Building a personal brand can be an overwhelming experience. Where do I start? How do I create one? Is it even necessary? 

To make it easier on clients, I walk them through the ABCs of personal branding. 

Audience. Build. Communicate. 

Shameless plug alert! I’ll be giving a free talk on this Sept. 27 at the EThOs Small Business Incubator & Coworking Spaces in Marion. We’ll start at noon and I’ll buy you pizza. 

Back to the column. 

So, what is a personal brand? Many people confuse it with ‘reputation,’ which is more connected with how others perceive you. Your personal brand is intentional versus dependent. Proactive versus reactive. 

It’s you jumping off the page of your resume with confidence so contagious a hiring manager simply has to experience it in person. It’s you as a business owner winning market share based on how you tell your story and influence others. 

Just like in the commercial world, a brand has no value unless people know about it. Let’s dig into the ABCs. 

A: Audience

Everyone has a different audience, right? If you’re looking for a new job, you’ll want to get the attention of recruiters and hiring managers. More specifically, you’ll want them to work in the industry you’re targeting. 

If you run a small business, your audience will be much different. It will depend on the product or service you offer, as well as factors like price points and product usability. Let’s say you’re a commercial plumber. It would be best to go after big corporate accounts versus advertising in a way that speaks to everyday homeowners. 

Here’s your homework: Create a relationship map. This can be a simple list of people you want to know or people who can help you progress – either in your workplace or in the community. Think about how people you know may be connected to these potential audience members. 

I’m picturing you on a crime show connecting Polaroids of people with different colored yarn in a dimly lit room. If this is your style, go for it. If not, a simple piece of paper or Microsoft Word document works just fine. 

B: Build

Once you figure out who you’re trying to attract, it’s time to build a personal brand they will care about. 

Why build a personal brand? In a previous column, I used the analogy of a grocery store. Picture yourself walking down the cereal aisle. There are hundreds of cereals on the shelf. Which box you choose will come down to how the packaging, colors, and copy speak to you as a consumer. 

That’s kind of how recruiters and hiring managers approach the stacks upon stacks of applications they receive for a single job opening. 

Here’s your homework: Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers: 

• What are you good at? 

• What energizes you? 

• How are you different than competitors? 

• How do you want to be known? 

Now, carry over any common themes into the materials you need to move the needle. Think resume, cover letter, business cards, billboard, social media content, videos, and talking points for interviews. 

C: Communicate 

Now that you have targeted your audience and decided how you want to be known, it’s time to share it with the world. 

Here’s your homework: Identify the channels that make sense. Find where members of your target audience spend their time. Business leaders are active on LinkedIn. Everyday customers are on Instagram, Facebook, and Tik Tok. Local community members are involved with the chamber of commerce, nonprofits, and school boards. 

Leverage your brand and related materials. Then start communicating. 

I’d like to end this column with a disclaimer. After writing my aforementioned piece comparing personal brands with those of commercial products, I received an email from a reader letting me know that she was not a box of cereal and was offended by my approach. 

Win some, lose some. 

Joe Szynkowski is the happy founder and owner of The UpWrite Group, a small local firm that has offered corporate communications, personal branding, public relations, and ghostwriting services since 2008. Email for more information.

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