Personal empowerment is something near and dear to my heart. When I finally woke up from the realization that I didn’t want to be a corporate worker drone (robots are evil), I realized that I didn’t know the first thing about what to do to change my fate. It took a series of efforts, none of which were easy, but that have led me down a path towards doing what matters to me, being valued for what I do best, and finding friends and supporters along the way who understand me, and who have mutual interests.
Because YOU might be in a place where you’re wondering what to do next, or because you might want to know more about what it’s taken to go from being a guy in a cube named Chris Brogan to a guy people know and want to talk to, here are some elements of personal branding to consider. Your mileage may vary, but maybe these will spark your own ideas, and maybe you’ll share them in the comments.
Here are some elements of a Personal Brand:
Self Esteem First
Absolutely nothing I do would work if I hadn’t worked long and hard on my self-esteem. In my case, I read a bunch of motivational books that got me started down the right path, but my self-esteem didn’t get better until I read (and did all the work inside) a book by Dr. Matthew McKay simply called Self-Esteem. It taught me a lot about how to observe and identify the things I was doing in my head to scuttle everything I wanted to accomplish. The more I learned, the more I have been successful over the last year.
My friend, Jon Swanson has a great series of “8 things” going on. In the post I linked above, Jon’s 8th tip for increasing stress was “Try to be Chris Brogan if you are built to be Jon Swanson.” It’s really important to be yourself in building a brand. Coke never set out to be just like somebody else. Madonna didn’t try to be someone different. The brands we know and love work because they are their own identity.
In the world of the Internet, with “me too” applications abound, branding is often superfluous, if everyone just figures you’re just like someone else.
Brands stand for something. I don’t buy Apple because the cool kids buy it. I’ve had Apple products since 1983. I buy them because they’re easy to use, they work, they’re designed for my style.
Your brand needs to offer a value. Top of his game in the brand of strategy for the web right now? Jeremiah Owyang. Even before he took his new gig at Forrester, Jeremiah has written amazing papers (blog posts), and given them to his readers for free. Why? Because he already knows about the new ROI (Return On Influence).
For you, consider WHAT you offer, and consider it hard. If you’re not providing a great “product,” and that can be a service that you do for the world, why should I care about your brand in the first place?
Build a Destination
This comes first in giving people a way to reach you, to see you, to know what you’re about. In this case, I mean giving people a website (preferably a blog), a phone number, an email account, a twitter account, a LinkedIN profile, and a Facebook profile. At minimum. Maybe you need other portals, but here’s a good starting point. Tie these things together. Show people how to connect to you at each of these. Why? Because you’re building out a way for people to get to know more about you, to reach you, to let you be there.
Destinations are so Web 1.0, which is why we added in Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIN. Folks should be able to find your brand and interact with it wherever THEY are. Optionally, you can add an IM client, but I find that when I’m on Instant Messenger, I don’t get much work done.
Join the Conversation
Start sharing your ideas. Write from the heart. Speak from the heart. Show people where your passions lie. Help others solve their problems. Listen to what others say and instead of saying, “Yeah! Me too,” try saying back something of added value. Comment all over the place and give people a sense of who YOU are.
Superstar in this department lately: Connie Bensen. She’s really lit up the scene fast, and is definitely someone with good opinions and ideas. I feel the same about Ben Yoskovitz of the Instigator Blog. He’s someone with a great value-add sense to what he’s doing out there.
In a world full of people doing somewhat similar stuff, the person who innovates is definitely ahead of the game. Come up with new things all the time. The other day, I posted on Twitter a quick blurb that Dave Winer was a scout while the rest of us were trail guides. This meant that Dave is out there trying and doing new things all the time. It’s not good enough for a new, strong brand to be out there showing people the path from where everyone is to where everyone might go next. What gets really important is when you are DEFINING the path.
Doing something new is a great way to get people to be interested in what you do.
Lately, I went through a rough patch of not delivering on things I said I would do. I’m still digging out from that a bit. Being reliable is a cornerstone to your brand. If you stop being reliable, it doesn’t matter that you’re a good person, or interesting, etc. It matters that you’re helping people get something done. Execute. Repeat. Execute.
The more you can be responsible, the more your brand will matter.
Your Own Company
Inside my head, I’m the CEO, project manager, and administrative assistant to my own private company. Employees= 1. With this in mind, I look at every job I take as a project. I look at every project as an opportunity. I talk to everyone professionally as if they’re someone looking to partner with me and my company. This helps me frame everything I do.
I don’t think in terms of resume, at least not the way most folks think. Instead, I think about projects that matter to me. This is why inside my last company, I moved laterally a lot of the time. The titles didn’t matter (the more you learn this, the better your life becomes), but instead, the experiences mattered.
Also, learn to look outside the walls of the organization you’re with. NOT so you can leave, but so you can understand how your role works in more dimensions.
These things have worked wonders on my personal brand.
Build and Learn Constantly
I’m reading all the time. I learn about things from people all the time. The more you build your personal ability, the more your brand can offer. Learn from all the sources that matter. Read great books. Subscribe to excellent blogs using a good reader like Google Reader, and learn how to absorb information that matters to what you’re passionate about.
The more you learn, the more you can offer back. Keep it consistent with your idea of who you are and what you want to offer the world, but be creative, and constantly strive to make your brand more useful and valuable to others.
Not just communicate, but do it well. Learn how to blog in a way that people will read what you say. Learn which of your posts are going to do WHAT for your audience. Communicate verbally. Sign up to speak at places and learn how from organizations and individuals who take presenting seriously. Pay attention to how professionals speak, and learn from what they show you.
Always strive to communicate in a way that delivers the payload of your information up front, that makes it all direct and to the point, and that can be taken as a value.
As I’m blogging and not writing a book, I’ll stop things here. Hopefully, there’s lots to go on.
But instead of me going on, why not you? Tell me what you know about YOUR personal brand? Tell me what’s worked for you in the past. Tell me that you’ve done X and it’s worked well, or that you don’t know how to get past Y. We’ll figure it out. What do YOU think?