Personal Branding: Powerful, Persuasive, and Omnipresent

I’ll be frank: When I first heard the term “personal branding,” I greeted it with an eye roll worthy of a teenager. Why personal branding, I mused — isn’t branding good enough? After all, I reasoned, we all know what branding means.

But personal branding is different. It’s a vital tool for small businesses and other entrepreneurial types. Like blogging, personal branding embodies a technique, mindset, and personality that helps you stand out among your competitors.

Some uber successful personal brands are those of celebs such as talk show host extraordinaire Oprah Winfrey, gourmet doyenne Martha Stewart, and motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Their personal identities are synonymous with their brands.

Although only a few rarified entrepreneurs play in Oprah’s league, we’d all be wise to heed her advice: “If I lost control of the business, I’d lose myself — or at least the ability to be myself. Owning myself is a way to be myself.”

But just like Oprah, all business owners strive to be known for their talent, ability to offer a distinctive point of view, creativity, marketplace knowledge, and/or ______ . (Fill in the blank, depending on your business.)

What exactly is personal branding?

Your personal brand is how you promote yourself. It is the unique combination of skills, experience, and personality that you want your followers to see. It is the telling of your story, and the impression people gain from your online reputation.

Much like a blog, a personal branding strategy is akin to a chapter in a book — a book about you. And because you’re the author, you shape the narrative that can persuade people to consider doing business with you even when they don’t know you. In a way, your personal brand operates like an old-fashioned storefront: You can show potential customers your wares and communicate your style and abilities much like an impactful store window can.

Why is personal branding so important?

1. Creating a strong personal brand makes you more influential.
2. Developing an authentic personal brand may enable you to attract the people most likely to purchase your product or service. There will be more a natural   attraction if someone identifies with you through your online presence, including both website and social media.
3. Building a customer base with a distinctive personal brand is a way to help ensure clients will come to you organically— rather than you needing to pursue them.
4. Maintaining, living, and reinforcing your brand leads to more credibility among prospects and greater loyalty from established customers.

Try writing a personal brand statement — a close relative of the elevator pitch. It may seem unnecessary to say, but before you develop this kind of a statement, be absolutely, 100 percent real with yourself about the message you are conveying.

“Focus on identifying your target audience, communicating an authentic message that they want and need, and project yourself as an expert within your niche,” says Kim Garst, marketing strategist.

A glance at my personal brand

Consider my own personal brand: I’m an experienced, award-winning freelance writer and PR professional who loves collaborating with small businesses, healthcare organizations, and nonprofits. I’m not a corporate communications type; that’s not my thing and I don’t market myself as such. As a published author with deep editorial roots, I take a journalistic approach to every writing and PR project I take on. An essential lesson from my father Bill Storm, a newspaper reporter, always rings true: “There are no small stories.” It sounds simple, but its brevity makes it all the richer.

My first professional position was as a junior editor of a successful magazine start-up for the fashion jewelry industry. It sent me to New York City — a learning experience in its own right. And with just a two-person staff, this challenging position forced me to become a very hard worker, a quick study, and a lifelong learner — qualities for which I’m forever grateful. All of these factors are part of my personal brand, though I rarely consider them that way.

Now that you’ve given personal branding some thought, use it to polish your brand. Make it shine.

Content provided by Women Belong member Betsy Storm