Take a coin:
One side is who you are, while the other is whom you want to be and how you set yourself up. What can you do to make them both coincide?
The issue of personal branding remains more topical for female entrepreneurs, as women still have to self-define themselves in the world of gender stereotypes and leadership gap. Traditional gender expectations, confidence gap, and other challenges women overcome today all influence two elements of their brand-building:
- Outer: dress code, a manner of speaking, self-presentation.
- Inner: self-perception, a vision of the future, self-identification.
A woman can influence and correct both elements if she understands what is so valuable about her brand and how to communicate this message to the world. That's where women have an advantage over men: they can choose a traditionally male leadership style based on logic, or a traditionally female one based on intuition. Or, they are welcome to combine both as the case may be.
The textbook example of a male leadership style is Margareth Thatcher, aka Iron Lady. As for intuitive leadership, Eva Perón comes to mind: loved and supported by the Argentine population, Eva's brand was much more powerful than her husband's.
That's all fine, but once a woman starts thinking of self-branding, the question appears:
What is the first step to take?
Answer the question, “Why do I need a personal brand?”
If you are an entrepreneur, your reason might sound like, "to find a new project in my field," "to change a niche," or "to be promoted to the post." Surveys have it: female-led businesses experience more challenges in raising capital. So if you're a business owner, you might need a personal brand to invite funds, or partners who could help to upscale your business.
For personal brand-building, it's crucial to set clear goals. Whatever you choose, don't be a copy. It's a myth that plagiarism doesn't hurt anyone, and consequences may harm your reputation and bring to naught your endeavors on brand-building. Instead, take the following seven steps.
Come up with a legend
The essential detail of a brand is your personal story.
When people introduce you to someone, they choose a single phrase to describe you, which is crucial because it creates an impression in the eye of others. What phrase would you use to describe yourself? To come up with it, try the elevator pitch technique: come up with 20-30 words answering the question about who you are and what is your value.
This exercise is not that simple. Context matters because there lies a far cry between self-admiration and stories bigging up your status. If needed, write a 100-150 word story describing your professional experience and business philosophy.
Use communication all out
Makeup, clothes, accessories — all they are elements of the language we use to communicate with the world. Women are more sensitive to reactions from an environment, so they "read" and adapt to them accordingly. But a dress code is not the only way to send your message.
For stellar self-branding, communication matters. It's up to you what style to choose — remember aforementioned Thatcher and Perón? — but your communication should be scholarly and well-thought-out.
Earn your social bankroll
Do your best to earn loyalty so you could build business connections and grow your social network. Remember about basic needs: meeting them can help you get on the right side of virtually any person.
Co-branding partnership is a great tactic to try, too. Workshops, presentations, and webinars with influencers will work for building your brand. Don't think that gurus will not want to collaborate; often, they are interested in new formats to try. Let's take Madonna: many young artists became popular after singing with her. And what did she get? Self-refreshing, announcements about her never-fading energy, and the role of a mentor as well as a trendsetter in pop culture.
Promote efficiently, but gently
Communication channels are many. To promote a personal brand, choose a social network where your target audience lives, update it regularly, tell about your projects and publications, share the information about your professional events, etc.
But make sure to avoid attention-grabbing stunts at such an active promotion. Did you hear of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and his concept of "bringing happiness"? Why not follow his lead and promote concepts rather than products?
[Related: The 5 Commandments of Self-Promotion]
Lie and idle talks are what kills personal brands, so keep promises and meet expectations to develop a reputation of a responsible specialist.
According to the research from Weber Shandwick, responsibility and recommendations are what makes a successful entrepreneur. Tell the audience about your projects and results, and win the support of your brand advocates so they could affirm your achievements and dismiss rumors.
Invest in self
In this fast-moving world of content shock, information gets out of date rapidly. So keep on learning, be in steps with latest trends, remember about personal growth, and analyze and draw conclusions from everything around you.
The more knowledge and emotional intelligence you have, the more valuable your personal brand becomes.
Remain true to yourself
Despite orienting toward a target audience, you won't be happy pretending someone else. A personal brand is about your exceptional traits and strong suits; when remaining true to yourself, you can bust stereotypes and succeed. Gabrielle Chanel did: she had changed not only costume but treatment of women as well.
Sure, we should cater to the needs of our audience; but, on the other hand, remember the words of Henry Ford: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
So, what's in it for you?
Personal branding is about going beyond the boundaries and searching for non-standard solutions of current needs. Set clear goals, build a professional network, keep on learning and self-improving, don't be a copy – and you'll become a brand, yourself.
Lesley Vos is seasoned web writer and blogger behind PlagiarismCheck.org. She contributes to publications on business, marketing, and self-development. A self-proclaimed bookworm, Lesley writes a novel and waits for your comments on Twitter.