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Marketing & Biz

The 4 Nonnegotiable Traits of a Strong Personal Brand


Marina Byezhanova is an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member in Montreal and founder of Brand of a Leader, a personal branding agency that builds and scales the personal brands of entrepreneurs who make an impact. We asked Marina about the pillars personal brands are built upon. Here’s what she shared:

Personal branding is a hot topic these days, which means that advice on it abounds. Rebrand your LinkedIn page. Spend time on Clubhouse. Invest in video creation. The list of suggestions (and platforms to spend time on) is ever-growing and changes faster than most of us can keep up with.

Many entrepreneurs tell me that they want to build a personal brand but aren’t sold on the idea of creating selfie videos. The good news? You don’t have to. It’s not what personal branding is even about.

We often confuse branding and marketing–in our businesses, but even more so in how the two concepts apply to us personally. You might have heard this saying that sums it up perfectly:

“Marketing is the equivalent of asking someone out on a date. Branding is the reason they say yes.”

In simpler terms, personal branding is all about who you are. LinkedIn, Clubhouse, and other platforms are tools for you to market yourself and scale your reach. Frankly, we all know people who have built strong personal brands and don’t even have a single social media account. Their brands live powerfully offline.

So if personal branding is not about social media or the type of content you create, then what is it all about?

Here are the four core pillars all strong personal brands are built on:

Expertise

Personal branding is the process of positioning yourself as an expert, thought leader, or influencer in your field. This means that a personal brand is predicated on your area(s) of expertise leveraged through the brand-building process.

What are your areas of expertise? What could others learn from you?

Inspiring Mission

Strong personal brands build a following through a mission that inspires and resonates. We can also think of strong personal brands that are not mission-based and yet create a strong following through the power of their magnetic appeal.

When starting to build a personal brand, it’s important to ask yourself why you need one. If it’s to sell more products, then the answer may lie in scaling your sales and marketing team; personal branding may not be the optimal solution.

An inspiring mission or lack thereof creates a gap between entrepreneurs who are building a community of raving fans and those who are better-known in a smaller circle of contacts. Which one are you?

Compelling Brand Story

A personal brand is predicated on a differentiated narrative. We know that storytelling is the key to effective communication, but your core brand story is what we’re focusing on here. Most compelling brand stories are born out of adversity. Some have unusual and inspiring accomplishments at their core.

Many entrepreneurs come to me wondering whether they even have a brand story. Most question the uniqueness of theirs. The answer is “yes”: We all have a story, and each story can be told in a unique and compelling way. Forget what stories you think might appeal to others; the key is to think of what is burning inside you to be told.

Ignore the audience and look inside for a moment. What story of yours can you simply not help but share?

Unique Value Proposition

Carving out our own unique value proposition (UVP) often falls into a blind spot: It’s typically easier to see the uniqueness or the value of others than to see our own. Your UVP will become your brand statement and is the core of your personal brand. What makes it robust is when you take what you do and marry it with why you do it, narrated through your personal brand story.

For example, here’s mine: I help entrepreneurs find their voice and scale their reach through my personal branding methodology. I was born in the Soviet Union and lived through the culture of deep censorship, which has taught me the priceless value of having a voice and being able to use it.

See what I did there? I told you what I do but powered it with my “why,” which is both memorable and unique as a combination, wrapping it in my story.

What we do is usually not unique. Why we do it is generally not unique either. What is unique is the combination of the two together.

Your expertise, your mission, and your unique positioning through a compelling brand story are the ingredients of a powerful personal brand. This is what you should uncover and package before jumping into action and creating content to market yourself.

A personal brand does not scale without marketing, but marketing without a clearly defined personal brand is simply not worth being scaled.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


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