Saturday, May 5, 2012

Branding Fundamentals: The Golden Rules of Personal Branding

by Vince Rogers 

Your branding strategy should be viewed as a living, breathing and perpetually evolving entity. Just as with the actions of an actual person, your branding efforts will build a lasting reputation. This reputation is based on people’s perception of your brand’s appearance, its personality and by how many people have been influenced by your efforts. Your branding strategy irreversibly shapes your public perception, professional reputation and enduring legacy. 

Your branding strategy consists of more than just creating a nice logo and printing up some business cards.  Although these things are important, they represent only one aspect of your successful branding strategy. Just like an Olympic athlete who strives to stand on the winner’s podium, mastering the fundamentals is the key to “Going for the Gold”. Also like an “Olympian”, building a successful branding strategy is governed by adhering to the principles of the I.O.C. – Identity; Outreach and Consistency.

There are 3 essential Branding Fundamentals that make up the Golden Rules of Personal Branding:
1)      Building Your Brand Identity
2)      Focusing Your Brand Outreach
3)      Maintaining Your Brand Consistency

The Brand Identity Package
Your Brand Identity Package consists of the tools that you will use to present your brand to the world. The basic components of your brand identity package are a logo, tagline, business card and letterhead. In addition to these basic components, most companies will also need a website or blog and a brochure. In many instances, the first time that someone receives your business card, letterhead and brochure or views your website and blog; they will make a first and final decision about who you are and what value you bring to the table.  

Most people give the creation of their logo primary emphasis when formulating their identity package. Although often neglected, you should give the formulation of your tagline some very serious thought as well. Your tagline serves as a succinct but permanent Elevator Pitch. A powerful tagline should communicate your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) creatively, but clearly. In other words, it should explain in one sentence what it is that you do and what value you bring to the table.   

Reaching Your Target Audience
You’ve invested a lot of time, money, effort and creativity into creating your brand identity. Now you want people to see what you’ve done. You really want to impress people with your big title, cool logo and witty tagline. Therefore, you should just give out all of your business cards to every pretty girl you meet at the bar and every old high school friend you run into at the reunion - right? Wrong.

The most effective way to succeed at building your brand is to determine your specific Target Audience.  The fist step to deciding on your Target Audience is to create a profile of your Ideal Customer. Once you have done this, you should try as much as possible to reach those people and only those people with your message. This will be the key to success of your well focused brand outreach strategy.

Always Be Consistently Consistent
It has been said that the only thing constant in life is change. On the other hand, it is also fairly clear that most people don’t really like change. It is an absolute fact that the worst thing you can do when trying to build your brand is to keep changing the message. You should use the same images and value propositions consistently across all marketing channels.

Channels overlap frequently in today’s complex marketing environment. The tagline on your business card can’t communicate that you’re the “low cost leader”, but the tagline on your website says something different. Whether it’s colors, graphics or taglines; constantly changing the elements of you brand identity leads to confusion. Confusion leads to uncertainty - uncertainty leads to risk. Ultimately, this perception of risk will lead to your prospects choosing the competition.

Some factors that you should consider in order to insure your brand consistency are to: 
1)      Use the Same Graphics Elements Across All Mediums
2)      Formulate a Core Message and Stick With It
3)      Always Communicate Your Unique Selling Proposition 
4)      Separate Business from Personal When Using Social Media                                                        
You should adapt your message to changing conditions if the essential elements of your branding strategy actually change. However, you should avoid making changes in order to chase trends or just to suit a single prospective client.  Instead, when “going for the gold” you should always remember to adhere to the rules of the I.O.C. and stick to the fundamentals by playing by the “golden rules”. Build a unique brand Identity, focus your brand’s Outreach and maintain your brand’s Consistency.