People buy better versions of themselves, so inspiration is the name of the game. Position your brand in a way that is inspirational and will help others become better at whatever they wish to achieve. In order to have a strong personal brand that inspires people, you must have five building blocks in place. Let’s look at each one.
The first basic element of your personal brand is a clean, crisp, full-face photo of yourself. Make your photo consistent across your website and social media channels so people easily recognize you. Using a clean white or colored background will allow you to stand out on websites. I prefer white, as it blends into most websites well.
A recognizable photo is so important because we remember things after repeated exposure. This will be the one photo you can consistently send to all conferences and websites when you first start your thought leadership journey. Further into your career, you can mix it up, but when you start, you want people to recognize you immediately.
While I recommend getting a professional photo done, start where you can. Today, you can even use a smartphone camera and get a high-resolution photo. As with everything in this process, don’t wait until the ideal conditions, because they will never come.
#2: Signature Look
A signature look is important, as it adds to your being easily recognizable. Your signature look must be authentic. A forced costume or look will make you feel uncomfortable, and that will come across in person and on stage.
You could differentiate yourself easily by adding in a scarf, fun bowtie, or uniquely framed glasses. Incorporate those tweaks into your photo and whenever you are on stage. Maybe you always wear a red dress or a hoodie sweatshirt. A unique hairstyle, a formal pinstriped suit, or unusual and visible shoes can also add to a signature look.
The key is that these elements are used consistently. One note: if you are connected with a corporation, make sure your look conforms to that corporate culture.
For further inspiration on honing your signature look while being authentic, you can hire a stylist for one or two sessions. They may come up with ideas that never crossed your mind, but may be a great, comfortable, and authentic look for you. The stylist may come up with that one small tweak. For women, creating a signature look is typically easier because we have more accouterments to play with than men.
Whatever you choose to use as your signature look, be sure it’s obvious.
What is a signature catchphrase or tagline you could write on the back of a napkin? This should quickly describe different areas of your expertise.
When creating my first platform on patient empowerment and technology disrupting medicine, I thought like a company branding department, and brainstormed 15 to 20 catchphrases. One was “The Patient as CEO,” which later became the title of my book.
Other ones included “Doctors as Medical Engineers,” “The Era of the Patient,” “Wearable Technology Creating an Internet of You,” and “Diagnostics on Demand.” I actually trademarked a couple of these phrases. Your catchphrases need to be new, unique, and memorable. While you may or may not take the steps to actually trademark your catchphrase, the process of creating them is still important.
Once you create your catchphrases, you need to use them frequently, so that people associate those concepts with you. For the first year of the patient empowerment and technology disrupting medicine platform, I tested all the different catchphrases out to see how people responded to them. The ones I still use today are the ones people reacted to and that I also really liked using. You also need to love your catchphrases. If you don’t, repeating them hundreds or thousands of times will be torturous.
Once you have your tagline and catchphrases, then it’s time to market and use them. One of the best ways to do this is to create social media banners.
Hire a graphic designer or even use one of the many free tools available to quickly create these. You could use software like Canva—basically a drag and drop design software for beginner designers. I used my life goal—working to impact one hundred million patients worldwide—as a catchphrase on my LinkedIn header banner. This is a small step you can take that will significantly build your branding.
Next, you need to develop a short, medium, and long bio.
You need to have these on-demand, so you can copy and paste them as needed. These can especially come in handy when someone needs to introduce you, as your short bio can double as a stage or email introduction.
Your short bio should be between 70 and 100 words. Your medium bio should be between 100 and 200. Your long should bio be between 200 and 400.
They should be easy to skim through, with keywords that stand out. Everything, even in your long bio, should be relevant. Every word should refer back to your central brand. Keep in mind that it is not the date range that makes something relevant in a bio; it is the relevance to your brand.
Your bio tells the story of you.
If you want to write your bios yourself, you can always Google others’ bios or download a template to work from. Marketing companies, PR companies, and professional editors can help you write your bio. The reason to bring on help, at least initially, is that you are sometimes too close to the content, since it’s about you. A good expert can take one look at your platform ideas and LinkedIn profile, have a quick chat with you, and come back with a great bio.
Once you have a solid template bio, you can tweak and update going forward. Here is a list of aspects to include in your bio:
- Name and profession
- Drive or skill
- Current title and company
- Relevant past titles and companies
- Relevant education
- Any major publications or articles
- Any major accolades
Do not add extra details that aren’t relevant. People’s attention spans are limited, most will just skim your bio if it’s too long. Hit the important parts of your career, forget the rest.
As with everything you write, from your bio to your book, simplify it to the least number of words possible. When writing articles or creating keynote slides or scripts, you always want to go back, take out as many words as possible and drop unnecessary details. Always ask yourself, “Can this be tighter?”
#5: Personal Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is a short description of an idea, product, company, or yourself that explains the concept so well any listener can understand it quickly.” For a personal elevator pitch, you want to convey your skills and goals in an exciting way.
When crafting your elevator pitch, consider the transformation you are offering. People don’t buy products; they buy better versions of themselves.
Inspiration is the name of the game. How can you position your brand so that it is inspirational, and will help people become better at whatever they want to do? For example, I am using this book as a guide to help people fulfill their own potential.
Also consider your fundamental truth that others don’t believe. What is that thing you know is true, but most people don’t know about, or it isn’t a widely spread belief?
With my patient as CEO vertical, my fundamental truth is that most people don’t know patients should be in control of their health and care. For the Thought Leader Formula, it is the fact that anyone, anyone can be a thought leader if they put in the hard work, strategy, and capital (i.e., follow the right formula).
Some people think of thought leadership as “being discovered” like an actor or musician, rather than building it like a business with a strategy and brand. My goal is to help other women have a solid path to being called a thought leader to help them in their careers, and that is part of the elevator pitch I mention when I talk about the Thought Leader Formula platform.
This was adapted from The Thought Leader Formula. For more advice on merging your life and your business to become a thought leader, you can find The Thought Leader Formula on Amazon.
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