Businesses and personal branding have become almost irreversibly intertwined. The days when people only cared about a product’s functionalities are long gone. Now, customers want to know who you are and what makes your company special- from the inside out! Personal branding has become a buzzword, but what does it mean?

“Personal brand is the connection between your company and other people that results from your individual efforts.”

As a business owner or marketing manager, you probably already realize how important it is to connect with potential clients. Personal branding makes this connection possible.

In order to fully grasp the concept, it is important to first understand the goal of a brand is to make a human connection on a deeper level, right? Indeed, that is the whole idea behind public relations, in general. If you haven’t studied the history of public relations, it is a fascinating and somewhat terrifying tale, truth be told.

In the age of gargantuan corporations, realizing that a single person could control the public’s perception of an entire corporation was revolutionary. It was so effective and so insidious, in fact, that it changed our culture and politics forever. We’ve seen how detrimental faceless corporate control can be to a society. So how does business and personal branding play into all this?

Well, to counter the control of these faceless corporations, entrepreneurs began to assert themselves as personalities. They wanted people to not only know their business name but also be familiar with their work and individual style. Nowadays, it has become so important for people to have well-established personal brands that the line between business and personal branding is blurred beyond recognition.

For instance, think about your favorite entrepreneur or celebrity. Is there a difference between their business brand and their personal brand? Now, think of all the gossip magazines that exist. Celebrities are built entirely upon the knowledge of their personal lives; they are almost always more famous for who they are than what they do professionally.

This is just one example of how public relations has evolved within society. Businesses and personal branding are now inextricably linked, whether it be for good or for bad. People want to identify with individuals who they like, admire or relate to.

This is where business owners can begin to benefit from branding themselves; when they are personally involved in their business, people are more likely to trust them. If you can make a personal connection with your customers, they will be more likely to continue doing business with you and refer other potential customers.

So What Separates Successful Branding From Unsuccessful?

The first thing you have to understand is that there are many different types of brands. There’s the product itself, obviously, but then there are also other types of brands. And, each one has a foundation built on authenticity. Or, at least, the appearance of authenticity.

In today’s business environment, a growing number of consumers (such an insulting thing to be called, honestly) want to see the impact their money is having on the world around them. For example, products or services that are made in an environmentally friendly manner are much more likely to appear authentic. Authenticity is the key to any successful branding.

On a fundamental level, authenticity means being honest and transparent about who you are and what your business does. Don’t be afraid of creating controversy if it will benefit your overall brand message. We see this playing out on pretty much every level of society. From politics to everyday interactions in the workplace.

Remember the Old Euphemism “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Publicity”

Well, it’s incredibly true. If you have the ability to create a bit of controversy or anger, do so as much as possible. It will ensure that your name stays in the media and even if people are outraged, they won’t soon forget about you.

But authenticity doesn’t just stop at being transparent about who you are and what you do. It also ties into the language you use, the content of your messages, and even what kind of imagery you incorporate in your branding. It’s incredibly important to understand that having good branding is never static; it has to evolve with your business.

The Key Components of Business and Personal Branding

So let’s break down some of these key components of business and personal branding, as it’s such a huge and complicated topic. It really is difficult to define as it’s constantly evolving, but I’m going to try.

  • Voice: This refers to the overall tone of your message and how you communicate with your customers. Is it formal? Casual? Aggressive? Benign? The voice has a direct impact on how your business is seen within the world. Use this voice to your advantage, by being genuine and speaking to the right audience. If you try to speak down to people while also coming across as fake, it won’t work.
  • Visuals: These are what you use in your branding material, whether that be social media posts or individual advertisements. Again, this ties into authenticity. The pictures you use should be representative of who you are as a company and representative of your customer base. If the visuals don’t match the voice, they will look out of place and it will impact how people view you as a business.
  • Message: This is where your entire brand theme comes from. It’s the overall idea that you are trying to communicate with your customer base. This can be broken down into even more detailed components, but it’s important for people to understand the big picture before they start diving too deep into the minutiae.
  • Relevance: Finally, how relevant is your branding? How does it fit in with both your customer base and the wider marketplace? If your branding is out of touch with what customers are looking for, it won’t work. Keep in mind that the world is constantly shifting and if you aren’t doing your best to keep up, you’ll fall behind.

 

A good brand has lots of layers that all work together seamlessly in order to create a positive, lasting impact with your customers. But, as I said before, you have to be careful. It’s easy to go overboard and create something that is too busy or too boring or too out of touch. You need to strike a balance between your company’s identity and what the audience is looking for.

The Right Balance: A Note on Specialization

There is a lot of power in being able to create this balance between authenticity and catering to your audience. But creating a successful brand means making sacrifices, too.

Going back to the importance of authenticity, if you try to force it by creating something that people don’t want or expect from you, they won’t buy into it. You can’t just pretend to be someone you’re not and expect people to believe it. It’s insulting. People know what they like and will see through anything that doesn’t match up with their own beliefs and desires quickly.

On the other hand, if you just create something that already exists or that is already popular within your industry, there isn’t much point. How many social media accounts or blogs are basically carbon copies of each other? They may look good and function okay, but they don’t stand out at all.

It’s little wonder that most people seem to be stuck in the same old branding rut; balancing authenticity with relevance is really difficult if you aren’t sure what you’re doing.

People can get stuck in a rut for lots of reasons, though. One reason I’ve found is specialization. Businesses are often encouraged to specialize, especially when it comes to products or services. For example, if you are selling supplements online, you may want to target your branding towards vegan shoppers who are looking to lose weight.

Specializing your approach can be useful if you are offering a unique product or service, but it isn’t always the right choice. There are way too many benefits to being well-rounded. The first is that you never know what kind of person will want to buy something from you unless they’ve already told you specifically.

The second is that generalizing your message will make it easier for you to expand in the future. Think about how much time, money, and effort goes into creating a good branding strategy as it is. Creating a new one from scratch every time you want to branch out into something different or bigger would be crazy! It’s not impossible to do, but it’s not easy either.

Instead, take your original brand theme and alter it to fit the new area you want to explore. As long as you are honest about what you’re doing, people will appreciate that you are being efficient with how you use their time and money. Keep in mind that starting off by specializing is a good way to establish your presence in a new industry, but pretending to be an expert is only going to backfire.

When it comes to balance, you should use your specialization as a way to make your brand more appealing, not less. If you aren’t sure how to do that, then just do what I have done every year of my life: experiment with different approaches until something clicks. Hey, I don’t call myself a “professional collector of experiences” for nothing!

The Connection Between Personal Branding and Thought Leadership

I just spent a whole article talking about how you should aim to create a personal brand that is authentic and focused on your audience. I don’t want to contradict all of that by telling you that it’s also important for you to have a bigger picture in mind when creating your branding strategy.

If you are only planning what image people will get from you and how to get them interested in it, then you aren’t thinking enough about what your brand is saying about you or who it’s really for.

So, when you begin building your personal brand and thought leadership strategy, there are several soul-searching questions you need to be able to answer without flinching. It’s not always easy to know what questions you need answers for when building your personal brand and thought leadership strategy, but here are a few of the most important ones:

  • What does the status quo mean to you?
  • Why should anyone listen to you?
  • Why aren’t you already the one in charge?
  • How are you going to make the world better?
  • What are the trends shaping the 21st-century economy?
  • How can you position yourself for these trends?
  • What capabilities are you aiming to create for humanity?
  • Who are the people you want to view you as a hero, a leader?
  • Why do you want them to view you as such?

 

If you can’t answer any of these questions right now, then you need to take some time and think about it. Once you know your purpose and direction, you can start figuring out how to get people interested in what you have to offer.

Once you are able to answer these questions, then you will be one step closer to making your mark. Sticking with what has always been done is not a unique way of thinking, but there are some people who don’t see that as a problem at all.

Don’t forget that thought leadership often involves being different from everyone else in order to be heard. There is nothing wrong with being different, as long as it’s not in a way that will turn people off so much that they won’t listen to anything you have to say.

As a thought leader strategist, I want to help those who have a vision for the 21st-century rooted in progress. If you feel lost in a directionless business world, let’s chat about how I can help you find your voice and your way. My services cover personal branding, thought leadership strategy, and SEO strategies.