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Lucy Werner on wearing your personal brand as your uniform

Lucy Werner shares why you need a personal brand, the best ways to put yourself out there and build a strategy around it

I’m Lucy Werner, and I work in PR. I founded The Wern, a consultancy to help founders raise their profiles and co-founded hypeyourself.com, a DIY platform for PR & brand building on slim budgets. 

I’ve written two bestselling books, Hype Yourself and Brand Yourself, and I’m an ambassador for Adobe Express.  I’ve taught hundreds of entrepreneurs through workshops and talks for Cass Business School, Courier magazine, Hatch Enterprise, UAL & UCL. 

Recently, I have been named a Startups 21 most influential women of 2021 and named one of The Dots 100 Rising Stars two years in a row.

My personal brand is the virtual uniform I wear to the office

I’m still the same at home or work, but the conversations I have and how much I want to share differ. 

What making an impact means to me

It starts with knowing your values and what you stand for. (Sometimes, it is easier to understand what we are against). Once you know your values, it is a guide stick for your communications: the platforms you want to speak on, who you want to write for, and who you sit alongside on stage. 

Unless it’s a combative and debate-style panel, think about if you are happy for you and your company name to be alongside other panellists. Do they share your values?

One of my values is fun – this gives me a chance to be silly and hopefully spread a bit of cheer in the world. It’s also an opportunity. There is so much darkness and political upheaval that getting to champion the underdogs in a way that gives a smile feels a privilege. 

Equality is another. It’s not necessarily public acts but behind-the-scenes work you can do. Asking questions about who else is being given the same opportunities as you and then giving up your seat at the table and putting your peers forward. 

I value openness and try to show the highs and lows of running a business, including my floundering book sales (insert awkward emoji face here). I think the whole world would operate better if there were less smoke and mirrors. 

Personal brands are all around us

A well-known example of a great personal brand would be RuPaul

Where to begin? Let’s start with the catchphrases they have been using for decades. It’s a masterclass in branding and marketing. Wherever they are, they are using the same ones which have become intertwined with their brand. 

We often see content creators or business gurus changing expertise like the seasons, making it hard for their audience to come along for the journey. 

RuPaul has evolved and worked on different projects, and they still retain the same personal brand. 

Even the personal anecdotes, if you watch the selected written or TV interviews, you will hear the same personal stories. You feel like you know a lot about this person. It is a very tightly controlled narrative. We see what I call a bit of ankle’, not the whole naked truth.

There is also a level of humanity. We see genuine emotion and vulnerability regularly, and we all need more of that. We don’t need a shiny picture-perfect representation. Humility goes a long way. 

A piece of industry advice I disagree with

That you don’t need a personal brand. 

There is a big difference between controlling the narrative and feeling like you don’t want to be an influencer. 

The reality is that if you are searchable on Google, you have a personal brand. Why not choose to embrace it by controlling what it is that people search for when they look for you?

Why not increase your chances of being paid for your expertise and create another revenue stream for yourself by having a personal presence?

Don’t get me wrong. Having a personal brand isn’t a business model; it doesn’t mean you have to overshare. 

But everything from your headshot to what you write on your LinkedIn status is part of your brand, so taking the time to create an overarching strategy for this won’t harm anyone. And in fact, it can set guidelines to ensure you keep your ship steered on the right path. 

Misconceptions people have about personal branding

Starting with tactics

Too many people think a personal brand is about selecting a trending colour palette or fonts for Instagram and changing it with the times. 

And if I’m honest, I think personal branding can get a pretty bad rap. It’s seen as quite egocentric, and I think it’s been ruined by Instagram influencers claiming to be personal brand experts who don’t know the first thing about a brand strategy and only share these sorts of tactics. 

Your personal brand should start with a strategy. The overarching umbrella that all your content comes from. The colours, the logo – this is the bit people can get excited by. This is actually the last piece of the puzzle. 

One exercise to improve your personal brand

Google yourself in incognito mode (or search via DuckDuckGo). 

What is surprising? 

Maybe an article you wrote for a niche blog or a regional event you attended is coming up top. Perhaps you even find a piece which includes a quote or comment for you that you didn’t know about?

When we know what works effectively, we can concentrate on increasing our marketing and promotional activities here.

Perhaps you have an old photo or image of yourself coming up. Google loves MySpace, Twitter and YouTube. Easy ways to make a recent headshot come up top is to create on platforms that google loves and reshare the latest headshot or create a simple and quick video introduction.

One habit I swear by to help with work-life balance

Hobbies. You need something you are passionate about outside of your business. It doesn’t have to be something you are good at. 

I like colouring in picture books with my kids. Painting by numbers. Embroidery kits. Listening to records. Trying to learn French. Reading novels. 

I call this the equivalent of the horoscope and recipe pages. Stay with me…

If your business is a magazine, you have the news (announcements, new hires, wins etc.), Features – where we talk about industry trends and talks, but then there is the fun bit at the back. And actually, this is the essential part because it is the bit that helps people connect with us. 

The future of personal branding

The geeks will win

It’s not about how many followers you have or if you are the most popular person in school. If you know your stuff and people want to learn from you, they will be there.

Historically, the only opportunities were for content creators with huge followings. I think people see past the popularity contests today and love niche content creators and expertise. This means you have a real opportunity to make an impact, whatever your audience size. 

Looking to find out more about Lucy Werner?

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