What is Personal Branding and Why Should You Care?

What is Personal Branding?Personal Branding is a concept that’s been bandied about since the days of Napoleon Hill in his famous book “Think and Grow Rich”. The phrase itself is probably associated most with Tom Peters and his article “The Brand Called You” where he talks about people being a complete package much like any product that can be marketed. Today, it’s used in the same sentences as resume building, creating a social media presence, and reputation management. With all the confusing information available, exactly what is personal branding today?

A quick look at corporate branding

When most people think of brands they think of products, such as Coca-Cola, Band-Aid, McDonald’s, and Starbucks.  But these are just names that have become synonymous with certain products. Their brand is actually a combination of elements that have made those brands so recognizable.

For example, Nike may be recognized by it’s checkmark logo, but it’s even better known for the phrase “Just Do It” and all the emotions, values and messages that go with those words. McDonald’s isn’t just known for their big “M”. Their brand is all about fast food, consistent quality, global presence, great value, and even their charitable foundation.

How does personal branding differ from traditional product branding?

The real difference is that a personal brand is an individual person’s image that’s being expressed vs. a company or product. For entrepreneurs, there may be no real difference. But for anyone else, your personal brand and your specific work experience or the products you sell are completely different animals.

Your personal brand reflects the characteristics that make you unique. You may share some characteristics with other people, but your own combination is always going to be unique.

What should your personal brand include?

The combination that makes up your personal brand should reflect your core values, your biggest strengths, and your mission in life. It can also include significant accomplishments, personal stories, or other things that make you stand apart from the crowd.

Most importantly, your personal brand is everything that makes you “you”. After all, you’re not a product, you’re a person – even if you are trying to sell yourself in a job interview. A product can’t have the sense of humor that pulls teams together, but a person can. A product doesn’t have the insight and courage to try new innovations, but a person can have these attributes as part of their “brand”.

Lately, there’s been some criticism of the term “personal branding”. With all the emphasis on transparency and real-time social interaction online, the idea of associating a person with a product is less than appealing.  But personal branding is really just another way of exploring who you are, what makes you special, and what you stand for. Companies go through the same process.

By defining your personal brand, you are creating a portrait of yourself for the whole world to see. Then it’s just a matter of consistently conveying that brand through your actions.

What do you think of when you hear the term “personal brand”?

If you’d like more information about personal branding, I just released an entire pack of Personal Branding PLR content that includes articles, a worksheet for creating your personal brand, and examples.