Queen of all Media = Oprah.
Kick-ass Australia personal trainer = Michelle Bridges.
Australian mining engineer, athlete, motivational speaker = Turia Pitt.
This is the power of branding.
Distinguishing skills, personal qualities, attributes, or even a story so strongly associated with a person, that you instantly think of their name when you hear, see, or feel it.
Imagine *you* had that same power.
Liiiike, woman strategizing a resume = Lisa Mahar.
See what I just did there?
Or woman passionately training on social styles = Lisa Mahar
I actually have two personal brands that intersect with my business and employment.
Creating a personal brand has been a big part of the success I’ve had in my career.
The quality and uniqueness of what you offer will get you pretty far, but a strong personal brand will guarantee that people will notice and remember your skills, knowledge and abilities.
So that’s what we’re talking about today: personal brands. What they are, why they matter, and how *you* can build a successful personal brand using the tips and tricks that worked for me.
Let’s dive in 🏊
What’s a personal brand?
First, let’s talk about what a brand is.
I like this definition of ‘brand’ from PersonalBrand.com:
“A true personal brand revolves around what other people say about you. Personal branding revolves around what you say about yourself.”
For instance, Oprah’s brand is empathy, authenticity, and being true to oneself.
To do that she engages with and captures her audience interest with real, inspiring stories from people her audience can connect with.
Now, think about Oprah and Barbara Walters. Both broadcasting legends.
Walters is serious, unwavering, and isn’t afraid to make people cry. Compare this to Oprah’s brand above.
Now think about which interviews they would be right for.
Each woman is a legendary interviewer, but they also interview others in line with their personal brand.
A great personal brand will:
- Create connection. So, others can easily identify with you as a real human being.
- Offer flexibility. Leave you the choice to change what you offer, without having to build a new brand.
- Build trust. You are the face and name that feels dependable.
Of course, it also goes without saying, a personal brand means it’s all about YOU. You can’t hide. You *have* to put yourself out there.
It’s taken me a long time to strip away corporate Lisa and show me.
But last year, I decided to change. I got personal. I showed my face. I told stories.
And it’s worked. I have a successful balance between writing/coaching branding and behind the scenes qualified Trainer.
Building my personal brand is the reason I can do both.
It’s the reason I’ve been able to shift my focus and pursue new directions. And it’s the reason I’m not worried about what the future holds — I know that whatever I want to talk about in six months or six years, my personal brand gives me the flexibility to do it.
How I built a personal brand
At 18 years old, I was already thinking about the perception I was creating for the world around me.
See, I was studying to be a Dental Nurse. I had zero clue about what I wanted to do with my career, this seemed like a great professional career path.
But nursing wasn’t my thing, and one day, out of the blue I got a call for an interview with Bankwest. I’d submitted my resume months ago and they were looking to hire a Teller.
So how was I going to align myself as a future finance professional? What the heck did nursing have to do with counting money?
I’d spent 3 years working for McDonalds. So, I had loads of basic cash handling and customer service.
As a Dental Nurse, essentially my role was all about customer service. Helping customers every step of their appointment.
So, that’s what I led with, and when I quit banking and went into a call centre role for a large Telecommunication company. I pushed my customer service brand all over again.
I kept leading with customer service for over 10 years. Till I decided it was time for a change and wanted to move into training.
Now, here’s where the challenge came about. Reinventing my personal brand.
Putting myself out there was noooo problem. Or so I thought.
I became a trainer while employed. Having done the role for 2 years and gaining a qualification I thought people “knew me”.
When I bought a corporate training franchise, I realised I hadn’t done the groundwork to project my personal brand to the world, and I choked.
That experience scared me, and I knew I needed to do something.
So, I signed up to the Australian Institute of Training & Development. I jumped on their local council, attended the local events, flew to Sydney for conferences, volunteered, and started speaking.
I gathered recommendations and endorsements. I set up opportunities for photoshoots to catch me in the action of delivering training.
Yeah, it was kind of nuts.
The following year, my network reached out and offered me an executive role spanning HR, Training and OD. It was awesome. It was terrifying. But most importantly, it gave me a huge “a-ha!” moment:
I can reinvent myself.
Two years and two redundancies later, learning to reinvent myself and hold a strong network became more crucial than ever.
As I launched Mertiude, I chose to be a writer. I decided this was my new brand and what I want to present to my audience. But I also decided, I still wanted to be a trainer.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that lesson would be HUGE in my career path.
In the first three years of business, I wrote/coached, delivered Traineeships for the Australian Retail Association, and supervised exams for universities.
I signed up to leading resume associations, attended PD, and enrolled in a certification. I gathered writing samples and testimonials. From the outside, no one knew I was still training. My brand was all about writing/coaching.
But my inner network knew. The one I purposefully created several years earlier.
In the last 6 years, I’ve successfully balanced business and employment within my niche. Knowing that I can have a successful personal brand within writing and training has been crucial for my career — and my sanity.
How to build a personal brand
To get started developing your own personal brand, you have to ask yourself three big questions.
#1 WHO IS YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE/WHAT IS YOUR NICHE?
I’m a writer for mid-career professionals (mostly, doesn’t mean other audiences don’t seek my help). I’m a Trainer within employment services and the RTO space. For RTO’s I am niched in retail and community services.
Identify your audience first and your niche.
#2 WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
Everyone has a story.
It doesn’t have to be something extravagant, like winning awards or knowing what you wanted to be when you were five.
But figure out what parts of your life and career would be interesting and/or relatable for your audience. Those details will be central to your personal brand.
Here are some key questions you can ask yourself to discover your story:
- What was the “turning point” of my life?
- What are some major events that occurred and how did I respond to them?
- Did I go through any challenges that others can relate to?
- What do I think is my purpose? What has been a recurrent theme throughout my career?
#3 HOW DO YOU HELP YOUR AUDIENCE?
What do you do that that helps your audience?
In my case, I decided to help my audience with kick-ass resumes and actionable advice that gave me real results. On my resume, I weave this in with my training skills when applying for roles within employment services.
My top tips for a kick-ass personal brand
Building my personal brand was the best thing I could’ve done for my career. Looking back, these are the tips that helped me the most.
TIP #1: PICK A PLATFORM TO BUILD YOUR BRAND
To make your personal brand recognizable, choose a social site to showcase it.
I recommend LinkedIn because:
- It’s easy for recruiters/hiring managers to find you
- It gives you the opportunity to prove your work (presentations, publications etc)
- You can be publicly endorsed and recommended
- It offers opportunities for connection (comments, articles, groups, etc.)
Once I started using LinkedIn, boosting my profile and sharing, things changed. That was the catalyst for the career model I have today.
TIP #2: LET THE PUBLIC SEE SOME OF YOU PERSONALLY
I won’t lie, this was a challenge. Not because I overshared my personal life. But I was too closed off in showing any of it.
A successful personal brand needs to have some distance from your personal life. It should be an honest reflection of you, but it doesn’t need to be all of you.
Remember: your personal brand is the perception you want your audience to have. Your private life is yours alone.
TIP #3: GET REAL
Your personal brand does require you to open up and get a bit vulnerable.
The best way to do this is to choose areas from your real life that you feel comfortable sharing as part of your personal brand and that are relevant to your personal brand.
For me, I share real talk about my job search efforts and challenges with being a parent.
Once in a blue moon, I share about my network.
What you share is entirely up to you.
Just don’t be afraid to get real. Share your day-to-day life in your LinkedIn feed and open up in your LinkedIn groups, comments and articles.