Making Your Mark: How to Build Your Personal Brand

August 29, 2019

Nicole Fallon, Contributor

As an entrepreneur, you are the public face of your business. Here’s how to build a strong personal brand that shows the human side of your company.

In the digital age, most entrepreneurs publicly connect their personal name and reputation to their business. A strong personal brand ties these elements together in a professional, yet relatable way to help establish your expertise, credibility and trustworthiness among industry peers and customers.

Jeremy Goldman, a digital marketing expert and author, says a strong personal brand is essential for differentiating yourself, especially in a market where many others are offering similar services.

“You don’t want to be lumped in with other people,” said Goldman. “A personal brand implies uniqueness. A ‘transition expert’ is a stronger personal brand than … just a ‘career coach.'”

Why personal branding matters for entrepreneurs

People tend to trust people over companies. That’s why 52% of website visitors specifically seek out an “About” page when they first land on a company’s home page — they want to get to know the people behind the business.

This is where personal branding comes in. Rehnuma Choudhury, a copywriter and branding expert, says your personal brand sets the expectation about how someone should feel about you — and this can push someone toward or away from your business.

“Everything you do as a business creates a perception … that makes [customers] feel a certain way about you,” Choudhury said. “This can be the difference between someone working with you, or … going to the next person who offers the same thing you do, but makes them feel better about it.”

What makes a strong personal brand?

Strong personal brands are memorable and recognizable, said Jessica Lawlor, who runs a content management and public relations firm.

According to Lawlor, Goldman and Priyanka Raha, founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, strong brands have a few key elements in common:

  • Relatability. Your brand should convey relatable ideas, because people like to hear stories they can identify with.
  • Consistency. The emotion behind your brand should tie into all other branding assets, including design and copy. Your brand should even extend offline to your in-person interactions.
  • Humanity. While your personal brand should align with your business brand, it’s OK to share elements of your daily life, like your family or pets. If you’re too focused on being “professional,” your brand could come across as not being truly human.

You don’t want to be lumped in with other people. A personal brand implies uniqueness.

Tips for building your personal brand

If you’re just establishing your personal brand, here’s how to create one that stands out and resonates with your intended audience.

Define your brand

Before you can share your brand with the world, it’s critical to figure out what you stand for as a person and as a professional — and, more importantly, what you don’t stand for, said Goldman.

“Find what you truly believe in and what you enjoy working at,” added Raha. “This is key because the authentic voice always comes through loud and clear.”

Be intentional about promoting your brand

Raha, whose company creates an educational app for children, leverages her experiences as a technologist and mother in her personal branding efforts.

“I treat every conversation as a pitch,” Raha said. “It is an intentional and focused approach to telling my story. I consistently share this story in my personal conversations, at speaking gigs and on social channels.”

Lawlor added that, although it can feel uncomfortable or self-indulgent to share your successes, it’s incredibly important.

“You’re opening yourself up to the opportunity to help someone else find what they need or what they’ve been looking for,” she said.

Share your stories – good and bad

Lawlor aims to share her business story as transparently and authentically as possible in her branding – both the positive and negative aspects. To that end, entrepreneurs should create content that helps people get to know them better.

“Give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at your business and how you spend your day,” said Lawlor. “Share a story with them about a success, a hardship or lesson learned. We’re all compelled by stories – so start telling them!”

Keep working at it

A good brand takes time and effort to build, so keep working at it — even if you don’t see results at first.

“A lot of people give up too soon when … building a brand,” Goldman told CO—. “[They’re] doing the right steps, but expect instant fame and validation. Do it for a little while, test it … and make sure the whole thing makes sense. It’s an uphill struggle … [but] there’s clear ROI in doing these things.”