In a previous blog we discussed why every adult, regardless of age, should develop a personal brand.  To recap, the three primary reasons are:

1. It separates you from others, and distinguishes you from the crowd.

2. It makes a promise to others that you have a strong foundation, that know who you are, and that you will be the same in the future. It exudes confidence.

3. It keeps you focused on who you are and helps you to maintain the highest standard for yourself day after day.

Since we have established why a personal brand is important, we will now begin the process of creating a personal brand, brand YOU.  Remember, no two people are exactly the same.  You are uniquely different from every other person in the world.  Your DNA proves this, as do your fingerprints.  Your personal brand should similarly distinguish you from every one else.

There are five distinct areas YOU should focus on when building your personal brand:

1.  What YOU valueYour personal brand identifies who you are, as opposed to what you do.  Values ultimately reflect what is most important to you.  Integrity, for example, indicates that you place a very high value on being thorough and not cutting corners.  You also project an aura of honesty and sincerity.

This first step is critical in the building process of a personal brand as it lays the foundation for everything else.  It is very important to take the time to consider and write down those values that guide you each and every day.  Do not assume that others hold the same values.  You might ask yourself something along the lines of what do I stand for?  Then list at least ten core values that you will not compromise.

If you have children or grandchildren, it might be of value to ask yourself, what do I want my (grand)children to know me for?  As you think about this, you might consider the importance of keeping your word, or the value you place on education and knowledge.

2. How YOU want to be perceived by others.  Much of personal branding is about what others perceive you to be.  Fortunately, you have the power to influence and control other’s perceptions by how you handle yourself.

How do you want others to perceive you?  Go back to step one and ask if every action  you take reflects your core values?   All of us have some sort a reputation, good or bad, related to what we are known for; hot-headed, level-headed, decisive, follower, clown, buzz-killer.  The list goes on.

As you build your brand, it is an excellent time to reflect on your reputation.  It is positive or negative?  What should you change?  What are you willing to change?  All branding is about perception.  Companies recognize this and many have re-branded themselves in order to change their perception in the marketplace.  It is no different with personal brands.

Make a list of at least ten perceptions that you want people to have about you and your brand.

3.  How YOU are unique.  What differentiates you from the crowd?  Obviously, it depends somewhat on what crowd you are part of.  Start with your peer group at work.  Perhaps you are the first one to arrive every morning, or the last one to leave.  Maybe you are the only one with a college education.  Begin by considering those attributes that make you distinguishable from all of the others you work with.

If you are not currently employed, or you are self-employed, you can still answer the question by thinking of groups to which you belong; your church, social networking group, or simply the people you pal around with on a regular basis.  The idea here is simply to help you realize that you are different and unique.  As you become increasingly aware of positive characteristics, make sure you are making them part of your personal brand.

4.  What expertise YOU have.  What specialty are you known for, or want to be known for?  Consider areas where you are already viewed as an expert or an authority.  Don’t only think in terms of your vocation.  Again, personal branding is about defining who you are, not simply what you do.  Perhaps you are recognized as someone who is an expert at raising children, or caring for the elderly.

Expertise often reflects what we are most passionate about and what we spend our time perfecting.  Expertise reflects added value.  If you are an expert at taking an idea and putting it on paper, you will bring great value to every new project.  If you are particularly gifted as a speaker or writer, your communication value is highly prized for moving a product or service out to the public.

When added to the other steps, your expertise will distinguish you from everyone else.   Be known as the punctual person with high integrity who can build anything, and your brand is established.

Write out a list of five things you do particularly well.  Then identify the one or two that you do better than the rest.  Begin to focus on making that the center of your brand.

5. Who YOU want to have as a customer.  One of the great things about building your personal brand is that it is an opportunity consider what people you want to deal with.  As you consider your unique values and abilities, it is much easier to determine your target audience.

Your target audience should primarily consist of people who will most benefit by using your brand.  Your brand should be the brand of choice when a prospect thinks about the areas in which you specialize.  Your brand should build trust.  When someone uses your brand they should confidently expect satisfaction, guaranteed.

As you put these five elements of a personal brand together, think about some of the best, most recognizable corporate brands.  What are they known for?  How are they perceived in the marketplace?  How are they unique from their competition?  What do they do better than anyone else?  And  lastly, who is their target customer and how do they reach this target group?

Pick two or three brands.  Determine what they have in common.  Now consider the brand YOU, and ask the same questions.  Determine what you, personally, have in common with these exceptional corporate brands.  Determine how you can best Incorporate these common traits in your brand. By doing so, you will be well on your way to creating a strong personal brand.

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