I am a sucker for definitions, yet most times I find that they can be incredibly restrictive at times – welcome to a good old rambling semantics, you all. I won’t lie, this may be an abrupt way to meet me if it’s the first time you meander in my writing musings. Yet, as literature and language graduate, I have a passion for words and their meanings.
If we go for the Cambridge’s dictionary definition, branding can be summarised as
the act of giving a company a particular design or symbol in order to advertise its products and services
How does this work when you are your own brand? Defining your personal brand is a process that is carried out through strategy and planning.
In this case, my favourite ever definition comes from the ominous website PersonalBrand.com:
A personal brand is a widely-recognised and largely-uniform perception or impression of an individual. It is based on their experience, expertise, competencies, actions and/or achievements within a community, industry, or the marketplace at large.
Branding is a perception that your public and the wider audience have of you. It can be shaped by using content, contribution, partnerships, services and intention. Not everyone should be necessarily worried about crafting a personal brand. However, if you are the founder of a company or startup, a writer, author, creative, then you are your brand.
As such, personal branding is applicable to you.
When do we need a personal brand?
By me being a multi-passionate entrepreneur, I embody a few categories of a personal brand – all in one neat tiny package.
- Fab the writer, author and columnist for a starter. She wants her content and values to be clear in her writing as much as the value and advice she shares online.
- Fab the CEO, consultant and founder of Creative Impact. She wants her customers, her members and the 80k+ audience of her own company to have a clear picture in their hands of how the company values align with her personal story and identity.
- Fab the creative also wants her content on Instagram, her podcast to be a reflection of her personality.
So if you can relate with any of these, then you want to make sure you take the time to create a series of values that can be showcased throughout your online interactions and partnerships. By knowing what you stand by, it will be easier to say yes or no to opportunities coming your way.
Understand your niche
There are three steps you need to follow to define your personal brand and create your own branding guidelines.
- First, define your values and make sure they are the pillars you want to base your brand on.
- Second, combine the values with a set of branding guidelines and manifesto you can use when interacting and creating content online.
- Lastly, create a content plan around your brand to make sure you are actively sharing your message with your audience.
In order to create a set of values, you need to clearly understand your niche. Carve a niche, and then carve a niche within your niche. The best personal brands are very specific.
Let me use our company as an example.
Our niche for Creative Impact is conscious experts, professionals and small biz owners wanting to make a positive impact on other people and the planet. The best way to come up with values for your personal brand is by combining your niche with your why.
Why are you looking to grow your personal brand in the first place? What are you sharing with the world to make it a better place?
Write down your WHY, your origin story in a journal. Let the ideas flow, make the piece of paper come to life for you. After you have written down your origin story, it’ll be easier to outline the values you stand by in your brand, as you’ll just need to look at the rules you have set in your own life to be happy and fulfilled.
As an example, here are some of our company values (which are well plastered on our website by the way)
- Refuse the hustle culture: we believe in the idea that we should be working smarter, not harder.
- Make a bigger impact: making a positive impact goes beyond your neighbour.
- Collaboration over competition: we believe there is enough space for everyone – so we truly believe that everyone should be celebrated.
- Mindset first: being in business and creating a business (may it be full time or side hustle) is 80% mindset.
Get clear on your values
Next, we need to outline how to make sure your personal brand is rooted in the minds of people you interact with. For that, we need to explore the process of personal branding and the effort to communicate and present your value to the world and how branding guidelines can do that for you.
If I say the name Steve Jobs, what is the first thing you think about? Black turtleneck, jeans and a longing look behind thin-framed glasses, standing in front of a big screen. Gary Vaynerchuck? Definitely a lot of swearwords – I have seen him live a few times, so I can attest to that.
You see, all the biggest and boldest personal brands have one thing in common. They are consistent – and no, I am not suggesting you add a set of black turtlenecks to your Amazon Wishlist.
However, I do believe that so many people get hung up on what their personal brand is supposed to look like. Do not obsess over what people would expect you to be. Because that level of authenticity is what attracts people to who you are as a personal brand. In order to refine and define what your guidelines look like, you need to start with the 3×3.
The 3×3 exercise
Think about three adjectives that represent your personal brand, as well as three ways you’d describe your tone of voice. They will become a North star for your branding guidelines.
The first three adjectives should be quite visual, as they will help you with creating a visual mood board that can encompass your brand identity and colours. Bold, modern, minimalistic is what came up for my visual brand.
The second set is all about your tone of voice. In my case it’s definitely cheeky, inspiring, thought-provoking. This represents both my writing, my way of posting on social media and even the way I lead our podcast show, for example.
Create a visual mood board
Another fun step in creating branding guidelines is creating your own visual mood board. I love to do this with clients over on Pinterest.
To do this, all you have to do is create a secret board on Pinterest or an Instagram collection, and head back to the words that can come up from the 3×3 exercise. Look for keywords such as colour palette or bold web design. You can even bookmark some quotes and photos that really speak to you.
What you really want is a visual snapshot of what your brand is about – and there is no wrong way of doing this, I have seen people adding a Minions picture in their mood board before!
This is a great asset for whenever you are working on visual graphics, or even your own website, logo or book cover – just to name a few. Add your top adjectives into your mood board to have a full snapshot of your personal brand you can send to any web designer at any time.
A note about boundaries
Everyone has different boundaries when it comes to sharing. The same counts for you. We should not be forced to fit in the mould of “authenticity” for authenticity’s sake. You need to define what you feel comfortable sharing as part of your personal brand. Whilst you do not want to create a whole new identity, you also do not need to fully expose each and every side of yourself.
In the words of Brene Brown:
Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.
Once you have a clearer way to define your personal brand and visualise it, go back to your branding guidelines. Put into action a simple plan to share your message, content and plant the seed for how you want to make a bigger impact on other people’s lives.
Looking for help building your brand online? Check out the Creative Impact Collective and get a business coach right in your pocket.