When people look at you, they see you brand, whether intentional or not. It’s a lot like looking at things through a camera lense. It’s a similar thing when you look at any successful business. No matter if you see it’s sign on the side of the road, in an ad on a website or billboard, or you visit their booth at a conference – you know where you are and who you’re interacting with. When you walk into any In-N-Out location or visit their website, you can feel their brand all around you. You’ll never look at one and confuse it with Burger King or McDonald’s. When you think about your personal brand, you need to attempt to achieve this as best you can. Be the CMO of your brand!
There are a few notable people that we’d all recognize who were masters of their personal brand. It wasn’t always because they were trying to do anything related with branding – sometimes it was purely functional – personal branding was the happy accident. Steve Jobs is probably the most well-known, with his black turtle necks, loose-fitting jeans, and New Balance tennis shoes. Mark Zuckerberg wears the same grey shirt mostly everyday. Johnny Cash became known as “the man in black” for the very reason that the phrase suggests. And Dean Kamen (he invented the Segwey) always was seen wearing jeans with his denim shirts. These people embodied what was to become their personal brand, every day.
When I took over as president of a little known user group in Orlando, it had maybe 20 members, 9 of which you might see together at any given moment. I took this responsibility seriously. I wanted to grow the user group as fast and as large as I could. I quickly learned and employed numerous techniques to do this. One of the primary things I did was go to any other user group event in my area, and when I did, I always wore the same shirt, jeans, and matching shoes. The shirt had the user group logo on it – large and pronounced. Whenever you saw me at one of these events, you knew what I was there to represent. You were aware of the user group I was leading.
This was only one of many things I did, but it worked incredibly well. We ended up having hundreds of members in our mailing list, a live streamed monthly meeting, advertising in the other user groups, regular members that would drive as far as 3 hours to a weeknight meeting, and a full board before I handed the reigns to the next leader.
This is more related to the ways you’re represented when you’re not directly representing yourself. This includes your personal website, social media profiles/bios, and so on. Every surface, laptop, tablet, slide background, and even the moleskin notebook you might be carrying is an opportunity to showcase your personal brand to the people around you. Don’t waste the opportunity.
I don’t represent the user group any longer, but I do represent an e-commerce company right now. When you see me speak at events or visit clients, there’s no mistaking the brand I am projecting to you, and you won’t forget me.
If you have a personal website, you should make every effort for it to represent who you are. It should also use photography, content, and colors that reinforce the personal brand you’re trying to build. Your emails should all reflect the same branding you’ve settled on, and so on.
When you decide to have an avatar, follow the LinkedIn best practices, and make sure it’s the same avatar on all of your public profiles. Also do the same with profile backgrounds and bio’s, if possible. Keep them for long periods of time. Every time you change your bio or avatar, people end up having to spend time getting to to know your brand again.
If you have a laptop or tablet that will be sitting in front of potential clients or opportunities, use a service like SkinIt to brand it. It’s fun, it’s cheap, and it’s super easy. (Also, it comes off easily.) If you don’t do this, you’re wasting an incredibly effective way to spread your and reinforce your brand. Like trailers in front of a movie, this is a simple method to connect with your captive audience.
You’ll undoubtedly meet people that could help spread your brand for you. You’ll need to introduce yourself. Like a business with their tag line, you should have an easy-to-remember phrase or short sentence that describes who you are and what you do. If you don’t, recommending you will be much more difficult. There should be nothing cocky about your introduction, but you really should think of something memorable – but please leave out ninja and guru (even expert is pushing it). When you say your introduction, do it with confidence and always keep eye contact.
Another part of your brand will often go overlooked… Your brand should be and project positivity. It should help connect others. Sure, a negative or controversial post will get a lot of likes, but it’s simply catering to the lowest common denominator of human nature. In the end, it won’t inspire people, and it won’t reflect the best parts of you. Your social currency is very valuable. Every word you say costs you. Spend it wisely.
Just to sum this up, I’m not here to suggest that you should wear the same clothing everyday. However, you should have a consistent style in what you wear, what you say, and what you do. The whole point of this is that when someone needs to recommend someone like you – they remember you for the right reasons and recommend you before anyone else!