What if people could evaluate your expertise based only on one visual symbol? What if people could understand your essence through a short Linkedin profile? (Psst! Can’t get hired? Watch this free tutorial.) That is the task—to build a personal brand identity through design and content. You may not feel like a brand. You’re an individual, not cereal or a car. To secure the position or client you desire, however, you need to do something to distinguish yourself. To break through, you need to make an indelible impression on your audience (potential employer or client). To do this, you need to build your own brand, which entails creating an original visual identity—logo, business card, resume, website, promotional materials, and so on —and verbal identity— bio, elevator speech, resume content, and social and networking media profile.
Start With StrategyTo build your own brand, start with a strategy—which is the core tactical underpinning, uniting all your planning for each visual and verbal expression of your personal brand. The strategy defines your brand personality and promise. Who are you? What value do you promise to deliver? You formulate a core strategic concept that differentiates and positions you against the competition in your field. That concept is based on an insight into your own expertise, or on a personal attribute or quality, such as originality, heritage, or wit. Ask yourself how you want an employer or client to see you in comparison to your competition.
Your Strategic Calling C.A.R.D.Consider several factors when formulating your strategic calling C.A.R.D.: Consistency: Create a coherent personal brand voice and tone in all verbal and visual communication across media platforms. (Don’t think of it as “matched luggage,” but there should be coherence.) Authenticity: Assert a genuine attribute, quality, or posture. Relevance: Base the branding on an insight into you and your target audience. Differentiation: Create a unique visual and verbal presence.
Form Follows Function & StoryAmerican architect Louis Sullivan said, “Form ever follows function.” In branding, not only should form follow function but it should follow a story as well. To help determine your strategy, you need to clarify your story. The raw material is about you—who you are, what you’ve done, what your strengths are, where you hope to work, and more. No formal research necessary, though analysis is required.
Crafting Your StoryAn advantageous place to start is by conceiving your elevator pitch, LinkedIn bio or Twitter profile, which requires determining a premise as well as shaping a distinguishing voice. Drawing upon the facts, you have to craft a central message. To determine your story’s premise, begin with these main tasks:
- Conceive a core message by synthesizing experiences and expertise (academic studies, knowledge, proficiencies, accomplishments) into a premise.
- Omit. What you edit out is as important as what you leave in.
- Show—don’t tell. Use action to show. (If you’re funny, don’t say you’re funny—be funny.)
- State it clearly and memorably.
- Specificity helps explain which assets you will bring to the job. Using superlatives and making general statements isn’t useful. For example, writing “I am the greatest designer of my generation” isn’t as useful (or believable) as stating specifically what it is that makes you exceptional.
- Consider the benefit. Is there a payoff to the employer in how you define yourself?