Customers, clients and employees expect to see a transparent and human side from businesses and their leaders. This shift in expectation has already taken place and the internet provides the perfect platform for anyone and everyone to make it happen. Regardless of age, location or experience, you have an opportunity to bring a much-needed human side to your industry by crafting a personal brand, amplifying your message and building trust. So, if the market feels like it needs a fresh face, it probably does and the opportunity is yours if you want it!
1. Your story: Where do I start?
Start by defining who you are today and exploring where you'd like to be in terms of the work you do. I regularly guide others through this process with ease but when it comes to doing this for myself, I've often found it incredibly challenging to clearly articulate who I am and what I do - probably because I'm too close to my own story. Given that a personal brand lives in the minds of others, I decided to go straight to the source and ask the people who know me best so if you also find this process difficult, tapping into the minds of those around you might be a better place to start - There's a free Who Do They Think You Are workbook that will guide you through the process if this is something you’re getting stuck on.
Next, move your attention to the things that matter to you. Ask yourself questions like: “Why do I do what I do?” If what you do today doesn't matter to you and is simply a way to pay the bills, shift your focus across to where you would like to be. If money, time and other barriers didn't exist - What would you really like to be doing? Why does it matter to you? And is this something that you'd like to be known for?
I can guarantee that some of you will be wondering why on earth people will care about what you have to say. The answer is simple... because you care about what you have to say! No-one else has accumulated your collection of life experiences, no-one has your unique perspective and you are the only person who sees the world in the way that you do. Enthusiasm, excitement, passion... they're all contagious!
Dedicating some time to figuring this stuff out will give you foundations on which to build and when you write your story, don’t forget to include character and personality (the human aspect) so that people can form genuine connections with the true you, not the polished, work-friendly version.
2. Your audience: Who am I talking to?
Now that you’ve started to form your narrative, you can take a closer look at who you are talking to - Potential employers? An industry? A community of people? A niche? If you answered 'everyone', think again! When you try to win over the world you end up losing yourself. You are not for everyone. You never will be so don't try!
Spend time looking at who you're currently talking to (both on and offline) and ask yourself “Is this supporting the life I’m trying to create?” If not, your time would be better spent on building and growing an aligned community of people. This is the audience you should to be talking to.
Where do these people hang out and how are you going to find them? Are they on LinkedIn? In Facebook groups? On Twitter? Or are they offline at niche events, meetup groups and industry get togethers?
Really delve into the detail - age range, gender and location, how much they’re earning, the brands they’re likely to be buying from etc. – to build up a clear picture of your people. Although I will never encourage anyone to change what they have to say, there is value in being aware of how you're saying it and where applicable, tailoring your style to fit your audience.
3. Your mission: Do people know I exist?
Now that you've identified where your story and audience intersect, you can connect the two – it is how you become known for what you do.
This bit takes time and it requires consistency, which highlights the importance of knowing what matters to you. If it genuinely doesn't matter, you won't stick with it because rather than energise you, it'll leave you feeling drained and you’ll inevitably move on to something else. Sometimes we’ve been telling ourselves the same old story for years and when you dissect it and connect with the emotion behind it, that familiar old story is just that - a story. It’s not current, it’s out of date and you’ve evolved past it. So before you move on to the next part, make the statement “xxx matters to me” and then sit with the feeling it evokes. How does it make you feel? If it doesn’t light you up, does it really matter to you?
Back to my point about connecting your story and your people - If LinkedIn is the platform of choice for your audience and your goal is to work in a more senior role in your industry; you can weave some of the narrative for your bigger vision in and continue to update and evolve your bio as you grow. If writing is one of your strengths, consider writing your own articles as well as regularly sharing interesting content from other sources on your feed. If you connect with aligned people, add them on LinkedIn as soon as you meet them at meetings or offline events and increase the exposure to your content.
If you identified your audience as people who spend time offline, find out which events they attend and make a point of showing up, fully, as yourself. Start conversations, ask questions and listen. As much as it’s a networking bore, people still love to ask the question “what do you do for a living?” Having crafted your story, you’ll being able to confidently pitch yourself in a sentence or a paragraph, hopefully sparking that all important invitation “Oooh, tell me more…”
All of this moves you towards your goal of bringing your audience and content together in the same place and extending your social footprint.
So by defining who you are and what matters to you, figuring out who you’re talking to and identifying where your narrative and audience intersect, you can begin to tell your story. Your story is the one thing that sets you apart from the 7 billion+ people who live on the planet today and if your audience is aligned with your message, they will start to notice you. If you are telling your story in a way that fosters genuine connection, they will then listen to what you have to say.
This is not a quick fix, nor will it happen with a couple of sporadic blog posts but if it’s done with passion and consistency, this is the first step towards building an authentic personal brand and becoming the next face of your industry.
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