I recently participated in an online conversation in which someone was asking about his personal brand. He was wondering, since he had the same qualifications and offered the same skill set as several others who had been around about the same amount of time, or less, why they seemed to be doing so much better than he was. Why were they more well known and experiencing more success than him? Any of us who have an internet presence must be concerned with our own personal brand and it can be productive and even motivational to compare ourselves with our peers.

What is a brand anyway?

We tend to think of a brand in terms of consumer products like Kraft, Apple, Nike, etc. but it’s broader than that:

A brand is a collection of experiences and associations connected with a service, a person or any other entity.
~ Wikipedia

A good brand provides the consumer something of predictable positive value. Things like:

  1. Entertainment – great writing, interesting anecdotes, a great story, the latest gossip, a fun game
  2. Education – helpful information, up to date news, enlightening thoughts, how-to guides, lists of resources
  3. Experience – an easy to use product, products that make you feel good,

Let’s look at this in terms of blogging. Your readers are consumers of Brand You on your blog.

A good brand is predictable

Regular posting (note I did not say “frequent”) and consistency of quality are key. Readers have found quality at your site in the past and expect to find it with each post.

A good brand is positive

People who “consume” your brand come away with a positive feeling. They were entertained, educated, challenged, etc. and they will come back for more.

A good brand adds value

How are you making the lives of your readers better? How are you adding value to their lives?

Actions really do speak louder than words

Branding is not about defining yourself through words. It’s about defining yourself through actions. You will not build your brand much by telling all about yourself and what makes you so great. You build a great personal brand by doing great things. Obviously, you’ll want to engage in some self-promotion at times, but that’s not the main focus of your efforts. Even a blog like Dooce for example, which is by nature, all about herself and her family is a great brand because she provides consistent entertainment.

Adjust your focus

The reality is that people aren’t interested in you, your career, your passions, etc… They’re interested in themselves. For the most part, unless you just have some “fans” who follow you because they really do want to know everything about you, they’re asking, “what’s in it for me?” It’s the standard question people in marketing know that the consumer is asking every time they examine a brand. Focus on your readers, not yourself. Give stuff away for free. Ask, “how can I help you?” and  “what are you interested in?” Readers can tell very quickly whether you’re out to promote and build up yourself, or whether you’re out to promote and build up others. Think about that friend you have, who when you have a conversation, continually talks about himself. He rarely asks about you, and you can tell when you’re talking about something that he’s just waiting for you to finish so he can talk again. He’s not someone you want to hang around much, is he?

A holistic approach to branding

Because a brand is a “collection of experiences and associations,” all of your online activities play a role in the perception people have of you. This seems like a no brainer, but let’s say you have a great site with copy that talks about being interested in your readers, blah, blah, blah… and then when they follow you on Twitter, all your tweets are self-promotional (read my latest post, vote for me, look at this thing I did) and you rarely reply to anyone. Your brand intergrity doesn’t mean much because it’s clearly insincere.

Up for some more reading on personal branding?

Elements of a Personal Brand by Chris Brogan

The Brand Called You at Fast Company