You hear the term “personal brand” being thrown around a lot these days.
Almost annoyingly so.
Everyone is trying to build and strengthen their personal brand in order to stand out in their industry and make a connection with consumers.
It’s a key ingredient in building your career, a business, etc., so it totally makes sense why this is such a top priority.
When I hear someone mention notable figures, like Mark Cuban, Tim Ferriss, or Dan Bilzerian, I can’t help but think of certain adjectives I associate with each of them.
For instance, when I think of Mark Cuban, I think bold, outspoken, and out-of-the-box.
When I think of Tim Ferriss, I think innovative, unconventional, and a human guinea pig.
Influencers like these have developed strong personal brands.
When I think of Dan Bilzerian, I think of bad boy/playboy.
People know who they are and what they stand for. It’s easy for their ideas to reach a wide audience.
But this brings up the question: How did they get to that point?
How does someone go from being an average Joe to having a massive personal brand that’s instantly identifiable?
Believe me, I know what it’s like to come from complete obscurity and build a brand from the ground up.
In this post, I would like to discuss some techniques that have worked for me so that you can launch your personal brand even if you have zero credibility.
What is personal branding?
First things first.
Let’s get a concrete definition of this term to ensure that we’re on the same page.
I like the definition I found on Personal Branding Wiki:
Personal branding describes the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal.
It’s a bit long-winded, but I think this captures the essence of what personal branding is.
The end goal is to have a unique value proposition, build a strong reputation in your industry, and establish trust and rapport with your audience.
So let’s start with the basics.
Developing a personal value proposition
Before you can do anything else, you need to build a foundation first.
Developing a personal value proposition (PVP) will serve as your foundation and will influence your direction, approach, and the decisions you make.
But how exactly do you develop a PVP?
Leadership development coach, Andrew Cooke suggests asking yourself the following questions:
People ‘buy’ you—so how do you differentiate yourself from others? What can you do to attract the people you want, and to be attractive to them?
He then takes it a step further and suggests you ask yourself a few more questions to put it all together.
Here’s a screenshot of these questions along with example answers:
The bottom line here is that you need to have a clear understanding of:
- Who you are
- What you’re passionate about
- What you want to be known for
- Your target audience
- Strengths you possess
- Your core principles and values
- Differentiating factors that distinguish you from others in your industry
Once you’ve got all this sorted out, the personal branding process can truly begin.
Building a presence
I’ll be completely honest with you.
The first stages of brand building can be a little soul crushing.
Getting the ball rolling is without a doubt the most difficult part of the process.
Unless you’ve already got a built-in network, it’s probably going to feel like pulling teeth.
But you have to start somewhere. You have to learn to crawl before you can walk and eventually get to the top.
Or as Drake would say,
Started from the bottom, now we’re here.
So, how do you start building a presence?
Fortunately, the Internet provides us with plenty of avenues.
I suggest doing “the big three” to begin:
- Create a professional website (preferably on WordPress) – This will serve as your “home base” online. Check out this guide from Quick Sprout for more on this.
- Start and maintain a blog on your website – This is one of the best ways to develop your voice and create a unique identity.
- Have profiles on at least three social media networks – Start with LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter or Instagram, and gradually expand. But don’t spread yourself too thin to the point where you can’t consistently update.
Here’s a quick tip about choosing usernames: use a format that’s easy to remember, and try to use the same username for all your profiles. Consistency and homogeneity are essential for branding.
The initial stages of launching your personal brand are time-consuming.
That’s why I recommend focusing exclusively on your website, blog, and social media for at least the first month or two.
You want to make sure you’re devoting the necessary amount of time to generate some buzz.
Ideally, you’ll gain at least a small core audience for your blog and a few hundred social media followers.
Once you get to that point, it’s time to crank it up a notch.
Exploring other content mediums
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll know that the content I’ve created over the years has been a primary contributing factor to my personal brand development.
Whether it’s my content on Quick Sprout, neilpatel.com, Kissmetrics, or guest content on Forbes, Entrepreneur, Huff Po, etc., it’s all helped me carve out a niche.
In my opinion, one of the most effective ways to strengthen your brand and continually build momentum is by creating high caliber content.
And there are so many ways to go about this.
Here are just a few mediums you can use:
- Long-form posts where you cover a topic in detail – Learn about the skyscraper technique by Brian Dean from Backlinko.
- Podcasting – “Podcast listening grew by 23% between 2015 and 2016.”
- YouTube – It has more than 1.3 billion users.
But here’s the deal.
Establishing a brand requires you to do one highly important thing.
And that’s to be consistent across the board.
According to research, “It takes 5-7 brand impressions before someone will remember your brand.”
Whichever mediums you use, it’s imperative that you maintain consistency with your voice, style, opinions, and so on.
If you go back and forth, you’ll confuse your audience and won’t be able to make any real headway.
Of course, you’ll naturally grow and evolve, but you need to maintain your core identity.
Most important of all, you need to be authentic. People can sniff out phoniness from a mile away.
If you’re a nice guy, be a nice guy.
If you’re a bit of a jerk, be a bit of a jerk.
In other words, “To thine own self be true.”
In my opinion, guest-blogging is pound-for-pound the most effective way to build a personal brand.
By leveraging another blogger’s/expert’s inherent brand equity and influence, you can accelerate the growth of your own brand.
Just think about it.
If a notable figure gives you “a nod,” it immediately elevates your brand equity.
But I remember a few years ago when the SEO community got bent out of shape when they heard that guest-blogging could potentially lead to SEO penalties.
However, Google clarified, basically saying, “Guest blogging is okay, but guest-blogging for SEO is not.”
In other words, posting valuable content on another blog is fine as long as you’re not creating spam with the sole intention of earning a backlink.
If you’re looking for a magic bullet, guest-blogging is the closest thing you can get.
I choose to view it as more of a way to expand my audience and build my brand rather than simply generating a backlink.
It’s just a matter of doing it the right way.
You also need to understand that it’s a bit of a numbers game, and you’ll need to reach out to multiple bloggers before you get the greenlight.
I recommend checking out this post from Kissmetrics to master the art of guest-blogging.
Getting free press
Let’s say you’ve taken care of the fundamentals I’ve already mentioned.
The final step is to get press coverage so you can build your audience even more.
Here’s a look at how Tim Ferriss got coverage for his book, The 4-Hour Workweek (remember, this was before he had the massive personal brand he does today and when he was in the same boat as many of you at the moment):
But this is just one idea.
Here are some others:
- Give a lecture or seminar at a local college or university
- Write an article for a trade magazine
- Sign up for Help a Reporter Out (HARO) – This can help you get valuable media coverage
I suggest you look over this guide from Quick Sprout for a more in-depth look on getting free press coverage.
Many people underestimate the power of conventional media outreach. Even though the heyday of newspapers is over, there are still ways to gain an incredible reach and immense power through media channels.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the process of launching a personal brand.
There are so many areas to cover that you may not even know where to start.
But when you break it down step by step and check off one thing it a time, it becomes a lot more manageable.
I like to approach it like construction of a building.
You start with a sturdy foundation (a PVP) and gradually build from there. It’s a process.
The most practical bit of advice I can give you is to be patient and stay the course.
Once you gain some initial momentum, it gets a lot easier to pick up some speed.
And once you finally get to the point where you’ve established a legitimate personal brand, the new opportunities that come your way will be completely worth it.