In recent years, personal branding has become synonymous exclusively with online presence and reputation. And while paying attention to your email signature, social media profile, and other digital assets are important, creating a strong personal brand goes much deeper than your digital footprint.
If you play golf, for example, chances are you’ve landed your ball on the green in two strokes on a par 4 hole. But unless you’re a scratch golfer, you probably can’t repeat it on every hole, right?
The same is true for your personal brand, which I define as presenting the best version of yourself. And just like golf, what separates professionals from amateurs in showing up with your best game is consistency…forged through practice.
So if you’re serious about building a solid personal brand before you tweak your Twitter page, begin with the fundamentals; a good place to start is by honestly addressing these 3 core questions:
• What’s it like being on the other end of me? What’s the experience others have in your presence?
For example, what kind of first impression do you make? According to research, people will judge your level of trustworthiness, credibility, and likeability in as little as 7 seconds after meeting you, and it’s driven primarily by your body language and voice tonality. Does that surprise you?
How much attention do you pay to things like your posture, your smile and facial expressions, and the sincerity of your voice—not in the big moments like a job interview or sales presentation, but every day…with everyone you encounter?
• How do you think people would describe you? If you could pick one or two words that describe your purpose, the value you bring, and the impact you have on others, what words come to mind?
Moreover, do you think they would align with the real you?
A decade ago, I read a helpful book, The On-Purpose Person, that featured a revealing exercise consisting of a series of thought-provoking questions designed to uncover what brings you energy, engagement, and flow. The exercise culminated in a 2-word descriptor of your life’s purpose that completed the following sentence: “I exist to serve by….”
After many reflective hours pouring over the questions, I ended up with the following purpose statement: “I exist to serve by… inspiring growth.”
This simple journey, which was for me more about self-validation than self-discovery, lit a fire in my soul. Shortly afterward, I developed a customer service training and leadership development program for our company, created this blog, and launched a public speaking platform, all of which continue to energize and inspire me.
• How do you express yourself? It was said about Abraham Lincoln that he had a passion for clarity, never to let words get in the way of his ideas. Indeed, the words you use in speaking and writing are a mirror of good, clear thinking, which, in turn, reflect your own image to the world.
Can you convey your ideas clearly and succinctly?
Does your writing have its own style and voice that reflect what you intend?
And when you speak, would others describe you as someone who loves to talk, or as someone who has something to say?
The content of your communication speaks volumes about your personal character. Best-selling author Michael Lewis observes that listening to people will uncover revealing patterns in how they talk about themselves:
There’s the kind of person who is always the victim in any story that they tell. Always on the receiving end of some injustice. There’s the person who’s always kind of the hero of every story they tell. There’s the smart person; they delivered the clever put down there. There are lots of versions of this, and you’ve got to be very careful about how you tell these stories because it starts to become you. You are—in the way you craft your narrative—kind of crafting your character.
It would be silly to suggest that the vast digital space doesn’t play a part in shaping your personal brand. But I believe that your online reputation is a downstream outcome–the fruit, not the root–of your actions and their impact on others.
And like an amateur golfer trying to make the PGA Tour, when it comes to your brand, there’s no middle ground—you simply can’t afford to coast.
In today’s hyper-competitive world, every single day you are either strengthening your personal brand or eroding it through your integrity, communication, follow-through, and how you consistently show up in the world.
Which of these 3 questions is easiest for you to answer?
Which is most challenging?
What does it mean to you to consistently present the best version of yourself?