There is a rampant myth about personal branding running unchecked across the Internet. It croons soothingly to the unwary and the uninitiated, assuring them that all a person needs to do to create a powerful personal brand is “be your most authentic self.”
The oft-proffered advice “just be you” is – at best – incomplete and lazy. At worst, when taken at face value, it’s downright dangerous. People who unwittingly take this advice to heart without knowing how to properly apply it, usually wind up with mash-up “brands” that frequently wander off-track, sink into the gooey mire of the ego, and – instead of becoming catalysts to build a business – confuse and alienate potential customers.
Make no mistake. Successful personal brands are no accident. They are carefully crafted works of art that are based in a person’s authentic personality, but designed around a core purpose or mission. Ultimately, that “just be you” personal brand has a much more complex and intentional structure than some would have you think.
Not all about you
It’s not that people don’t like you or appreciate your quirky personality. They do. And the fact that they like and appreciate you personally does have a positive influence on whether or not they will buy from you. However, it’s not the critical factor.
Another frequently heard and wildly misleading phrase is, “People buy from people they like.” This is true enough, but only to a point. Studies have shown that most people make decisions based on emotions rather than logic. That being true, it’s important to establish an emotional connection with customers. However, random emotional connections alone will not move someone to click “buy.” I may like your pins on Pinterest or find your tweets clever and entertaining, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to trust you with the contents of my wallet.
In most cases, being likable is a tiebreaker. It’s what tips the scales in your favor when someone is choosing between two similar options. It’s the icing on the cake that makes your offer that much more attractive. Likeability comes into play only after you’ve done something to attract positive attention. Before you can get people to like you, you have to get them to notice you. The thing that will get you noticed is less about the personal side of your brand and more about the value behind your brand.
Authentically you – but only the best bits
Your personal brand is a work of art, and – like any work of art – you need to be selective about what goes into its making. A photographer frames her pictures carefully, making deliberate choices about what is in the frame and what is outside the frame. A sculptor adds or removes material to his creation with specific purpose, slowly building the image in his mind. A writer crafts a story by linking together only the bits of narrative and dialog that will move the action forward, cutting out anything extraneous or irrelevant.
As these artists create their work, so you should create your brand – deliberately, with purpose, and always focused on the relevant elements that will move your customer to take action.
By all means, be you.
Bring your personality into play. Tell your story. Share your experience. Showcase your style and flair. Reveal the occasional personal detail. But, do so within the context of your brand. The personal aspects of your “personal brand” must fit within and complement the brand value and brand promise. They must make sense within the Big Picture of your purpose. They must help to tell your story and the stories of your customers.
Imagine your personal brand is the hero in a movie and you’re in charge of writing the script. What scenes will you use to define this character? What pieces of the backstory are important to share because they illuminate the character’s passion and motivation? How will you portray interactions with other characters and what will that tell the audience about the character’s personality and philosophy. Will you use inner monologue to let the audience peek inside the hero’s mind? Why? Does each scene build on the others, helping to form a larger story arc?
As with many things, less is often more.
Be authentic, but be selective. Branding – personal or otherwise – is about creating a connection between your audience and your message – their need and your solution. Be you, but concentrate on the pieces of your personality and experience that answer the universal customer question, “What’s in it for me?” Don’t let your personal brand become an ego-driven, runaway locomotive. Stay focused. Build a strong, solid engine that runs smoothly along the tracks, fueled by the purpose and promise that underlies your brand. Be intentional about how you weave personal elements into your brand identity and story.
Be you, but be the most relevant you. Be you in the context of your brand.
Whose personal brands do you admire most? What attracted you to them? What do you find most intimidating about creating a personal brand? What do you find most exciting?