When you spend all day working in the world of marketing, you would think that personal branding would come easy. But promoting your own brand requires a different approach. That’s why we asked Ashley Sieb, one of the best personal brand marketers we know, to share her wisdom and experiences. We’re ecstatic to welcome Ashley Sieb to our blog and hope you get as much out of this post as we did!
Everyone is a walking brand. What you say. What you wear. Where you go. How you act. How you interact. Everything you do defines your personal branding. Seems daunting when you look at that way, doesn’t it? But, the other perspective is the importance of personal branding. And after reading this piece, I am hoping you will feel better about how you can take control of your personal brand and control the stories that summarize your life.
Personal Branding vs. Business Branding
To understand the difference between personal branding and business branding, it’s important to put a definition around the word “brand.” To do so, I want to quote my good friend and marketing genius, Seth Godin:
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection, or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”
In the past, people thought of a brand as simply a logo or design – a visual representation of a brand. Today, a brand is based on reputation. What do people experience with your brand? How does your brand make them feel? How does your brand motivate them or help them overcome a fear? Answering these questions will help you understand the life within your brand and help you better tell the “why” or purpose of your brand. It’s so easy to lead with “what” you do – but leading with “why” (as Simon Sinek says) is where the real beauty of storytelling and connection takes place.
The biggest benefit of creating a personal brand is to help personalize your business brand. Have you heard the saying that people buy from people they know, trust, and like? This is the heart of personal branding. When you make yourself available and part of your brand story, you increase the awareness of your brand to your target market and often, the likability of the business brand.
If you ask Jeff Benzo about personal branding, he will tell you that your personal brand is what people say about you when you aren’t in the room. When someone is telling a story about you, how do they describe you? Do they understand and share your purpose, passion, and how you help the right way?
With proper personal branding, you can take control – to some extent – about the stories and experiences people have with you. I’d like to note that personal branding isn’t just for your online persona. You can’t be a joyful, loving person online and then be a giant turd in “real life” – authenticity is key with personal branding.
Dr. Seuss said it best, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
Be yourself and all of this becomes much easier. If you stop reading here, then you’ll at least be one step ahead of the game. You can’t fake your personal brand. Trust me on this one.
Getting Started with Personal Branding
Developing your personal brand is a daunting task. How do you even get started? Where do you begin? First, you need to get over that mental hurdle that you don’t like talking about yourself. Maybe people think personal branding = bragging or shameless self-promotion. That’s not the case. When you look inward, uncover your why, think about who you are helping, and tell stories that make their lives better or easier – you are mastering personal branding. Because really, personal branding isn’t just about you – it’s also about who you help. And when you look at it that way, it’s easy to see not all your stories should be self-serving and about yourself. In fact, social influencers who are most well-liked often post pictures of their families and invite you into their personal lives – not just their business lives.
It’s not just about looking cool or using the perfect filter for your photo. When brands studied personal influencers, they found that people who showed their face on camera via videos and responded to their personal DMs had more sales conversions than those who did not get on camera and never responded.
Here are 5 tips to get started:
Document your why. If you are unsure, start by thinking of stories that summarize your personal life, passion, and what motivates you. Write down cover stories that have shaped your life. Now, what words come to mind? Write them down in a paragraph format.
Develop an elevator pitch. I’ll never forget that first time I had to describe myself in front of a crowd of people that I NEVER met before. I had to stand up and explain myself in 30 seconds or less. I’d done this work for brands my entire career, but never for myself. It was October 2017 at a bagel shop. I was talking so fast and had a million thoughts running through my head. An older man grabbed my hand, and said, “Slow down. It’s just your story.” That stuck with me. And that moment made me feel like I needed a more fine-tuned story to describe myself. Today, I say, “I’ve spent the last decade of my career in digital marketing. I’m an educator, public speaker, podcast host, and writer. More importantly, I am a mother and wife who loves to do triathlons and advocate for women with PCOS.”
Now that you have your why on paper and you have your elevator pitch, think about how you can tell that story. What channels will you use? Some ideas include:
- Social media (especially Instagram stories and Snapchat to humanize your brand with video)
- Email marketing (your subscriber list is your biggest asset for both personal and brand marketing)
- Public speaking
Find a mentor. Every successful business leader has a mentor. They can rattle off the name of their mentor immediately and tell you how they helped shape their life. Sometimes, mentors come into our lives and we don’t know they are a mentor until the end of the relationship. It’s important that you find someone in your life who you can go to after a bad day. Someone who can tell you that everything is fine or help you come up with a plan to get back on your feet. This person is brutally honest and keeps you authentic in everything you do. Remember, authenticity is key in personal branding!
Be available and responsive. Now that you’ve done all of this heavy lifting and you’re sharing your story online, you’re failing yourself and your followers if you do not engage with your audience. You need to be available. You need to be responsive. You don’t have to respond to every post or question, but you need to show people that it’s really YOU behind the computer or mobile device. Once this personal branding ship is steaming ahead, you have the power to change lives. And you can’t do that if you never respond or let your ego get in the way. You are never too important to help someone else.
If you loved this advice as much as we did, you’ll want to keep in touch with Ashley. You can find her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashleysieb/. You can also follow her blog: ashleysieb.com. And be sure to read part two of Getting Started with Personal Branding, coming soon!