By Kelsey Mulvey
You may roll your eyes every time your industry friends decipher whether a tweet or Snapchat is “on brand,” but let’s get one thing straight: Having a personal brand matters.
“Personal branding is your way of defining yourself to an audience of peers, superiors, and potential partners, based on your specific set of ideas, actions, beliefs, and styling,” says Shana Haynie, creative director of SplashOPM, a marketing company specializing in small businesses and entrepreneurs. In other words, it’s a way of making yourself an expert of sorts in a specific area.
Got it? Cool. Now you’ve got to identify what your personal brand is—but it’s not always easy. Maybe you’re an eloquent writer who happens to be obsessed with Vanderpump Rules or a fashion assistant with a penchant for politics. Here’s how to sift through your passions and skills and identify your personal brand once and for all.
Focus on keywords. In order to create a brand that’s authentic to you, it’s important to think about some key words that describe your personality. Yelena Jackson, a certified image consultant and founder of SchoolOfFabulous.com, says she asks branding rookies what their favorite color is and doesn’t stop at a one-worded answer. Instead, she digs deeper until her client explains why they like that color. Jackson says that the keywords you highlight in your response lay the groundwork for your personal brand.
Try it yourself: Do you like orange because it’s cheery but not too abrasive? Does red feel luxurious and dramatic? Or perhaps the reason you like Kim K-worthy neutrals is because they’re calm and feminine. “These are words that describe you and the qualities that describe your brand,” she says.
If nailing down the reason behind your favorite color is tricky, Jackson suggests your favorite animal as an alternative.
Know your UVP. That’s your unique value proposition and it’s basically what makes you, well, you. Pardon Ed for getting a little after-school special on you, but you are special. And, as it turns out, the key to making your personal brand is acknowledging what makes you different.
Whether it’s your quirky writing style or world-class violist status that adds something special to your beauty assistant position, treat what makes you different as an asset to your personal brand. “Your unique passions and talents are what makes you desirable and hirable,” says Chandra Turner, career coach and talent recruiter for Ed2010 and Talent Fairy. “Think of your personal passion as your secret sauce and don’t be afraid of dousing it on everything! Hiring managers in media want specialists, enthusiasts, and junkies in their subject area. If your personal brand shouts that you are authentically into a subject that aligns with their brand, your candidate cred just shot through the roof.”
Create your own tagline. It’s just like pitching a story idea to your editor or mastering the answer to a super-common interview question. Breaking your personal brand down into a pithy statement helps you edit all your thoughts into a clear, concise idea, says marketing consultant David Everett Strickler. He recommends chopping it down to six words. “It’s fun because it makes you get creative and think of yourself in a different way,” he says.
Using only six words, instead of a simple sentence, ensures that each word is crucial to your brand. Try to have a little fun with it by using alliteration and a thesaurus. Doesn’t “witty writer with passion for fashion” just roll off the tongue?
Think about your passions. Identifying the personality and tone of your brand is only half the battle. Next, you need to figure out what you want to share with your audience. Think about the Kardashian-Jenner sisters: Love them or hate them, their respective apps and social media platforms focus on something they’re truly passionate about. For example, Kim is obsessed with fashion, Kourtney is all about interior design and sustainable living, while Khloé is the resident fitness guru. We’re not implying you need to up your selfie game, but find what your expertise is.
“It can be overwhelming to only think about your talents,” says Erica Latrice, career coach and host of the podcast and TV talk show, Be Inspired! “Think about what your overall goal is and what you enjoy doing the most.” Whether it’s finding the perfect shot or testing trendy workouts for your latest fitness article, many of us media maven hopefuls are already doing something we love. So why not use your personal platform as a way to share tips, tricks and news with your followers?
The key here, whippersnappers, is finding a passion that actually excites you. Otherwise, your colleagues and potential employers will see right through the phoniness.
Consider what impact you want to make. Creating and promoting a personal brand is more than snagging a few more hearts on Instagram: it’s a way to interact with your followers and use your platform to make an impact, like sharing news about your beat or giving your followers a behind-the-scenes look at a high-fashion magazine. You have a unique and powerful voice, so use it to serve others in a way that suits your brand. Krystal Covington, CEO of
Krystal Covington, CEO of Women of Denver, recommends asking yourself the following question: “If everyone knew I could help them _______, I would have a greater impact on the world.” Evaluating the impact you want to have can be intense. To simplify it, Covington recommends asking several people in your life for an example of when you helped them and find a common denominator.
Keep it real. One of the best ways to create a genuine dialogue with your followers is by showing off your vulnerable side, says Jackson. Although you definitely want to put your best foot forward, it’s okay to show that you’re also a human. The vulnerability you display when goofing up a recipe in your food blog, for example, makes you more relatable and likable.
This post was originally published in 2016 and was updated in 2019.