In today’s digitally oriented world, personal branding has truly become the ultimate game-changer. However, many people struggle to understand the meaning of a personal brand. My favorite definition is a quote from Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what other people say when you’re not in the room.”
Personal branding is how we put ourselves out there – for the world to see. How do you present yourself? How do you want others to perceive you? It can be incredibly hard to show up if you don’t have a clear understanding of how it is that you want to. People have asked me, isn’t your personal brand just your reputation? Well… it is… and it isn’t. The best definition of the distinction I have ever read explains it this way: your reputation is what other people think about you. Your brand is how you present yourself to mold what other people think of you.
I am an ardent supporter of women in the corporate world and of girls’ and women’s empowerment. As a woman and the mother of a teenage girl, I see firsthand the challenges that we can often face in the workplace. It is important to me that I help women to see their strengths and their power and achieve success – whatever that success looks like for them. That is why I am such a proponent of mastering your brand.
Part of my own personal brand is how I show up for others and how I make them feel. Recently, I met a friend in person for the first time. We had met in an online community group and had done the requisite virtual coffee. When we were able to sit down and chat in real life, she looked at me as we were talking and said, “You listen very intentionally, Melissa. That is a very rare thing”. That is how I want to show up. I want to be fully present for the people that I care about, to be supportive, and to lift up others.
Personal branding is a must to set yourself apart in today’s competitive landscape. Whether you are in a job search or seeking clients for your business, personal branding gives you that extra advantage that makes you unique. A well-defined personal brand allows you to rise above the noise and stand out from the crowd. It is your unique combination of skills and experiences and your ability to vocalize the same. It is your not-so-secret weapon.
Your brand becomes the starting point for creating and sharing the knowledge and content that aligns with your expertise. It’s not about self-promotion; it’s about providing genuine value, solutions, and inspiration to your audience. By consistently offering meaningful insights and sharing your unique perspectives, you become the go-to source for your areas of expertise. In our increasingly digital world, personal branding gives you a voice to amplify your message and to differentiate yourself. It allows you to become a thought leader in your field.
Consistency is key, but remember that consistency is not necessarily the same as frequency. I recommend that the frequency with which you share content on social media remains constant (whether that is daily, three times per week, weekly, etc.). However, the biggest area of consistency should be that your unique skills, strengths, and passions shine through on every platform. That includes your own personal website, your company website, your newsletter, and each of your social media accounts. Everything should have a common thread running through it that makes it uniquely identifiable as you.
We reach far more people than we immediately realize. I am sometimes still surprised when someone tells me how much they enjoy the content that I share on LinkedIn and how much it resonated with them or helped them with a challenge they were facing, but they have never even so much as “liked” the posts. We reach people every day without being aware that we do so. That is the power of using our platform.
By building our personal brand, we gain many opportunities: to join panels, co-host events, speak on podcasts, or attend conferences. Collaborations with other leaders come to fruition. None of these opportunities happen quickly without putting yourself forward and building a strong personal identity. Your brand comes into the room before you do, and it can open doors.
That leads to what I consider a key facet of personal branding – it has to be authentic. People can sense instantly when they are being presented with something that just does not ring true. We should never put on someone else’s persona – we must develop our own. If I were asked to share my biggest “tip” for building your brand, it would be that – don’t try to be someone else. The person that you are online has to be the person that you are in reality. People can sense inauthenticity a mile away, and people want to work with and collaborate with people they trust.
You may wonder how I got here. Did I always know the value of my brand? I definitely did not. My journey started in 2020. I suddenly found myself in the middle of the pandemic, no longer working at the company I loved. A huge piece of my identity was missing because I had not built my own. I vowed never to let that happen again. Jobs, bosses, companies – they will all come and go. But I will always have myself to fall back on.
Want to learn more about this topic? Make sure to follow Melissa Cohen on LinkedIn.