3 Common Personal Branding Mistakes to Avoid

2 March, 2013

freelancefolder.comWhether you’re aware of it, consciously work at it, or completely disregard it, you have a reputation.  The only way to intentionally influence your reputation is to put thought and effort into building your personal brand. Contrary to popular belief, personal branding is not about pumping up your ego and putting yourself ahead of others. Rather, it’s an honest, considered exploration of what makes you tick, the benefits you offer to those around you and how to communicate them in a way that’s clear and consistent.

So, if a brand is the promise of value you receive when you engage with that brand e.g. buy Apple and you get ‘cool’, then your personal brand is the value you offer to the situation or the people around you. But in the quest add value and to differentiate yourself from your peers, don’t make these 3 common mistakes:

 1. Not beginning at the beginning

The biggest and most common mistake people make is not taking the time to establish what makes them special, different and better. A good understanding of what makes you unique translates into a clear, strong brand and is the absolute foundation for anyone who wants to do the job well.

With the plethora of online opportunities available to brand yourself, having a solid, authentic brand that is consistent across all platforms not only provides credibility and trustworthiness, it gives your friends, fans and followers a crystal clear understanding of who you are and how you can be of benefit to them.

A good way to get going is to ask yourself some simple yet thought-provoking questions:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What do you do that you’re most proud of?
  • What are your core strengths?
  • What holds you back?
  • How do others describe you?
  • What do you want to be famous for?

Thinking about your personal brand the way corporate marketers think about their products is the right move: do a SWOT analysis, define a vision, set goals, write that marketing plan. You won’t be sorry.

 2. Being vague and inconsistent

I bet there are hundreds of people that do exactly what you do, with the same skill set and the same experience, give or take a title or two. What you’re trying to do is differentiate yourself from every other lawyer, engineer or photographer.  That’s why you’re not a lawyer but an employment law specialist for non-profit organisations, and you’re not an engineer but a street-planner with a focus on social interaction, and you’re not an ordinary photographer but one for brides who are into having fun at their wedding. Get the picture?

At its essence, branding yourself is not what you do but how you solve others’ problems. Every potential customer has a problem they’re trying to solve and when they come into contact with your brand they’ll sub-consciously ask themselves these 3 questions:

  1. Do you serve me?
  2. Can you solve the problem that I have?
  3. Do you seem like you’re any good at it?

People don’t hire a marketer because they want a marketing plan. They hire a marketer because they want to increase awareness, convert more leads, differentiate themselves from their competitors, and so on.

There is only one thing worse than being vague or generic about what you do, and that is being a jack-of-all-trades, a.k.a. an accountant and a nutritional therapist and an IT process improvement expert. Seriously?

You want to own an idea and stand for something. That’s your competitive advantage.

3. Believing only some of it counts

Here’s the thing: it all counts. Whether you like it or not, everything you do and say – or not say – from the way you handle telephone calls and email conversations; the way you conduct yourself in business meetings; how you handle office politics; whether you’re punctual, polite, political, persistent, positive or professional, all speak to your personal brand.

Partly it’s a matter of substance: what you say, and partly it’s a matter of style: how you say it. It all forms part of the perception of you held by the external world.

Don’t fall into the trap of being dishonest and pretending to be someone that you’re not. Not only is there a hefty price tag on being inauthentic, but it will trip you up and crumble over time. When you live and breathe your genuine self it won’t matter who sees you and what you’re doing when they see it.

Defining your personal brand can be difficult and time-consuming but it’s worth the effort. A well articulated, differentiated and authentic personal brand informs all your other marketing efforts and sets you up for success. Don’t make these common mistakes – you’ll just make it harder.

Image: freelancefolder.com

Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.