When you google the term “personal brand,” roughly 7,660,000,000 search results crop up. I’d say this makes the concept pretty popular among interneters. For years, I really didn’t know how to define/quantify what it meant to have a personal brand–I knew I probably needed one, but I didn’t know how to go about getting it, identifying it, creating it, or growing it.

For me, the concept immediately brought to mind a kinda-true-but-kinda-fake persona with lots of selfies and travel photos on social media (with hundreds of thousands or millions of followers) who appeared to have it all together.

After years of doing the painstaking work of figuring out my where I fit in on the personal brand spectrum, I think about the concept very differently now.

The term “personal brand” was coined in 1997 by Tom Peters in a Fast Company article titled “The Brand Called You,” and the concept has exploded since then. Tom basically told readers that we all need to think of ourselves as the”CEO of Me.” Here’s my favorite paragraph in the article:

Forget your job title. Ask yourself: What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, distinctive value? Forget your job description. Ask yourself: What do I do that I am most proud of? Most of all, forget about the standard rungs of progression you’ve climbed in your career up to now. Burn that damnable “ladder” and ask yourself: What have I accomplished that I can unabashedly brag about? If you’re going to be a brand, you’ve got to become relentlessly focused on what you do that adds value, that you’re proud of, and most important, that you can shamelessly take credit for.

Thanks, Tom. I’m with it, but some of this original concept feels a little uncomfortable, especially the part about bragging.

The “personal brand” concept has matured some since 1997. Among the current 7.6 billion Google search results is the Wikipedia explanation, which says that a personal brand is “an ongoing process of developing and maintaining a reputation and impression of an individual, group, or organization.” The Wikipedia article goes on to talk about marketing and packaging yourself, kinda like how you’d do with a pair of shoes or the new iPhone.

Wikipedia’s perspective gets me a li’l closer to something that feels comfortable, but it still sounds a little contrived. If this is literally me, why do I have to create, develop or package? Why can’t I just show up in the world? Also, what about everybody else? This all seems pretty self-centered.

Where I’ve settled, and what I suggest to my clients, falls somewhere in between “just showing up in the world” and developing/marketing/packaging myself as a product for sale to the highest bidder. In my opinion, the sweet spot for a personal brand where there is overlap between:

  1. How you see yourself
  2. How others see you
  3. Where you are positively impacting the lives of others

How you see yourself

This kind of approach requires that you first do the hard work of self-reflection to determine how you see yourself. There a few questions you can ask yourself if you have trouble articulating this.

  • How am I showing up in the world on my end?
  • What am I constantly giving advice to others about?
  • Where am I getting the most questions or requests?
  • What kinds of questions do I want to be answering for others?
  • What problems are you solving for other people? Yourself?

How others see you

After answering these questions, the next step is to figure out how everyone else sees you. One of the best places to start is with your trusted tribe–people with opinions you value, who actually know you, and who will give you honest feedback.

I’d pick people who have known you at varying times in your life, your friends from high school, college, your family, your colleagues, your work friends, and I’d ask them two questions: #1 What are my three best qualities? #2 What am I good at?

Click here if you’d like text for a sample email to send to your trusted tribe.

The overlap between these things is where your personal brand currently exists. If there is no overlap, or the overlap looks differently from your vision, you have some work to do!

It is common that, unless you’ve been pretty intentional, your family/friends/co-workers will mostly describe characteristics and qualities about you. They know you’re amazing and have great personal traits. But, do they know where your professional expertise lies? If not, you’re halfway there but you have to get intentional about communicating your expertise.

Where you are impactful

Finally, even though the term is “personal brand,” the most important thing about your personal brand is how you are serving other people and positively impacting their lives.

Yeah, this is about your brand and your reputation, but your personal brand is really only as impactful as your ability to add value for other people.

Forbes ran an article recently that offered excellent advice for using your personal brand in service of others. The article’s advice suggests that we do seven things:

  1. Share knowledge.
  2. Give advice.
  3. Provide real-time support.
  4. Express gratitude.
  5. Include others.
  6. Give feedback.
  7. Be a mentor.

One you have the opportunity to think about and refine your personal brand, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. In particular:

  1. Think about your past experiences. What are you constantly giving advice about that could form the foundation for your personal brand?
  2. What are you actually great at? Is there a group of people who need your help in improving their lives?

Please give as much information as you can in response to these questions! I’d be happy to share more tools and resources that help you get what you want. And, I know the other folks reading this can learn from your experiences! We are all in this together.

I always say that I’m on a mission to build a nation of good people with dynamic personal brands and successful businesses. We can learn from each other on this journey, particularly when we have accountability partners. This is why I am building a whole nation of them.

Download the app

You can connect to the the private community I’ve created to provide support and encouragement along the journey–online and via app. Check us out at programs.shontavia.com or via the Mighty Networks App.

Download the Mighty Network app by clicking here. Once it downloads, click “Find a Mighty Network” and search for Shontavia Johnson. You’ll find content there that I may not share elsewhere.

Thank you so much for joining me on this roller coaster of an experience. I am eternally grateful that I get to do this work with wonderful people each day.

Let’s make it happen,

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