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Personal Branding 101 for Founders

entrepreneurs founders personal branding thought leadership Feb 13, 2023

As personal branding continues to gain popularity, so are the misconceptions surrounding it. Here are some of them:

Misconception #1: Personal branding is tied to social media

Many of our clients come to us after searching for a firm that understands the difference between branding and marketing. Before deciding which social media platform to self-market on, they need help clarifying their brand message, their positioning, putting it all into words, and having a blueprint for execution.

And they are right. The first step in building a personal brand is indeed figuring out what your brand actually is, understanding what your strategy is going to be, and only then focusing on making moves on social media or other platforms. Our clients are GenX’ers who grew up without social media and do not see the instant allure of posting, liking, and commenting. Instead, they want to understand the true meaning of their brand and clarify their message to the world.

Misconception #2: Personal branding is tied to what you do.

“I help X with Y” is not a branding slogan. It is a marketing slogan. A personal brand needs to be rooted in who you are, not what you do. This way, when you pivot (and you will!), your brand does not seize to exist. When done properly, your personal branding strategy is created to help you build a network to serve your business as a secondary benefit.

Misconception #3: Personal branding = thought leadership

This comes from people who tend to devalue the term. True thought leadership is rare and yet any GenX’er can build a personal brand with the right approach. Some of our clients are not thought leaders, but they are incredible curators of knowledge, compelling opinion leaders, or magnets of attention through their infectious personality. Being a thought leader is optional; the pre-requisite is understanding your “je ne sais quoi” and building a brand around it.

These are some of the things that a personal brand is not. But so what is it? I will spare you the academic definition and will simply say that a personal brand is about 2 things: a clear positioning and the associations your name evokes. The process of personal branding entails consistent communication of your brand message in order to build these associations in people’s minds.

Creating your personal branding roadmap

Most GenX’ers begin to market their personal brand before figuring out the strategy and building out a roadmap. This works for select few but means that most of us quit along the way, getting confused in the process or simply failing to see the ROI of time spent.

At Brand of a Leader, we spend 8 weeks in brand discovery process to help our clients with brand strategy and a roadmap to use moving forward. Here are the key elements you need clarified:

  • Brand positioning. This is key. You need to identify a clear phrase, or maybe a singular word, that will express what your brand is all about. Over the years, we have coined a variety of terms for our clients: Thought Capitalist, One Level Extra, Interiority, Connectifier, Curator of Transformations, Connected Communities, and many others. The goal is not to identify a gap in the market to then fill it through something catchy, but rather to go through a process of introspection to then brand in the inside-out manner.
  • Byline. A byline explains your brand positioning and serves as the modern version of an elevator pitch, grabbing attention and piquing curiosity.
  • Bio. Gone are the days of dry and boring bios written in 3rd Today’s bio is meant to weave in your Founder story and to elicit emotion in its readers.
  • Brand voice. Consistency and intentionality are key in personal brand building. Your roadmap needs to identify how you want to sound to your audience and how you do not want to sound. You use it as a quality control of sorts when creating content.
  • Brand perception. If you ask 20 people to describe you, they might use 100 different adjectives, all authentic in their depiction of you. This may feel flattering and validating, but of detriment to building your personal brand. The goal of personal brand building is clarity and consistency. Your roadmap needs to list 5 brand descriptors at most.
  • Target audience. Who does your brand speak to? We recommend 2 audiences: one that carries a transactional benefit and one that carries an emotional benefit.
  • Content pillars. Your roadmap must contain 2-4 key topics you want your brand to become associated with: 1-2 that speak to your area of expertise and 1-2 that humanize that expertise.
  • Platforms. We work with many entrepreneurs who aren’t looking to build visibility at scale but would rather go all in on a platform that they connect with the most. For some, it means writing a book. For others, it may mean launching a podcast. There is no best practices approach to choosing a platform: we recommend focusing on the one that speaks to you and giving it your all.

Ready to take control of your personal brand and build a legacy of your name? Our team at Brand of a Leader is here to assist you. Our personalized 8-week brand discovery process will help you clarify your brand positioning, create a roadmap for success, and bring your personal brand to life. We work one-on-one with you through a process that entails no heavy lifting (only deep-diving!) from you.

As the great American businessman and philanthropist, Warren Buffett, once said, “Your reputation is your most valuable asset. It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

Reach out to us today to start your journey towards building your most valuable asset!


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