In this how-to guide, I’m going to teach you how to brand yourself online. We will cover:
- Section One: How to Define Your Personal Brand Values
- Why you need a personal brand
- How to define your personal brand
- Your brand values
- Section Two: How to Develop a Memorable and Unique Brand Identity
- The 3×3 exercise
- Creating a visual mood board
- Developing boundaries
- Making it memorable
- Section Three: How to Build Your Personal Brand Online With Content
- Develop a master content category
- Repurposing master content and creating a plan
- How to vet your content when engaging online
Lets get started!
Section One: How to Define Your Personal Brand Values
I am a sucker for definitions. Yet most times, I find that they can be incredibly restrictive at times. Welcome to a good old rambling semantics, you all.
I won’t lie. This may be an abrupt way to meet me if it’s the first time you meander in my writing musings.
Yet, as a literature and language graduate, a writer, published author and columnist (among a few other things), I have a passion for words and their meanings.
If we go for the Cambridge Dictionary definition, branding can be summarised as
The act of giving a company a particular design or symbol in order to advertise its products and services
How does this work when you are your own brand? Defining your online brand is a process that is carried out through strategy and planning.
In this case, my favorite ever definition comes from the ominous website PersonalBrand.com:
A personal brand is a widely-recognised and largely-uniform perception or impression of an individual based on their experience, expertise, competencies, actions and/or achievements within a community, industry, or the marketplace at large.
Branding is a perception that your public and the wider audience have of you. It can be shaped by using content, contribution, partnerships, services, and intention.
Not everyone should be necessarily worried about crafting a personal brand. However, if you are the founder of a company or startup, a writer, author, influencer, creative, or (ahem) a public figure then you are your brand.
As such, personal branding is applicable to you.
When do I need a personal brand?
By me being a multi-passionate entrepreneur, I embody a few categories of individuals who would be looking into developing a personal brand — all in one neat tiny package.
Fab the writer, author, and columnist for a starter wants her content and values to be clear in her writing as much as the value and advice she shares online.
Fab the CEO, consultant and founder of Creative Impact wants her customers, her members and the 80k+ audience of her own company to have a clear picture in their hand of how the company values align with her personal story and identity.
At the same time, the brands we partner with as a company have to fit within the values we have as a brand.
Fab the creative also wants her content on Instagram, her podcast and video series to be a reflection of her personality.
So if you can relate with any of these, then you want to make sure you take the time to create a series of values that can be showcased throughout your online interactions and partnerships.
By knowing what you stand by, it will be easier to say yes or no to opportunities coming your way as you build your online brand.
The key step in defining your personal brand
“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” — Roy E. Disney
When shaping your personal brand you want to take the time to define your values and make sure they are the pillars you want to base your brand on.
In order to create a set of values, you need to clearly understand your niche. Carve a niche, and then carve a niche within your niche. The best personal brands are very specific.
Let me use our company as an example.
Our niche for Creative Impact can be encapsulated as “conscious creatives wanting to make a positive impact on other people and the planet”.
We could just have picked creatives as a macro-niche. But no, we dug deeper and truly came together as a company to understand the needs, struggles and desires of these people.
As both members of the team are also conscious creatives (myself included) our own values are what make the company values.
The best way to come up with values for your personal brand is by working on your origin story.
Why are you looking to grow your personal brand in the first place? How do you want to position your brand online? Which service/product/company/content are you sharing with the world to make it a better place?
Practical tip: write down your WHY, your origin story in a journal. Let the ideas flow, make the piece of paper come to life for you. After you have written down your origin story, it’ll be easier to outline the values you stand by in your brand. You’ll just need to look at the rules you have set in your own life to be happy and fulfilled.
As an example, here are some of our company values (which are well plastered on our website by the way)
- Refuse the hustle culture: we believe in the idea of what we should be working smarter, not harder. From years of working endless hours, weekends and evenings, we decided to re-write the rule book. We knew we could achieve success and reclaim our day off at the same time
- Make a bigger impact: making a positive impact goes beyond your neighbour. It’s time we come together to support the planet we live in and love.
- Collaboration over competition: we believe there is enough space for everyone — so we truly believe that everyone should be celebrated. Accountability, support, and collaboration are what make us different from all other communities out there.
- Mindset first: being in business and creating a business (may it be full time or side hustle) is 80% mindset. That’s why we strongly believe in facilitating discussions and conversations about mental health, personal development and happiness overall.
One of the aspects of my personal brand is being the founder of Creative Impact.
I say this a lot because, as a human, you are a multi-dimensional being.
Whenever I am talking, interacting and sharing content as the founder of Creative Impact I make sure I come back to our values as a company, so our content can reflect that.
Your values shape your brand
Your attitude is an expression of your values and expectations, and they are what you’ll refer to whenever making decisions. Barbara De Angelis once said
“Living with integrity means behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values.”
Values change as you change, and that is the beauty of refining your personal brand. Your own evolution and growth is part of the journey you will take your audience through.
In order to get clear on your value you’ll need to get clarity on the following:
- Who is part of your niche
- Your story and your WHY
From this, you’ll be able to carve 4 to 6 values that stand by the story.
Values are the core principles that give meaning to your life and are defined as a set of standards that shape the emotional currency of your life. They become the compass that will help you make the right decisions for your personal brand as you keep evolving and growing online.
Section Two: How to Develop a Memorable and Unique Brand Identity
If I say the name Steve Jobs, what is the first thing you think about?
Black turtleneck, jeans, and a longing look behind thin-framed glasses, standing in front of a big screen.
Gary Vaynerchuck? Definitely a lot of swearwords — I have seen him live a few times, so I can attest to that. You see, all the biggest and boldest personal brands have one thing in common.
They are consistent. Before you comment, no, I am not suggesting you add a set of black turtlenecks to your Amazon Wishlist.
However, I do believe that so many people get hung up into what their personality is supposed to look like. The worst thing that you can do, when outlining your guidelines, is getting too obsessed over what people would expect you to be.
As I mentioned in my previous piece, my personal brand is one of a multi-passionate entrepreneur, and as such, I am a founder, yet I am also a marketing consultant.
I worked in marketing for over 10 years. I won awards for it too — and for the longest time, I felt that I in order to be the award-winning marketing consultant I wanted the world to meet, I had to be professional.
If you do follow me anywhere — either is my social media or Medium — you may have noticed I am funny (and humble), silly, loud and very Italian in my hand gestures.
I make a fool of myself far too often, and I use the word darling as well as GIFS far too often in my emails to clients and potential partners.
Does it mean I do not know what I am talking about? Or that I am not professional in the way I conduct business?
Hell no, it just makes me, well, more me. It took me a long time to realise I did not have to fit into the marketing expert mold I saw everywhere I turned online.
Because that level of authenticity is what attracts people to who you are as a personal brand, especially online. In order to refine and define what your guidelines look like, you need to start with the 3×3.
The 3×3 exercise
For this first exercise, I want you to think about three adjectives that represent your personal brand, as well as three ways you’d describe your tone of voice.
The first three adjectives should be quite visual. They will help you with creating a visual mood board that can encompass your brand identity and colours.
Bold, modern, minimalistic is what came up for my visual brand.
The second set is all about your tone of voice.
In my case it’s definitely cheeky, inspiring, thought-provoking.
This represents both my writing, my way of posting on social media and even the way I lead our podcast show, for example.
Create a visual mood board
Another fun step in creating branding guidelines is creating your own visual mood board. I love to do this with clients over on Pinterest.
To do this, all you have to do is create a secret board on Pinterest or an Instagram collection. Then, head back to the words that came up from 3×3 exercise.
I recommend looking for keywords such as colour palette or bold web design or even bookmarking some quotes and photos that really speak to you.
What you really want is a visual snapshot of what your brand is about. There is no wrong way of doing this, I have seen people adding a Minions picture in their mood board before!
This is a great asset for whenever you are working on visual graphics, or even your own website, logo or book cover — just to name a few.
Add your top adjectives into your mood board to have a full snapshot of your personal brand you can send to any web designer at any time.
A note about boundaries
Another important thing that should be part of your guidelines is a selection of topics or aspects of your brand you are willing (and unwilling) to talk about.
I have a few things I would not dive into when it comes to the way I communicate with my audience through my brand online. One of them is my mental health history.
It’s too personal, too raw and still something I am working on 20 years in. Yet, you see mental health advocates opening up about topics such as suicide and depression every day on Instagram.
Everyone has different boundaries when it comes to sharing. The same counts for you.
You need to define what you feel comfortable sharing as part of your personal brand. Whilst you do not want to create a whole new identity, you also do not need to fully expose each and every side of yourself.
In the words of Brene Brown:
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
Putting it all together
As a recap, here are the key things you’ll need to create branding guidelines:
- Three adjectives that represent your personal brand
- Three ways you’d describe your tone of voice
- Visual mood board to represent your personal brand
- The boundaries you want to create for your personal brand
People wear brands, endorse brands, and they’re constantly telling others about the brands they love. This means you can’t tell someone about a brand you can’t remember.
How can you make your own brand memorable?
I love this quote by Tom Peters, as I think it summarises the idea behind refining one’s personal brand: “All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
Section Three: How to Build Your Personal Brand Online With Content
There is a saying from Benjamin Franklin I personally love and quote (far too often):
“Fail to plan, plan to fail”.
As a personal brand, you can’t leave anything to chance.
It’s key for you to set aside some time to create a plan about the way you’ll be sharing your message and content by planting the seed for how you want to make a bigger impact on other people’s lives.
These days, even actors spend a great deal of time creating a personal brand.
Look at celebrities. Even they have realised the importance of building their personal brand alongside their own ventures and movies.
Even just 5 years ago, the least you knew about a movie before it was released, the better, just like the Blair Witch Project. (Really showing my age here).
Right now, actors are committed to building their personal brand on social media to publicise their movies as much as the production companies may do.
Creating and sharing content on social media, is a great way to push their other engagements and bigger goals.
Why you should have a master content category
When it comes to content, I always like to think about what I call master content first. For most people with a personal brand, master content tends to be one of the following:
- Written pieces
- (less often) pictures
These days you’ll find the founder of companies doing videos on LinkedIn, being guests on podcasts or even jumping on the Medium-ship. Why? Because content is a great way to tell stories and talk about your personal brand.
I believe that content is the best way to truly engage and connect, by inspiring, motivating or even educating your audience.
A great example of an actor turning something into master content is Some Good News.
Some Good News is a 2020 web series created and hosted by actor and filmmaker John Krasinski. The show, which is hosted on YouTube, is “a news show dedicated entirely to good news” with Krasinski operating inside his home during the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.
Krasinski took a chance by reinventing himself and developing an online brand, and it paid off.
As the movie industry has been stalled for the foreseeable future, it was great to see an actor taking something new and unique and turn into a success.
However, most personal brands will also have goals linked to a product or service they are trying to push. Just like authors no longer just speak through their books, but are now spending a great deal of time to let their readers and fans know more about themselves.
Robin Sharma, Elizabeth Gilbert or even Brene Brown are great examples of this. Their books are both what you’d consider master content and a product, and it’s something they can repurpose during podcasts, video, speaking engagements or even social media graphics.
The key essence of your master content is that it should reflect your values.
My Medium articles, for examples, are filled with inspiration from my personal development experiments, as well as fun and easy to follow marketing guides because I truly believe making a bigger impact with your content is possible.
This is why I carved my Medium niche in the first place, and I stick to it wholeheartedly.
Can you have more than one type of master content?
You sure can, as well as my Medium pieces, we run a podcast as part of the Creative Impact media assets, as well as a blog.
Having multiple ways to provide value and create content that can serve your audience is key. Yet, my top tip will always quality over quantity as the more you give out for free, the more people will expect to get for free from you.
When it comes to creating a successful online brand, finding the right balance is key.
Repurposing master content and creating a plan
Once you define your master content, you’ll be able to start planning the frequency you want to release that content. Whether you want to write daily, create a weekly podcast or a monthly video show, to develop an online brand you need to make sure you master consistency first.
After you find the content and define frequency, you can come up with 3/5 ideas of how to repurpose your master content on social media.
This should allow you to post on your favourite networks at least once per week. For a podcast, it could look like this:
- repurpose a quote from a guest into a graphic
- share an audio snippet in your Instagram story
- transcribe an episode takeaway into a caption
- record the podcast as video as well and post it on YouTube
I believe that having at least some weekly content on social coming from your master content allows you to have enough touchpoint with your audience, and you can always add to that by creating genuine and more impromptu content.
My recommendation is to create a simple content calendar template you can follow.
If you need one and do not know where to start, fear not.
We have two handy template spreadsheets we released last year our audience has been loving so far.
How to vet your content when engaging online
Remember those values and branding guidelines you wrote down before?
These can be seen as the compass that should guide you whenever posting content online. If something is not respecting your boundaries, reflecting your values or tone of voice, should you really share it?
Remember trust is hard to gain and easy to lose. To quote Erin Bury, Sprouter community manager:
“Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it.”
This is also very true when you have an assistant supporting you and helping you build your personal brand. Doing the groundwork by refining your values and beliefs can help other people also be fully aligned with your personal brand when looking to outsource help.
I truly hope this was a helpful push towards creating an online brand that feels true and authentic to yourself.