Six Steps to Success: Building a Savvy Personal Brand

by Grace Ueng, Savvy Growth

I recently kicked off Startup Summit’s 2019 learning series at WeWork Durham. An attentive audience came to hear how to stand out in a crowded world by building their personal brand. Just what is a personal brand? It is what people say about you before you even walk into the room.

I shared content from a favorite Savvy client workshop, Building a Savvy Personal Brand: Six Steps to Success. Here is the topline:

Step 1: What are you currently known for?

If you had to take a stab at the top 3 words that pop into a key stakeholder’s mind when they think of you, how accurate would your guesses be?

When I work with CEOs, I conduct 360 interviews – with their board of directors, executive team, and other stakeholders. Then, I carefully synthesize and share insights to help my client meet his or her goals. One CEO client told me years ago, “Feedback is a gift, for which we say thank you.” At the start of our engagement, another CEO asked of me, “I seek truth, not comfort.” Constructive truth, delivered in a comfortable manner so as to best direct the client toward their goals is what I strive to provide my coachees.

You could do this on your own by conducting focus groups – host a meeting and have a friend moderate and ask for frank feedback. Or you could reach out to 5-7 people 1-on-1 and ask them a few questions to get at your personal brand:

  1. How do people describe me?
  2. What do you think are my biggest strengths?
  3. What could I do differently?

Step 2: What do you want to be known for?

Now that you understand what you are known for, decide if you are happy with that. If you would like to be perceived differently, how would you like your target audience to describe you instead?

What words have you chosen for the title of your LinkedIn Profile? The words you choose now contribute to how people will look at you in the years to come.

Think through what makes you different, what makes you tick, what makes you uniquely you.

  1. If you were to write a column for your favorite industry publication, what would you name it?
  2. If you were to be invited to present on TED main stage, what topic would you speak on?  What is your big IDEA?
  3. Under what key word searches do you want your name or company to show up 5-10 years from now? How then might you want to change your personal brand in the coming years to achieve this goal?

Step 3: Who do you want to know you? 

This is important to figure out, otherwise you could be wasting your energies and resources – human capital and dollars. Who currently knows you well? Who doesn’t know you that you would like to know you?  Who do you want to be in the front row of your audience?

  1. How do people currently find out about you?  Is that the right mix for the future?
  2. Who do you want to be your customers? Who is your ideal customer?
  3. Who do you want to be referring you customers? Influencing your sales cycle?

Step 4: Choose Vehicles You Enjoy

To build your personal brand, you have to decide what vehicles to deploy to build your content marketing. This is an area I delve deeply with clients. What do you most enjoy?

  1. Do you gain energy from public speaking? Is there a topic you can and want to be known as the expert and you can share within your community? And take more broadly to your industry? Or do you prefer facilitation and asking questions of panelists? Or 1-on-1 conversations?
  2. Does completing a written piece bring you joy? You can take your speaking topic and also put it to paper.  What social media platforms do you seem to gravitate toward?
  3. Is there an association in your field where you really like spending time?

Step 5: Stick to consistent, deliberate practice

It takes years to become an overnight success – for your name to be known in the circles you want to be known in, with the branding that you would like to reflect.

Consistency is key. You may think you are getting very repetitive saying the same thing over and over to folks, but remember it takes a long time for a message to stick. And for each new person you meet, they are hearing your message for the first time.

  1. Consistency can be as simple as including key messages and content in the signature of your email.
  2. Frequency can be attained by setting meetings with yourself once a week to focus on the vehicles that energize you. Take photos of every customer visit and interesting industry event you attend. Then create quick posts including key themes.   Being in front of your audiences on a regular basis will make them more likely to think of you when in need of your product or service. Set goals for frequency of blogging. Keep a list of topics and an editorial calendar.
  3. Monitor your personal brand by hand picking a Personal Brand Board of Directors to advise you based on where you want to go. Decide on how often you will check in.

Step 6: Set annual, monthly and 5 year goals

Research shows that setting goals, writing them down, and sharing with others is critical to attaining them. I interviewed John Replogle of One Better Ventures, who was the CEO of Burt’s Bees and Seventh Generation.  He shared how he sets monthly, annual, and 5 year goals. If you write down your goals, achievement increases by 50%. If you tell someone, it rises to 75%. (see Lessons in Leadership: the importance of culture, goal setting, and doing well by doing good). I often tell my coaching clients this data to encourage them to carefully think through their goals, and then I partner with them on their journey.

If you want your personal brand to position yourself as a thought leader, you must share your ideas. Set specific metrics on building your platform:  # of connections, views. Genuine connections are important. Meaningful content is key. Examples of goals you might set:

  1. I will write articles on these topics over the next x months.  Content that you can write authentically, provide an interesting point of view, consistent with your personal brand.
  2. I will then take this content and speak on the themes in the following y months – be sure to include where and how.
  3. I will build my community by identifying and then serving as a leader in an industry organization by the end of this year.

You get the drill.

What steps will you take this month to build your personal brand? Share with us!

About the Author

Grace Ueng is Founder & CEO of Savvy Growth, whose mission is to help companies and their leaders achieve their fullest potential. Clients often hire Grace to help them optimize their personal brand.

Founded in 2003 as Savvy Marketing Group to advise clients on marketing strategy and their personal branding, her firm now also offers management consulting and leadership coaching. Her firm has completed 200 engagements for clients from emerging growth to the Fortune 1000.

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