A friend just starting out as an independent contract worker and I were discussing her personal brand while out on the lake the other day. “I’m not sure how I want to shape my personal brand yet,” she confessed. “I don’t know who I want to be my primary customer yet.”
You’d think I’d stop her at this point – after all, isn’t my friend’s personal brand only about her? Shouldn’t she focus on making sure that her personal brand highlights her best possible attributes – and trust that it will get her where she needs to go?
It would be nice if that happened – but that’s not how the real world works. Personal branding is as much about figuring out who your personal brand needs to appeal to, and then highlighting the parts of yourself that fit what you’re looking to achieve – as it is about highlighting your best qualities.
Let me tell you about how this has applied in my life. At one point, I was trying very hard to get a job at my dream type of company (where I could work in innovation). At the same time, I was also supporting myself as a social media and blogging consultant. Both demanded that I showcase my abilities and the successes I’d had in my background – but my brand would have been a terrible mishmash if I had tried to showcase both at once. Instead of looking strong in two areas, I would have looked strong in none.
To address that challenge, I set-up two online presences. I had my creativity blog where I wrote about the ideas I was passionate about. On that blog, I highlighted my creativity-focused background and maintained an active social media presence in the innovation community. On that blog, I talked about how I started in creativity as a child doing a creative problem-solving competition (where I eventually won a Global championship.)
Then, on my personal website, I set myself up as a blogging expert. On that website, I talked about my online presence in the creativity field as a case study for how to use social media. On that website, I highlighted my social media successes, including how I created a social media campaign that went viral! Both are part of who I am – but they weren’t relevant to that particular audience.
In both cases, some of the biggest successes I touted on one venue barely got a mention on the other. Why? Because my social media clients didn’t care if I was a Destination Imagination global champion – and the creativity companies didn’t care about how I created a social media campaign to save a puppy in Iraq!
Although most of you will never have to appeal to such disparate demographics, it’s really important to figure out who exactly you want to appeal to with your own personal brand. Do you want to appeal to a corporate audience? Or are you looking to work for smaller companies. Are you appealing to lawyers and accountants, or creatives in the advertising field.
Knowing the ideal demographic of your customers is important because it will be a huge factor in shaping how you portray your personal brand to the rest of the world. So yes, while your personal brand must be about you, you also must be very sure that you’re crafting your brand so it highlights the attributes that your target market wants to see.