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Mastering Personal Branding: A Comprehensive Guide for building personal brand online/offline for Subject Matter Experts

Updated: Feb 9

This article is written for consultants, speakers, therapists, coaches, and other expert-based businesses.


We are going to discuss:

 

Consultant with personal brand

The current situation


Experts Suffer The Perception Gap:

If you are a subject matter expert, you know that keeping your current client engaged and happy is paramount. We are delighted to have repeat clients and new ones from word-of-mouth referrals.


You may also have heard of experts who have built a successful business purely from referrals. So it's no wonder that experts tend to focus heavily on honing their skills and knowledge, mistakenly believing that this alone will ensure their success and visibility in their respective fields. Well, the bad news is that this will soon, if not already, become a thing of the past.


It doesn't matter what industry you are in; you are by default playing in a competitive and saturated arena. Today, technical prowess and professional achievements are expected. You can only get an edge over your peers by focusing on personal branding.


You could be the best in your field, but if people don't know who you are, your expertise is like a tree falling in an empty forest.

The Digital Footprint:

In the age of digital media, building personal branding online has become far more important than traditional networking. Analysing successful professionals in these fields shows a robust digital presence, ranging from thought leadership articles on LinkedIn to insightful tweets. This digital footprint enhances visibility and establishes credibility and thought leadership in their areas of expertise.


Client Attraction and Retention:

A survey conducted among clients of consultants and speakers reveals that personal branding plays a significant role in their selection process. Clients are more inclined to engage professionals with a solid personal brand that resonates with their organisational values and needs.


The Benefits of Personal Branding


1. Strategic Network Expansion:

Cultivating a robust personal brand doesn't merely increase your networking opportunities; it strategically positions you at the heart of influential circles. By consistently showcasing your expertise and thought leadership, you attract the attention of key industry players, paving the way for high-impact collaborations and partnerships.


This selective network isn't just about expanding your contacts; it's about forging meaningful connections that align with your professional aspirations and amplify your influence in the industry.


2. Premium Pricing Power:

A well-crafted personal brand does more than justify premium rates; it establishes your consultancy services as a benchmark for excellence and innovation in your field. Your personal brand is a testament to your unique insights, extensive experience, and proven results, enabling you to set your pricing based on the authoritative value you bring. This value-based pricing model reflects the tangible and intangible benefits clients gain from your expertise and reinforces your standing as a leading authority in your niche.


3. Long-term Career Security:

In a landscape marked by volatility and rapid evolution, a distinctive personal brand is your anchor, offering unparalleled career resilience. By embedding your personal brand into the fabric of your industry, you create a perpetual demand for your un



ique blend of skills and insights. This enduring presence ensures you remain relevant and sought after, regardless of market shifts. Your personal brand becomes synonymous with innovation and reliability, making you an indispensable asset to clients and collaborators.


Case Study: Maintaining a straightforward narrative

Gary Vaynerchuk, usually referred to as Gary Vee, a well-known entrepreneur and marketing expert, has effectively leveraged personal branding to support his professional goals. He has consistently maintained a straightforward narrative aligned with his target audience, primarily focusing on inspiring career success and sharing business and marketing insights.


His personal brand is evident across various social media platforms, where he utilises a strategic content marketing approach. Vaynerchuk's personal branding extends to a set of visual brand assets. This personal website serves as a hub for his brand and the use of his personal brand to support his businesses and side hustles. This holistic approach to personal branding has contributed significantly to his professional success and industry recognition.


Is personal branding all about ego?

It's easy to conclude that personal branding is all about trumpeting your brilliance. If that does not sit well with you, you are in the right mindset.


Leading branding experts emphasise that personal branding is not about self-promotion but authentically showcasing one's skills, values, and expertise.


It's about building a narrative that connects your personal story with your professional journey in a genuine and compelling way.

How personal branding is evolving

Personal branding is evolving rapidly in the digital age, primarily due to the widespread use and influence of social media. Traditionally, personal branding was often limited to celebrities and high-profile individuals, but digital platforms are now accessible and crucial for professionals across various industries.


Social media provides a unique space for individuals to showcase their expertise, values, and personality, reaching a broader audience than ever before. This shift has made personal branding vital for career development and business growth.


It allows individuals to establish their presence, connect with audiences, and differentiate themselves in a crowded digital landscape. Personal branding in the digital age is not just about self-promotion but about building an authentic narrative that resonates with one's professional journey and personal story.

personal branding is not about self promotion

Case Study: Making Duck fashionable

An Asian subject matter expert with a solid personal brand is Vivy Yusof, a Malaysian fashion icon and social media-savvy businesswoman. Vivy co-founded FashionValet and the dUCk Group and has over a million Instagram followers.


She effectively used personal branding to build a significant presence in the fashion industry. Her Instagram content, rich with elements like personal insights, professional achievements, and engagement with followers, illustrates a successful blend of personal and professional branding.


Her approach to branding on social media confirms the significance of CEO personal branding in influencing both personal and business areas.


The Science Behind Personal Branding

The psychology and marketing strategies behind effective personal branding intertwine to create a robust, relatable image that resonates with the target audience. Psychologically, personal branding capitalises on the human tendency to connect with stories and personalities. It involves presenting oneself authentically, consistently, and emotionally engagingly. This creates a sense of trust and familiarity among the audience.


From a marketing perspective, effective personal branding involves clear messaging that aligns with the individual's values, skills, and unique selling propositions. It's about differentiating oneself in a crowded market and establishing a memorable presence.


This can involve strategies like content marketing, social media engagement, networking, and thought leadership. The goal is to create a coherent narrative that effectively communicates the individual's expertise and value proposition, fostering a loyal following and strong professional relationships.


"A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another." Godin's perspective highlights the emotional and experiential aspects of branding." - Seth Godin, Marketing Expert and Author

The power of Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey, a media mogul and philanthropist, has built a powerful personal brand based on her empathetic and inspirational communication style. Her brand revolves around her personal story of overcoming adversity, which resonates with many. Through her talk show, magazine, and network, Oprah has consistently delivered content that aligns with her core values of empowerment, self-improvement, and spirituality, making her one of the most influential personal brands globally.


Shifting away from tradition


Get unfiltered

Some experts are now advocating for a more raw and unfiltered approach in a break from traditional personal branding methods, which often emphasise consistent, polished self-presentation.


This contrarian view posits that perfection can create distance between the brand and its audience. Instead, showing vulnerability, admitting mistakes, and sharing the less-than-perfect aspects of professional life can foster a deeper connection with audiences.


This approach argues that authenticity doesn't mean sharing successes but struggles and failures, making the brand more relatable and trustworthy. This shift challenges the conventional wisdom of always maintaining a flawless professional image.


Get personal

Another viewpoint challenges the idea that personal branding should focus solely on professional attributes and achievements. This perspective suggests integrating personal interests, hobbies, and non-work-related passions can enhance a personal brand. It argues that showcasing a well-rounded personality, including aspects unrelated to one's professional life, can make a brand more engaging and humanised.


This approach defies the traditional emphasis on strictly professional content and encourages a holistic representation of an individual's character and interests, fostering a more genuine and multi-dimensional personal brand.


These perspectives are supported by empirical data.


A study of various industries highlighted eight key elements constituting an authentic personal brand: authenticity, consistency, relevance, authority, distinctiveness, integrity, goodwill, and persistence.

This research underscores the idea that personal branding is not just about professional accomplishments but also about showcasing one's unique personality and values. It suggests an authentic personal brand is crafted through professional expertise and individual identity, reflecting professional skills and personal interests.


This approach aligns with the current understanding that personal branding is a multifaceted, dynamic construct influenced by individual differences and diverse industry requirements.


This study is referenced as "Personal Branding Empirical Testing Of The Criteria For An Authentic Personal Brand," conducted by Potgieter et al. The study focused on empirically testing elements of an authentic personal brand among respondents from eight different industries in the top 500 company list in South Africa.




8 key elements constituting an authentic personal brand


Actionable Steps to Create and Enhance Personal Branding


  1. Identify Your Unique Value Proposition: Determine what sets you apart in your field. Reflect on your strengths, expertise, and unique experiences.

  2. Define Your Target Audience: Understand who your brand will appeal to, their needs, and how you can address them.

  3. Develop a Personal Brand Statement: Create a concise statement that encapsulates your professional identity and value.

  4. Establish a Strong Online Presence: Build a professional website and be active on relevant social media platforms. Regularly share content that showcases your expertise.

  5. Engage with Your Audience: Actively interact with your audience through social media, blog comments, and networking events. Always keep your content relevant to the needs of your target audience.

  6. Consistent Branding Across All Platforms: Ensure your branding (like logos, colours, and messaging) is consistent across all channels.

  7. Seek Feedback and Adapt: Regularly ask for feedback from peers and mentors, and be open to adapting your brand as needed.


Personal Brand Development Checklist

Here are some questions and pointers to help you make progress on your personal branding efforts.

  1. Define Your Goals: What do you want to achieve with your personal brand?

  2. Identify Your Unique Skills and Experience: What makes you stand out?

  3. Develop Your Personal Brand Statement: A clear and concise statement about your professional identity.

  4. Optimise Your Social Media Profiles: Consistency in imagery, bios, and content across platforms.

  5. Create and Share Relevant Content: Blogs, podcasts, social media posts, etc., highlighting your expertise.

  6. Network and Collaborate: Engage with industry peers and participate in relevant events and forums.

  7. Monitor Your Online Reputation: Regularly search for your name online and manage your digital footprint.

  8. Continuously Update and Evolve: Keep your brand fresh and relevant with ongoing learning and adaptation.


A tidy example:

Marie Kondo built her personal brand by combining her organisational passion with a unique philosophy and method. Her journey began with a deep interest in organising from a young age. She developed the KonMari method, which focuses on decluttering and organising by keeping only items that "spark joy."


Kondo's brand gained significant traction with her bestselling book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." The book's global success and its translations into multiple languages helped establish her as an authority in the field.


Her brand expanded further with a Netflix series, "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo," where she applies her method in real-life situations. Kondo's approach, characterised by its simplicity and emotional connection, resonated widely, making her a globally recognised figure in the home organisation space.


Emerging Trends in Personal Branding

New trends in personal branding, particularly in the digital world, include:

  1. Authenticity Over Perfection: There's a shift towards showcasing genuine, unfiltered aspects of personal and professional life, moving away from overly curated and polished images.

  2. Video Content Dominance: The rise of video platforms like TikTok and YouTube Shorts has made video content crucial for personal branding. Engaging, short-form video content is becoming a vital tool for visibility and engagement.

  3. Niche Specialisation: Professionals focus on highly specialised niches within their fields to stand out in crowded digital spaces, emphasising unique expertise and perspectives.

  4. Interactive and Immersive Content: The use of interactive tools like polls, live streaming, and AR/VR technologies to create more engaging, immersive experiences for the audience.

  5. Personal Branding through Thought Leadership: Sharing insights, trends, and thought-provoking content on platforms like LinkedIn to establish authority and expertise in a specific field.


These trends reflect the evolving digital communication landscape and the importance of adapting personal branding strategies to remain relevant and practical.


Visual or Content: Which branding strategy is best for you?


Visual

Personal branding strategies vary significantly, each with its own advantages and challenges. For instance, a strategy focusing on solid visual branding elements, like consistent design across platforms, may establish brand recognition and make one instantly identifiable online. However, this approach may require significant investment in design and upkeep.


Content

Another strategy is content-focused, where the individual regularly publishes high-quality, relevant content in their area of expertise. This approach can effectively establish authority and thought leadership but requires a consistent and substantial time commitment to content creation.


Overall, the key to successful personal branding lies in selecting a strategy that aligns with one's skills, audience, and resources and being consistent in its execution. Balancing visual and content elements while ensuring authenticity and engagement with the audience can lead to a strong, impactful personal brand.


The Future of Personal Branding

The future of personal branding is expected to undergo several significant changes, influenced by evolving social media landscapes and technological advancements:


  1. Authenticity vs. Oversharing: Personal brands must balance being authentic and oversharing, emphasising crafting an identity independent of their employers.

  2. In-depth Content Over Short Posts: Deep, meaningful content will become more valuable than brief social media updates. This shift will see a rise in comprehensive articles, long-form videos, and detailed newsletters.

  3. Permissionless Personal Branding: There will be more freedom in personal branding methods. People will use diverse platforms, from podcasts to newsletters, to express their brand.

  4. Business Approach to Personal Branding: Personal brands will increasingly be run like businesses, with more creators likely to have teams supporting their efforts.

  5. Technological Integration: Increased use of AI and automation in personal branding is expected, aiding in content creation and social media account management. Additionally, integrating various skills and interests into a unified career profile will become more prevalent.


These predictions suggest a more dynamic and multifaceted future for personal branding, where authenticity, depth of content, technological integration, and a business-like approach will be critical.


"Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination." Branson's quote underscores the need for innovation and emotional connection in building a successful brand." - Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

Top 10 Key Takeaways for Effective Personal Branding

  1. Authenticity is crucial: Genuine and relatable content resonates more than perfection.

  2. Video Content: Embrace short-form videos for higher engagement.

  3. Niche Specialisation: Focus on specific areas within your field.

  4. Interactive Content: Utilise interactive tools for audience engagement.

  5. Thought Leadership: Share insights to establish expertise.

  6. Balance in Personal Sharing: Find the right mix between personal and professional content.

  7. Comprehensive Content: Deep, detailed content will increase value over simple social posts.

  8. Flexibility in Platforms: Use diverse mediums for expression, from podcasts to newsletters.

  9. Business-like Approach: Treat personal branding as a business venture for growth.

  10. Technological Integration: Employ AI and automation for efficient brand management.


Where should you start?

Start with a personal website, develop a unique selling proposition, and be active on social media, especially LinkedIn. Get active with networking and building an email list and social media following.


Personal branding is a journey of self-discovery and professional growth. It's about defining and articulating your unique value and consistently presenting this through various platforms, from social media to personal websites.


The key is balancing authenticity with professional goals, leveraging technology, and adapting to the evolving digital landscape. Now is the time to start or refine your personal branding journey.


Embrace your uniqueness, build your online presence, and open doors to new opportunities. Your personal brand is your story; make it compelling, authentic, and uniquely yours.


In parting, remember the words of Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon:

"Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room."

This quote emphasises the importance of reputation and the perception others have of you, which is central to personal branding.


Thinking of building your Personal Branding online/offline?

We can support you by putting together the right mix of branding, PR and thought leadership strategy.


Contact us if you need help with your personal brand strategy as a subject matter expert. We are here to help you.

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