What is Personal Branding? Why it’s Important  | Forbes Books (2024)

A personal brand is the acknowledged public perception of an individual, while personal branding is the deliberate process of creating that impression. The personal brand results from personal branding efforts to position and communicate that individual’s credibility as a thought leader.

Personal branding is what you say about yourself based on your experience, expertise, core values, and key differentiators. Developing personal branding helps you be seen as an industry authority, grow and build trust with your audience, grow your business, and ultimately make an impact as a mission-driven thought leader.

Who Needs Personal Branding?

Anyone seeking to grow their business, attract an audience, or advance their career would benefit from personal branding.

While there is an argument that nearly everyone has a personal brand, whether it was intentionally created or developed organically, there are people whose professional success relies on it. These people include:

  • Business leaders
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Politicians
  • Freelancers
  • Creators
  • Influencers

Essentially, if you are part of an organization, looking to build a career, needing to differentiate yourself from your competition, or simply want to be authentically seen, you need personal branding.

Why Is Having a Personal Brand Important?

Today’s attention economy operates from the notion that attention is a scarce resource to constantly compete for. Now, couple it with the vast amount of digital information available across multiple digital platforms. You don’t need to run algorithms to understand that it’s harder than ever to capture and keep limited audience attention.

Here are three more reasons personal branding is important.

1. It Provides You a Competitive Advantage

There are thousands of people competing with you in the short attention span economy. People compete for the same customers, the same jobs, and the same audiences.

Having a clearly defined personal brand that differentiates your value and what you bring to the table helps you stand out in a crowd—even if you’re not in the same room.

2. Personal Branding Builds Trust

People are cognitively wired to interact with people based on their level of trust. You yourself choose who you confide in or spend time with based on who you trust and avoid those you don’t trust.

It’s the same with buying behavior. People buy from, engage with, and are loyal to personal brands they trust.

Consistent personal brand messaging, visuals, and overall online and offline presence allow people to get to know you as an expert in your field. They come to expect that consistency and feel they have a relationship with you, which builds trust.

3. It Helps You Meet Business Goals

According to the 2022 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report created by Edelman and LinkedIn, “Thought leadership is one of the most effective tools an organization can use to show its value to customers during a tough economy.”

The report also states that high-quality thought leadership has a greater impact on 50% of C-suite executives’ decision-making during economic downturns versus more prosperous times.

Whether you are in B2B or in B2C, having established yourself as a thought leader through your personal branding opens doors to lead generation, speaking engagements, job opportunities, and more.

What Is a Brand Audit?

Creating personal branding or assessing your current personal branding begins with conducting a personal brand audit. A brand audit is a review of everything that makes up how your audience perceives you. This includes your professional bio, social media, website, headshots, blog, and videos. It also includes a look from the outside in, at your digital footprint, to see what people encounter when they type your name on a search engine.

A personal brand audit provides you with the opportunity to ask yourself:

  • How have I positioned myself?
  • Have I differentiated myself in a way that is authentic to me?
  • Is my current personal brand reflective of how I want to be seen?
  • What is my personal brand missing?
  • Is there anything I need to address in my digital footprint that may be detrimental to my brand reputation?

By conducting an audit, you’ll determine if your personal brand is up to date and uniquely you. You can also create your personal branding if one does not yet exist.

How to Conduct a Personal Brand Audit

Answering the following personal brand audit questions allows you to review your brand’s current state. It also provides you with the opportunity to create your personal brand.

These questions will reveal how you are presenting yourself online and how you are being perceived. Ideally, these will align, but don’t be surprised if they do not. This is true if your personal branding is not yet established or if you haven’t conducted an audit in some time.

Personal Brand Positioning

Personal brand positioning is about building your personal brand’s perception in the mind of your audience. Having a deep awareness of how you are positioning yourself is the first step in conducting a brand audit.

Respond to the questions yourself, then include individuals from your past and current professional network and trusted advisors for feedback. Ask people who will be honest with you versus people who will tell you what they think you would like to hear.

  • Who are you?
  • What is your mission?
  • What are your core values?
  • Why should people believe you?
  • Do you have a product or service?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What’s your key differentiators compared to those of your competitors?
  • What are your professional and personal goals?
  • How would you describe yourself? (Authoritative, friendly, determined, humorous, etc)
  • Who is your audience?
  • Would your online audience, friends, and followers describe you in the same way?
  • What comes to their minds when they think of you?
  • Would your audience or professional network ask you to contribute content to their podcast, blogs, or newsletters? Why or why not?
  • What results show up when you search for your name in Google? How do they represent you? Does that representation reflect you, your mission, core values, value propositions, and goals?

Evaluating Brand Assets

Assessing your marketing and brand assets allows you to check for brand consistency in everything from messaging to visuals.

  • Do you have up to date and consistently messaged bios? Do you have a one-liner, short-form, and long-form versions?
  • Do you have a professional headshot or full image library? Is it current?
  • Do all your marketing and brand assets look and sound similar? Would someone be able to see your print or digital marketing or brand assets and recognize them as coming from the same person?
  • Are all your materials current?
  • Do you have published content across other platforms, such as LinkedIn, Medium, or Substack? Does it align with your personal brand messaging?

Determining Voice and Tone

Consider how you sound to your audience. This is what they hear audibly and, in their minds, when they think of you.

  • Do you have a defined personal brand voice? Can your target audience describe it?
  • Is your personality accurately reflected in the voice and tone you use in your brand assets?

Creating a Visual Identity

The graphic elements, including logos, images, and fonts, also represent your personal brand.

  • Do you have a logo?
  • Is it used consistently across your materials in the same way?
  • Do you have visual brand guidelines?

Creating a Personal Website

A personal branded website is your homebase of owned content. It’s where your target audience finds you, where media and associations go to affirm your thought leadership, and where organizations go to book you for speaking engagements.

  • Do you have a personal brand website?
  • Can you be easily found online when people search for you?
  • Is your messaging consistent with other personal branded materials?
  • If you have visual brand guidelines, are they being used?
  • Is it easy to understand the call to action you wish the site visitor to take?

Social Media Presence

Review your social media presence. Use the questions below to understand how people see and engage with you.

  • Do you use social media platforms?
  • Are they up to date? Are your bio and photo current?
  • Are you posting content regularly?
  • Do you have a social media strategy in place designed to increase your audience, brand awareness, and thought leadership?
  • Are you providing a mix of content types (video, short posts, longer form articles)
  • What demographics engage with you the most? Are they your target audience?
  • Why types of engagement are you getting?

What Are the Next Steps?

Once you’ve conducted your brand audit, you’ll review the results and look for similarities, patterns, and misalignments. You’ll recognize whether your target audience sees you how you wish to be seen, or if there’s work to be done on your personal branding.

You’ll also be able to assess if your personal branding aligns with your short-term and long-term goals. For instance, if you are seeking a position in the C-Suite, you’ll quickly realize if your current personal branding positions you as a credible thought leader.

From here, you can pat yourself on the back for having a strong personal brand that’s consistent with your goals. Or, you now have done the groundwork towards developing an authentic and effective personal branding.

Final Thoughts

While personal branding is time consuming, it’s an effort worth doing if you want to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Your personal brand will also be reflected in any blogs, articles, or other content you create, including books. Learn more about building thought leadership articles in our blog, How to Write Successful Thought Leadership Articles.

Interested in building your personal brand thought leadership through authorship? Learn if you qualify to become a Forbes Book’s author. Our consultants can help you develop a strategic book plan that highlights your personal brand and elevates your Authority.

Interested in building your personal brand through media, such as thought leadership-focused PR and content marketing? Our team can help with that too. Schedule a complimentary consultation to learn more.

What is Personal Branding? Why it’s Important  | Forbes Books (2024)

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