire me. They’re also passionate, creative, generous, irreverent, and honest connectors of people and ideas.

4. Ask yourself: “What makes me different?”

What do you do now or in the future that will set you apart? You know the “you’re special” talk we got as kids. Well there’s a lot of truth to that. Don’t blend in. Lean into your special sauce. It may be your actual job function like “cultural anthropologist,” or it could be something broader like “connector of people.”

5. Answer the question: “Who is the most important audience that my brand needs to speak to?”

Everything you create and every word you say in the public domain is discoverable online. By identifying and communicating with your most important audience, you’ll avoid any chance of personal brand not jiving with your larger goals. In fact, this will help you make sure that your personal brand represents the values you and your audience hold dear.

7. Build your reputation where it counts.

Personal branding is an amazing strategy to take control of how the world perceives us, but it’s really daunting if your focus is too broad. Your brand doesn’t need to be all things to all people, it just needs to resonate with the audience that matters to you and your goals. If your goal is to be the most well respected subject matter expert on raising poultry in your backyard, there’s probably places that your audience spends their time and content that they will find valuable.6. Ask yourself: “Is this the authentic me?” When searching for your true voice, you have to continually check in with yourself to make sure you can sleep well at night with the intellectual decisions you make in the daytime. It’s so much easier to be motivated if we’re true to ourselves. Pretending to be someone that you’re not will just cause you heartache down the road.

8. Share your ideas in the form of content.

For me, content is about creating long lasting assets that represent one’s best thinking. According to Ann Handley of Marketing Profs “In an online world, our online words are our emissaries; they tell the world who we are.” This is more true now than ever before. Most marketers now refer to this as content marketing. Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute, describe it as “The process of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience to drive business results” That clearly is a mouthful, but it’s also quite powerful. Content can be on a blog, podcast, newsletter, videos, photos, books or public speaking. Content is that vehicle that allows you to build trust at scale.

9. Start a mailing list to communicate directly with your tribe.

I’ve interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs, authors, and c-level professionals. And when I ask them what’s the most valuable marketing tool they have in their arsenal, the email list is far and away always in the top position.

It’s table stakes that you be good at what you do, but being good isn’t enough to make your brand stand out. 

10. Launch a beautiful website as your personal branding hub.

The modern equivalent of a professional business card is a personal website. The place to say who you are and what you stand for. It’s also the best place to house all the fantastic content that you create. Think if it as the hub for participating in all the other platforms that might be relevant to your tribe. If you want to learn more about why websites are so important and how to make them work for your brand, you have to follow Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media. You won’t be sorry.

11. Make being helpful core to your mission. 

Whether you’re an individual, a SaaS startup that’s just launched an easy-to-use new platform or a burgeoning ecommerce venture, the rules are the same: Create endless amounts of unique value around your brand beyond what you have to sell. The truth about human beings is that we are all busy and focused on our own problems. Unless you can show value to those around you, it’s unlikely that they will pay attention to your ideas.

A breakthrough idea doesn’t have to be rocket science, it can be created by improving upon existing ideas. 

12. Build a network of honest advisors.

I don’t know where I would have ended up without the honest feedback of my close friends and advisors. Getting a support system in place to help make some of the tough decisions and brainstorm solutions that you may never have considered otherwise. According to Dorie. “You want to have a group of trusted advisors around you who can help steer you, guide you, tell you what’s a great idea and give you some initial early support.” This, she notes, will ensure you don’t make any atrocious sales or marketing mistakes that could derail your branding efforts before they really begin in earnest.

13. Nurture your 1000 true fans.

Kevin Kelly wrote about this back in 2008 and it’s still very relevant today. According to Kelly, “Any creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.” Now we might argue the exact number and economics, but there is no doubt that it is much less costly to keep an existing fan  or customer than it is to acquire a new one. When you decide to start this could be long before you decide to change jobs or start a business, Joe Pulizzi’s book, Content Inc. makes the case that building a tribe first is the easiest way to launch a business, months or even years before your company gets off the ground. Depending on the resources you allocate to your content creation, SEO, email marketing, etc. — you have the ability to build a fan base of those who love you and your brand and help them share their interests with one another. The point is to create a simple, effective way to build an alliance of individuals who adore you, appreciate what you offer them, and want to see you succeed. “That begins to create exponential connections and exponential momentum around your idea because you are no longer the only person talking about it,” Clark states.

14. Participate, connect and communicate.

Get involved, put out beacons (whether it’s blog posts, starting an organization, or speaking about an issue), if you are open about your challenges, you dramatically increase the odds that others will find you and value your contribution.

People tend to look at successful professionals and assume, “Oh, that happened overnight” — but 99 times out of 100, it didn’t. 

Seth Price

I’m on a mission to transform the way you think about personal branding to empower your life’s work. My keynote speeches connect me with audiences all over the world. Join me in creating ideas for bringing your brand to market.