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by Phil Birss
2 min read
Five steps to building your personal brand
Author: Phil Birss
Posted in Branding on 9th December 2018 2:05 pm
This article is based on extracts taken from the latest Gingernut Marketing podcast: Build Your Personal Brand – Our Five Step Guide. Released 10th December, 2018 and created by our MD, Phil Birss.
Why invest in your personal brand? I don’t think branding is just for an organisation. It’s not just for a business owner or for the leaders of a business. I think it’s for everybody. So whether you’re looking to grow your business, improve your career prospects or to impress your boss and move up the corporate ladder, I think everybody should consider developing their personal brand.
The five steps are linear in how they should be adopted but there is overlap between them. Before I jump into the five steps, the most important thing to understand is a key lesson that I learned around 18 months ago. Somebody I know well and respect said to me…
“If you don’t develop your personal brand, others will do it for you.”
That message really hit home and made me stop and think about how I was coming across. How did I speak? Did I have a particular niche which I focused on? Did I have a personal brand that people would believe in and buy into? Would my ‘brand’ help me going forward in my professional career? So, over the last few years I have started focusing on developing my personal brand.
Here are my five steps to developing your personal brand.
Step number one is find your niche. I realised I loved marketing almost overnight and I knew that this was the career that I wanted to pursue. However it took me much longer to realise that people may actually be interested in my thoughts and opinions on the subject.
Finding your niche is not always a straightforward process and it can take a long time to settle on one that feels comfortable and exciting. Without meaning to sound like a X Factor judge, I believe the way to find your niche is to listen to that voice inside, listen to what it believes you’re good at and what motivates you to take action or to speak out.
I would also seek feedback from others on where they feel your skills and knowledge are best placed. I sometime ask people in job interviews, “When you wake up in the morning what is the first thing you want to talk about (aside from breakfast)? What I am looking for is the thing that (in some cases) literally gets people out of bed in the morning and motivates them to come to work.
For me, it’s marketing and marketing strategy. I love working with companies to help them develop a robust marketing strategy. I love working with the people in a business to help them grow and achieve their personal goals and aspirations. It gets me out of bed in the morning, so this is my niche. I challenge you to follow your passion and find your niche.
Step number two is learn learn and more learning. I didn’t read a lot when I was younger and I didn’t do especially well academically, compared to my peers. I think part of that was that I didn’t engage particularly well with books and reading. I came to reading later in life and I would say I came to self-development only in the last 5 years.
My recent professional learning journey was inspired by watching TED talks. Packed with educational, inspirational and thought-provoking talks, this free resource is a must for anyone looking for a best practice benchmark from thought leaders in all sectors. Alongside TED I tentatively expanded my library, picking up books recommended on podcasts and blogs, that focused on my niche of marketing. My curiosity for knowledge was once again ignited as I cruised book-to-book, not always reading the entire text but making sure I soaked up the key points.
The internet is an amazing online resource and I think there is considerable value in exploring video, podcasts, blogs and courses that focus on your niche. My online learning journey was supported by some fantastic offline course as well, focusing on software, accounting, leadership and business growth.
Building your personal brand and becoming a thought leader in your niche starts with absorbing as much knowledge aa possible on the subject.
Step number three is create and publish high quality content. It’s easy to talk about what you love, but if no one hears your thoughts then you won’t have an opportunity to build a following. You need to tell your story, express an opinion and own a position in your chosen niche which you can build upon. People want to understand what you stand for, what motivates and what you believe in. They want to hear what gets you excited or angry with the world.
Content curation (posting other people’s content) is valuable and has its place in building your personal brand, but what I want you to focus on is creating fresh, original evergreen content. High quality, well-researched content that provides insight, provokes a reaction or inspires people to action, is content that will create followers and build lasting engagement.
So, let’s start with a really obvious one – podcasting. This article is inspired by my latest podcast recording (Released 10th December, 2018) and has given me the ability to repurpose content for use across multiple media types. The podcast also provides a soapbox for me to demonstrate knowledge on my niche, talk about what I believe in and connect with people through the sharing of ideas.
If podcasting is a few steps ahead in your thinking, I would start with writing and publishing blog articles on your chosen subject. A good foundation to aim for is to create two 500 word articles per month and publish them to your website and social media channels. As you build your confidence starting pushing the articles up to 1000+ words for a more in-depth white paper style piece.
High quality video content has the highest engagement rates of all digital media and it is something I encourage you to explore as early as possible. Today’s smart phone record in HD/4K and come with simple editing software built in. A step up from editing on your phones is to export to dedicated video editing software such as Adode Premiere or Adobe Premiere Rush. Premiere Rush is a stripped back version of the industry standard Premiere and it is really straightforward to slice together scenes, add audio and export to your social media channels.
Content creation is half the challenge in the step. Explore and experiment with publishing your content in various places (websites, forums, social media channels) to see what works best for you and your audience. I publish to LinkedIn and Twitter as my key promotional channels.
Step number four is perfect and practice your pitch. Let’s assume you had 30 seconds in an elevator with Richard Branson and he asked what you did for a living. How would you respond? Would you take the opportunity to engage and make an impact with him?
Your pitch has two elements. Firstly, it is the 30 second summary of who you are, what you do and how you can add value in the world. This is all Richard Branson will have time for in your elevator journey together, so make this time count. Creating a memorable and concise pitch takes time and practice to get right, so write it down and spend time in front of the mirror making it perfect. Your pitch is also the opportunity you take to speak to an audience, whether it is one-to-one for an informal coffee or on a stage in-front of an audience. The best way to push yourself is through public speaking at events with your peer group or with an audience of prospects.
Early in life I enjoyed acting and amateur theatre, so performing in front of an audience was second nature to me. Having completed over 50 talks in the last 5 years, I have learnt two valuable lessons. Lesson #1 – The buck stops with you. In my theatre days I had a full production team supporting me to make sure I was in the right place at the right time. All I had to focus on was delivering my lines. Public speaking in the professional arena is about being organised and thoroughly prepared. Which brings me painfully on to lesson #2 and the fear that comes with not knowing your lines. Don’t rely on your experience and make up the talk 10 minutes before you go on. Script the whole talk, or at worst, outline your key talking points and practice delivering them in the mirror.
My professional speaking career started with some talks to university students which led on to opportunities to speak to professional organisations such as the Liverpool Law Society. From there I was invited to deliver sector-specific seminars and conference talks to much larger audiences. The other route I took was to organise our own seminars focussed on marketing and digital. We started with free seminars and now deliver over 20 paid-for training course each year.
Networking is the key to opening up speaking opportunities. Take those informal coffees with consultants, competitors and influencers. Make every meeting an opportunity to perfect and practice your pitch. Be bold in what you are looking to achieve, and wherever possible find win-win opportunities. Our early events were all collaborative affairs, allowing me to share the stage with other, more seasoned professionals. Being seen speaking alongside influential people builds your credibility.
Step number five is continuous improvement. The objective here is to be constantly seeking to assess, refine and improve every aspect of your personal brand, especially the content creation and speaking elements. Great content will open the door to speaking opportunities, which in turn provides a platform to practice and perfect your pitch.
To help you improve I would recommend you spend time watching and listening to the top influencers in your field. Follow them on their social media channels and aim to soak up every nuance of their personal brand. Look specifically for what content they share, how they communicate, how frequently they publish and via what communications channels. Finding best practice examples will focus your efforts and provide a working model from which you can improve each element of your personal brand.
In my field marketing, I enjoy listening to Neil Patel, Miles Beckler and Gary Vaynerchuk. Each has a different take on marketing but they all have strong personal brands with takeaways to be found from each of them. I also enjoy Daniel Priestley for his work around leadership and building a personal branding
When it comes to developing your personal brand the key takeaway line is that if you don’t develop your brand then someone else will do it for you, and who knows what that could mean.
To listen to the podcast in full please full the link below and remember to like, share and get involved in the discussion.
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