I know, I know, it’s a bit ‘blah’ to think of yourself as a brand… but here’s the thing: you have a personal brand, whether you want to or not. The reality is that people will talk about you (or they won’t); people will have an impression of you, whether you do something about it or not. It’s simply a case of deciding if you’re going to leave it up to random chance or choose to shape it with more intentionality so that you craft a brand that serves you and what you want to achieve. What makes this really exciting and compelling, though, is how you can amplify your impact and influence when you truly master the power of your personal brand.
Why build a personal brand?
For me, as an independent expert, my personal brand is invaluable. People come to me because they’ve heard me on a podcast, they’ve seen me on a video, they’ve come across one of my posts, or they’ve read one of my books… They already see me as bringing value, and there’s an element of trust and respect before they’ve even started working with me. From my perspective, that makes my life a whole lot easier. When they get on the phone with me, they already know that they want to work with me. At that point, they just need final confirmation and reassurance that they’re making the right decision, along with guidance on the specific programme that would be the best option for them.
Importantly, and especially in today’s world where every market is a cluttered one, an effective personal brand will elevate you beyond being just a commodity. You’re no longer just an anonymous entity on a list of comparable products, a list of interchangeable service providers, where the client is just choosing in a detached manner based on price.
Your personal brand will distinguish you from your competitors because, by definition, you’re one of a kind. Your specific story, your personal journey, your experience – all these things make you completely unique and incomparable to anyone else. Some would even be so bold as to say that you don’t have any competitors at all because your personal brand is so specific and distinctive.
Your personal brand also helps you connect with your prospective clients because you’re telling stories, demonstrating your relatability, and building trust. You can choose how vulnerable you want to be, but, in my experience, it will be your personal posts and admissions of mistakes and weaknesses that garner the most engagement in your content.
Finally, your personal brand will endure above and beyond any specific role, industry, or business. When I first left my corporate job, I started the Crocus Communications digital marketing consultancy; today, that business is no more. If I had poured all my marketing endeavours into Crocus Communications and hidden behind that company name, I would have had to start again from scratch when that business ended. Instead, Anna Lundberg lives on and prospers. When I decide to move on from One Step Outside®, Anna Lundberg will, again, endure.
The importance of PIE when building your brand
During the early days of my corporate career at multinational Procter & Gamble, I was introduced to a model that opened my eyes to the reality of the ‘unwritten rules’ of the workplace and that I have since traced back to Harvey J. Coleman: the P.I.E. framework.
The P in PIE stands for Performance. As a high-achieving ‘good girl‘ coming out of the academic environment, it came very naturally to me to focus on executing. I was top-rated in my first junior assignment and ploughed through an overloaded work plan to get things done. Results are important but, really, that’s a given; good performance is not enough to stand out, especially as you progress in your career and it becomes pretty much par for the course (or “table stakes” as a poker-playing client recently called it on one of our calls).
The I, then, stands for Image. This is what people think about you, and what they say about you when you’re not there. You might argue that this is your personal brand, although I look at your personal brand as being more than just image. There may well be a disconnect between how you view yourself and how others see you, and this gap can prevent you from getting to where you want to be.
Finally, the E is exposure. You can have great results, and the few people who see those results might have a very positive image of you, but if you’re not visible to the right audience then you’re not going to unlock the big opportunities and rewards.
You can have different elements of this model and end up with different results:
- Performance + Image = your industry’s best-kept secret
- Image + Exposure = all fluff and no substance
- Performance + Exposure = a lack of understanding of the value you bring
And so, of course, you need all three.
The 5 levels of personal brand progression
If you’re just starting to think about your personal brand and how you might use it to deliver a bigger impact to the people who matter (and, in the process, help you achieve your own personal career goals), then it might seem a little overwhelming. Where do you start?? Do you have to now write a book? Dance on TikTok (GASP!)?
Let’s it break this down and consider the different levels or stages of personal brand progression between where you are today and where you become a visionary leader in your industry (and beyond)…
- Subject matter expertise – You’ll start out by knowing something (at least, I hope you do!) and this is the foundation of your personal brand. It involves developing deep knowledge, skills, and experience in a specific area. Becoming a subject matter expert establishes your credibility and positions you as a go-to resource within your field.
- Content creation – Content creation is about sharing your expertise, insights, and unique perspective with others. By creating valuable and relevant content in various formats such as articles, videos, podcasts, or social media posts, you can showcase your expertise, build your online presence, and engage with your target audience.
- Thought leadership – As you deepen your mastery and get more comfortable with sharing ideas in public, you’ll start to develop your own thinking. You may well find that your views will go against conventional ideas that others in your field are peddling. You’ll start to shape the conversations within your industry based on your own vision for the future, establishing yourself as a trusted and influential authority.
- Community building – By sharing your unique perspective (in a way that only you can), you will start to attract a dedicated audience that believes in what you stand for. At this level, you’ll be actively engaging with your audience, fostering meaningful connections, and creating a supportive community. You’ll expand your reach, amplify your impact, and create a network of loyal advocates and collaborators.
- Influencing the industry – At this highest level, you will push boundaries, challenge the status quo, and introduce more groundbreaking ideas or solutions. By continuously innovating, you’ll differentiate yourself from mere copycats, create incredible new opportunities, and become a catalyst for positive change in your industry.
I don’t know about you, but this all sounds pretty exciting – and pretty doable if you take it step by step…
Where are you on this journey today? Are you at the beginning, and looking to start tentatively putting more of your own content out in the world? Are you ready to step into more of a thought leadership role where you are honing your conceptual frameworks and creating your own unique IP?
Wherever you are now, look for the actions that you can take to elevate your brand to that next level as you progress and ascend through the different stages.
And, if you want my support, please send me a message to enquire about my personal brand advisory service.
I look forward to hearing how you get on!