The following is adapted from The Thought Leader Formula.
As a thought leader, your brand is the impression people have of you when they hear your name. It’s critical, then, that your brand stands out. In this article, we’ll discuss the elements that create a great brand—including the key ingredient you must have.
A Strong Brand is Recognizable
If someone were to Google your name, what would come up? If there is a plethora of people out there with a similar name or message as you, how are you going to differentiate yourself? When someone searches for you, you want to be 100% of the Google results for at least the first two pages. You can only accomplish that by having a differentiated brand people can relate to and remember.
First, you can try to “enhance” your name by adding your educational credentials, your middle initial, a prefix, or doing something else creative like adding a “the 3rd” after your name. You could add a tagline, such as “John Smith: The Comedy Scientist.”
You could even change your name altogether, creating a stage name or a nom de plume. This is commonplace in Hollywood; actors and actresses do it all the time.
Albert Brooks was born Albert Einstein. David Bowie was born David Robert Jones. Joan Rivers was Joan Alexandra Melinsky. Michael Keaton was Michael John Douglas. Katie Perry was Katherine Elizabeth Hudson.
The list goes on and on. Some of these people might have changed their name legally, but a lot didn’t; they just had to differentiate themselves professionally.
The Key is Authenticity
I can’t overemphasize the importance of authenticity. People will eventually see through you if you aren’t authentic. In addition, not being authentic is exhausting! Always be your true self. Anything less will shine through and your audience will lose trust.
My mantra in everything is “walk the talk,” and I always strive to live by that. There are some speakers who don’t. For instance, some speakers talk about preventive medicine, but are significantly overweight. Who is going to trust them? They aren’t walking the talk. Don’t tell people you are an expert about something—show them.
Finally, how can you stand out while still being identified within a particular field? Establish a unique focus within your vertical that proves to your audience or paying clients that you are uniquely valuable, but also trustworthy.
What is your fundamental truth others don’t believe?
This is a key concept to becoming a successful thought leader. Your content differentiator is your fundamental truth that most others don’t believe.
In some cases, they aren’t even aware of this truth. It is that thing you know in your heart to be true that goes against the norm.
For example, my fundamental truth with first platform, The Patient as CEO, is that patients are the CEO of the healthcare team. Until recently, the entire medical community did not believe that, and a lot still don’t.
Your unique position signals to your audience that you understand them and can provide them with solutions. Again, trust is key. People search the internet every day for answers, and if your content provides some answers, you build trust.
A Strong Brand Inspires
Your unique perspective and opinion is your personal brand. A strong brand creates demand for your products and services. 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. Take this very book as an example. It is a guide to help people fulfill their own potential.
Inspire people to become better versions of themselves.
Consider the Pepsi story of the 60s. Coke was beating Pepsi by a significant amount, so Pepsi decided on a new way to market. Instead of focusing on the product, they focused on the image of people who drink Pepsi, coming up with the “Pepsi Generation.” They tied a drink to an inspirational concept. They focused on who you would be if you drank Pepsi—the freedom you would feel—and that drew people in.
Apple knows about branding as well. Their whole platform is based on “think different.” They inspire people not with the product features, but with a feeling—who you will be if you use the products. Branding used to focus on how a product would “fix the problem.” Today, people need to feel inspired and emotionally connected.
Your brand needs a backbone. Once you’ve identified your fundamental truth, tie that with your why, that thing or experience that drives you. What are you passionate about? What is your personal story? Your entire platform could be built around the success of beating the odds or turning a loss into opportunity.
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