Today I’m publishing a beginner’s guide to personal branding so you can get started and find out all you need to know.
Organisations such as Warburtons have been talking about personal branding with their employees this year and it’s increasingly featuring in conversations with my clients and network.
To help fill in the blanks, I have a special interview with a personal branding expert to help you learn.
I’ll also reveal what I’ve learnt and recommend books, resources and people to help you. This article is your very own beginner’s guide and is relevant whether you are working in-house or independently.
I hope you enjoy it – do let me know by commenting below or Tweeting me @AllthingsIC.
Further reading: How to communicate your personal brand.
The guide covers:
- What is personal branding?
- Why is personal branding important?
- How can you strengthen your personal brand?
- How does personal branding fit into doing business?
- Can you have a personal brand while working inside an organisation?
- When is the right time to book a personal branding photo shoot and what could you use the photos for?
- How does a personal branding photographer work with people?
- Final thoughts on personal branding.
Only this week I had a coaching call with an independent practitioner and helped her think through her personal branding through the way she talks about her business.
If you’re thinking about investing in personal branding photography, this article will demystify the process.
I’d love to see authentic corporate photographs rather than stiff images of leaders in suits. Have you had conversations with your senior stakeholders about their personal brand? If you are a board-level adviser in your organisation, why not add it into the mix when you coach and advise them? Imagine how engaging a photograph showing a leader with their sleeves rolled up on the frontline could be. I know which one I’d prefer to see.
I’ll be covering this topic in my Strategic Internal Communication Masterclass.
What is a personal brand?
Everyone has a personal brand. It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room and what you’re known for.
When I asked my network to define personal branding a few months ago, definitions included:
- Showing people what you’re known for, not just telling them.
- Your unofficial CV
- What you stand for.
What’s your answer? Has your organisation defined it? As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.
Hearing from an expert
If you’re new to this topic, help is at hand as I’ve interviewed the wonderful Becky Rui (pictured). She is a personal branding photographer and the talented lady behind my website photographs. She’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
I shared my experience when I launched my refreshed website back in May, and how I’d been consciously examining and exploring my own personal brand.
Since then it’s cropped up in numerous conversations with professional communicators, particularly at conferences or events. Based on those conversations, I invited Becky to address your queries and help me create this beginner’s guide for you. She’s been a fantastic person for me to learn from, I value her opinions and way she works.
Putting yourself front and centre
I was terrified of having a personal branding photo shoot. I’d been running All Things IC consultancy for four years without putting myself front and centre of the business. I had in terms of mindset, but not in the way I was communicating what All Things IC is about – which is me!
From the language on my old website, to the images I was using, I realised what was missing was an accurate depiction and reflection of myself.
So 2017 was the year I decided to be brave and invest in communicating how we can work together and what you can expect.
Becky was the person who was able to take my thoughts and translate them into visual images that accurately depict what All Things IC means to me and my clients. She’s a marvel!
Feedback from clients now, particularly new ones, reveals how I am and how we work together matches the impression they had formed before getting in touch.
— Rachel Miller (@AllthingsIC) April 4, 2017
We’re pictured together mid-shoot and I’m going to share some images I’ve not published before that she kindly took during our time together.
Further reading: How to communicate your personal brand
Here’s our conversation:
1) How do you define personal branding?
Your personal brand is the feeling people have about who you are and what you do. It’s your essence, your vibe, communicated through the way you run your business and at every touch point you have with your followers, team, clients and customers.
A personal brand is unique. Conveyed through your presence, values, style, choice of language and what you associate with, it’s also what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
You have a personal brand, whether you’ve worked on defining yours or not.
2) Why is it important?
When you’re clear about what you do, your strengths, your voice, and your approach to your business, you can represent yourself in a way that’s congruent with all of those things. When we are consistent across our interactions (both face to face and online), we are safe to trust each other and build genuine connections. This is vital for businesses or careers in any industry to be meaningful and sustainable.
Having a clear and strong personal brand means we will attract clients, collaborators, and employers who are a great match for us, because they will resonate with our message and have a good idea of what we’re about.
If we don’t bring awareness to our own personal brand or take care to represent ourselves in a consistent way, it can be confusing and hold us back from opportunities.
3) How can you strengthen your personal brand?
We can strengthen our personal brands by using our authentic voice in our communications, use photography on our website and social media profiles that is congruent with how you come across in person and provide a dependable service to your clients that truly gives value.
We can strengthen our brand by sharing personal experiences and telling stories about our journeys, achievements and challenges.
It can feel uncomfortable to be seen in your truth in your brand, because we fear vulnerability and the possibility of rejection when we do this. However, when you’re brave enough to ‘be yourself’ in your business, it will make you stand out in your individuality, and make it easier for your people to find you and reach out.
It also gently filters out potential clients or employers who do not appreciate or share our values or vision, which saves everybody’s time and energy.
4) How does it fit into doing business?
In my opinion, an authentic personal brand is a byproduct of your natural way of doing business and how you interact with the world. It is not something we should create based purely on how we want the world to see us, or the way we would ideally like to be… A truly personal brand must be honest and in integrity with your values and personality.
I agree with this – I revealed the work I’ve been doing on my values this year – Rachel.
5) Can you have a personal brand while working inside an organisation?
You have a personal brand whether you realise it or not, it’s what people think and feel about you, whether you are employed or working for yourself.
Developing your personal brand in face-to-face encounters and online positions you with a point of difference and increases your visibility.
Even as an employee, you can showcase yourself in your uniqueness in your work, and that leads to exciting opportunities to expand in your company, make quality connections and open doors.
You can strengthen your personal brand by creating your own content alongside the work you do within the organisation, blogging, giving talks and presenting, and networking at industry events. Just because you may work within an organisation does not mean you have to blend in.
While you may need to adopt your employers’ brand values and message as your own during your work with them, these should be in close alignment with yours.
Do you do this? I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic – Rachel
6) When is the right time to book a personal branding photo shoot and what could you use the photos for?
The most important image you need to have is an engaging headshot. This will be the first image people see of you on your social media profiles and website, and says a lot about you. It should be a portrait you feel proud to use as an honest representation of yourself, and give you confidence to interact online.
If you feel uncomfortable about the image you’re currently using (perhaps because it doesn’t capture your personality, it’s out of date etc) then it’s time to refresh that image!
It will be interesting for your followers to see the update, make you visible, and give you more confidence to interact and be seen.
If you are using images in a bigger way online, such as in social media posts, blog posts or across your website, it’s a good time to have a more expansive personal branding photography session.
Having a variety of personalised images helps to tell a fuller story about you and your work. We instinctively get a feeling about people when we see their photograph and make assumptions based on that image, so when you use photographs that are really true to you and show lots about you, it allows your followers in to meet you at a deeper level and engage with you.
7) How do you work with people? What’s the process?
I help my clients to clarify their personal brand through our initial conversation where we explore your vision, values, passions, ideal clients, how you’ll be using photography and more.
Personal branding photography is an investment in yourself and your business, so I believe that to get the most out of your images, it’s important to be intentional about them. Together we explore the kinds of photographs that will best serve you, discuss specific shots we intend to create and arrange all the logistics of our locations, outfits, and props!
(I loved this bit – my photos include a favourite mug, my rose gold laptop, phone and tea – these are always within arm’s reach as they are right now – Rachel).
On the day of our shoot, we revisit our intentions and energetically connect with your vision, personal brand, what you love about what you do, your best clients, so that we can allow that vibe to come through in your photographs!
We have a lot of fun capturing the images on the day, and allow space for creativity to meet us. I love to make natural portraits while guiding intuitively throughout our time together. My clients receive all the best fully edited, high-resolution images from the day in a luxury USB package within a few weeks of our shoot.
8) Is there anything else you think my readers should know about personal branding?
It really is brave to allow your true self out in business, so honour yourself and others, wherever you’re at on this journey.
We are moving into a new way of being in business, which means that acting consciously and mindfully in our work is being called of us all.
We are each unique and talented in different ways, so we must listen to what our intuition is guiding us to do, because only you can do what you’re here to do. If we can act in accordance with our gut instinct, our inspiration, and do what most excites us, our personal brand will come naturally and be infused with that message.
It is far too draining to try to fit into a box of how we think we’re supposed to be, or what we think others expect. Life is too short to try to be someone else! We contribute in to the world in the most impactful and joyful way (and connect with people and businesses who are on our wavelength), when we come from a place of self-connection and vulnerability, and allow ourselves to be seen as who we really are.
Thank you for your generosity in sharing your advice Becky. It goes without saying, I thoroughly recommend working with her if you’d like to communicate your personal brand through photography.
How to learn more about personal branding
If you are thinking about your personal branding, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What do stakeholders think of you?
- What three words do you use to describe yourself?
- What three words would your stakeholders/boss/team/partner say?
- What image are you projecting inside your organisation? Or at home?
- What impact does that have? Is it accurate?
- What are you known for?
- Are you known for what you want to be known for?
- How can you change perceptions?
- How can you celebrate your personal brand and build on the strengths?
- When will you check in and review what you’ve discovered?
Resources to help you learn more about personal branding
- How to communicate your personal brand
- Magma Effect – I recommend working with Jackie Le Fevre to analyse your values.
- Listen to this podcast featuring personal branding expert Jennifer Holloway
- Personal branding for Brits book by Jennifer Holloway
- How to build a memorable personal brand – podcast with Phil Pallen
- Known – The handbook for building and unleashing your personal branding book by Mark W. Schaefer.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts Becky. What do you think about what you’ve read?
As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.
Have a great weekend. I’m off to the Youpreneur Summit, which is part of the personal learning I’m investing in this year. I’m expecting to come back fired up with lots of ideas.
Thank you for stopping by,
Post author: Rachel Miller.
First published on the All Things IC blog 10 November 2017.