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Personal Branding can seem quite involved — and as with anything, you can raise it to the level of obsession. (Not that I’ve ever done that). However, the easiest brands to maintain are those that reflect your true self and your core beliefs. I’ll discuss the ‘how’ of determining your brand in a later article, but for now, we’ll focus on the ‘what’ of personal branding — or the elements of your personal brand.
When you think about a brand you know well, you can instantly identify a few things about it. For example, the brand Coca-Cola evokes images of the red Coke logo, red and white themed advertising and packaging, the curved bottle (if your local store still sells bottles), a general feeling of youth and energy, and slogans such as ‘The Real Thing’. Conversely, the brand Pepsi brings to mind the predominantly blue Pepsi logo, blue and white themed advertising and packaging, an even younger feel, and slogans such as ‘The Pepsi Generation”.
You can probably think of several other images or ideas you can associate with either of these two internationally known brands. These images and ideas make up the brand elements of Coke and Pepsi and your personal brand is made up of brand elements as well.
The three key elements of a Personal Brand are Persona, Packaging and Product. The decisions your audience makes about you will be dramatically impacted by its perception of these three items.
Are you male or female?
Tall or short?
Old or young or in between?
Are you married or single? A parent?
Joyful or somber? The life of a party or an introvert?
How do you dress? Formally, informally? Do you wear clothes at all?
What leisure activities do you enjoy?
What do you do for a livin and what do you want to do for a living?
What kind of vehicle do you drive and what do you want to be driving?
Are you affluent, middle class, poor or super-rich?
Are you a religious or spiritual person?
The answers to these questions help identify who you are as an individual, and how others perceive you as well. Note that some elements of your persona you can control, some you can’t (it’s unlikely that you’re going to get any taller, for example). The more you can control an element of your persona, the more I would place it in the next section, Packaging.
If you have already created marketing collateral — a website, business cards, stationery, etc. — you have entered a very clear stage of packaging your brand. However, packaging can also extend to persona elements that you can control such as your attitude, your facial expressions, your manner of dress — even the state of your vehicle, home and workstation.
In addition, whatever and whoever you surround yourself with becomes part of your packaging. There is a reason, for example, that some politicians publish photographs of themselves standing in the midst of their loving families or helping out around the community –those images become part of their packaging. I know the concept of packaging may sound shallow and/or manipulative and it can be, but audiences do make immediate judgments based on packaging.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re a writer. Your product is your writing and often the specific type of writing you do. If you’re a light contemporary romance author, for example, that type of writing is part of your brand which is why, should you later decide to write a hard-hitting romantic suspense, you would very likely choose to write it under a different pen name. Your audience will identify with the type of writing you do and to deviate from that type of writing will dilute your brand and generate remarks like ‘Oh, she used to write lighthearted, fun books but now, I don’t know what she’s doing. I don’t like her style any more.’ This could be considered a ‘brand disconnect’ or, if the jump is too dramatic, ‘brand suicide.’ Neither of which I recommend!
Once you identify and capitalize on your Persona, Packaging and Product you have everything you need for an effective Personal Brand. It sounds simple, and it is! By focusing on these elements as you go through your work, interactions with others, and promotional activities, you’ll help ensure that all three elements work together for your brand’s success.