Prepping for speeches can be difficult, as it forces you to revisit your past and where you have come from to be who you are today. Don’t get me wrong— I am very proud of who I’ve become, but I’ve had the luxury of dismissing a lot of the trauma that led to this place as I’ve been building a family and brand.
I was prepping for a speech I am giving this week, a lecture on building my personal brand from the ground up. Well, that forces me to start at the foundation, a place that was exciting but also full of emotional trauma.
My very first blog was inspired by connecting my approach of “I have nothing to lose!” that I took into my 2013 elopement to approaching social media like you have nothing to lose— which I still agree with. I wrote the post to escape the prison my new abusive husband was keeping me in, a way to connect to the outside world that I missed so much by then.
Suddenly, I was on the map for social and digital marketing expertise. I was interviewed, invited to incredible social media parties, and a speaker at national events. While this looked amazing on the outside, it led to a painful punishment on the inside from my then-husband as my career outgrew his. I stayed up late every night, building up relationships with the “outside” world on social media, only to be punished for it when the sun rose.
And then my blog hit a life-changing spot when I decided to press “publish now” on a raw post I wrote about why my last name suddenly changed on social media. I squeezed my eyes shut so tight as I knew that the post would attract abuse defenders or others who just thought I was using the abuse for attention. Instead, hundreds of people reached out to me in support, in solidarity, in thanks.
By being vulnerable, raw, honest, I received responses that helped heal me from one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. After reading my post, I also heard from women and men who found the courage to leave tenuous relationships.
Genuine, honest feedback was not what I was expecting AT ALL. I only received three negative comments over ALL time to the post and posts related, two of which were my ex-husband.
My blog shifted after that post. I suddenly found the courage to write about what was REALLY going on in my life and the support I needed to get through it via responses and conversations with others I met on social media.
I know there are many negative aspects to social media, many of which I have experienced. Still, there are also beautiful positive aspects that lead to healing, faith, and support for those who feel like they are experiencing life all on their own.
Going from a sweet, newlywed writing about her happy (abusive in real life) life in the midwest to sharing what really happened to me while posting smiling photos from all trendy spots, shifted my entire personal brand.
Pressing send on one blog post that I thought would only mean something to another person in this world cemented me as an honest, raw, genuine writer building her personal brand on social media. I went from an innocent naive girl comparing her engagement to social media to a woman facing life’s most challenging moments in public, in real-time, raw updates and blog posts while still establishing herself as a social and digital marketing expert.
I became a personal brand without ever meaning to, and I am incredibly thankful that I did.
But this personal brand is something that I often revisit, thinking through what I am sharing on social media and ensuring that it aligns with my values as now a wife married to a kind, supportive man and a soon-to-be mother.
The thing about personal brands is that life changes. We evolve. I am not 25 and scared and shaking, locked in a bathroom in a sterile apartment, finding any connection she can through her writing on social media.
I am not the single girl full of spunk and life and moving from big city to big city that I was after my divorce. I am not even the newlywed I was as I found the stable, kind man I am married to today.
I have now been married a bit and am praying for Baby Dupuis as we go through IVF, building a house, and a vacation house, that has a room for this third person who will be entering our lives.
Personal brands change because we, as people, change constantly. I am not the same scared sh*tless girl who started this blog to create something positive to survive the abusive marriage. I am not as obsessed with social and digital marketing as I was when I escaped that marriage by packing everything I had in six hours and leaving Dodge.
I understand work/life balance now. I am not in a marriage I need to escape. I am shifting from a single woman to a wife to a mom, which affects my personal brand.
So, great, I told you that personal brands change. Helpful, right? LOL.
I won’t leave you there, I promise.
Personal brands change, which means you need to revisit the exercises you would do to create a personal brand whenever you have a shift in your life.
Here are the exercises I go through when I suddenly feel misaligned with my personal brand. These are great for those just starting a personal brand too. Each of these exercises is critical for having a successful, engaged personal brand. Here are some tips for identifying your brand:
Discover Your Values Via Value Cards
I cannot speak highly enough of value cards. I was shocked by how accurate my values were the first time I did this exercise. It’s critical to understand your values, as they are your personal brand’s core foundation. Value cards work incredibly well because they allow you to explore values you have not even thought of before and really narrow in on the five that represent you best.
To use the value cards:
- Google “Value Cards” to instantly find a set that you can print out and cut up.
- Look at each and every card and narrow them down to the 15 values that represent you best
- Review the 15 values left and narrow them down to the ten values you lean towards
- The hardest part!! >> Take a deep breath and take some time to find the five values that are YOU in a nutshell
- These are your five values to move forward with!
- PS- Still not sure?? Repeat the exercise until you are comfortable with the five values left at the end
Create A Mission Statement
You are a brand. I mean, it’s in the name of this post!
Just like brands, you need a mission statement. Why are you building this personal brand? Why do people gravitate towards what you share?
Build Your Value Proposition
Yep, you need one of these too. What is your unique set of human characteristics? What makes you different than everyone else building their personal brands out there?
Identify Your Tribe
Who is your target audience? This is where personal brand messaging gets tricky. Different people bring out other parts of ourselves. My tribe is quite diverse as my brand voice is around digital marketing AND lifestyle/healing from trauma.
One of my audiences includes professionals, while the other has personal connections. This disparity creates two target audiences I need to engage with while building a broad target audience at the high level of my brand.
I insert a bit of personal tone of voice and facts about myself into professional posts that teach digital marketing skills for my high-level target audience. See what I did there?
Now, it’s your turn to think of what target audiences you need to bring together to create the overall audience you will engage.
Identify Smart Goals
I, like everyone else, am a huge fan of SMART goals — Smart, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, Time-based. What plans do you have for yourself?
Identify Smart Channels
What channels are best for supporting your goals? Channels go beyond Facebook and Twitter, so which ones are right for you? If you’re branding yourself as a digital marketer, you need to have a strong presence on all channels. If you’re branding yourself as a top baker, Pinterest and Instagram might be your best bet. If you’re a publisher, traditional media might be your smart channel.
Decide in this step precisely what channels you will be targeting and how targeting them will lead you to directly achieving your smart goals.
Build Brand Guide
This should be a fun, easy part of creating your personal brand. Your personal brand should speak and look like you. After completing the exercises above, you should have a reasonably good idea of who you are and what you look like. As with a brand, you need to establish your tone of voice and what visual templates you will use to express who you are.
Have fun with this! The best piece of advice I can give you is that someone, if not many people, will judge and react to how your personal brand looks and sounds. That is their problem.
You will know when your brand looks and sounds like you when you know you are 100 percent behind a published piece of content. This is one of the most critical dimensions to your brand personality
Create Content Ratio
How often will you share what type of content? For a personal brand, you want to aim for 33 percent professional,33 percent personal updates, and 33 percent updates on hobbies you have. This means that 33 percent of the time, you should be retweeting your favorite author or the best sports stats.
Personal updates are just what they sound like— anything personal that has happened to you recently. This can be anything from a photo of a family outing, to a glass of wine on a Friday night, to a concert you attended. The other 33 percent should be strictly professional— updates/stats from your industry, retweets of your employer, etc.
While networking is listed last, it is one of the most essential pieces to build your brand. If you are not on LinkedIn, start your account RIGHT NOW. Literally, stop reading this post and go create your LinkedIn profile!
Already have a LinkedIn? Ensure that all areas are filled up, and you have used every bit of space you could on your profile.
Join groups that align with your industry. Connect with each person you contact (and preferably want a connection with.) Then fill your calendar with “virtual coffees” to get to know your connections. Just doing these simple things will ignite your personal brand.
LinkedIn is also a great spot to connect with small businesses and see if you can collaborate with them to grow your audience. Once you tackle small businesses, you can move on to larger corporations.
All of the steps above create your brand identity. Learning your brand identity will lead to a strong personal brand, hopefully establishing you as a thought leader in your industry. Marketing strategies, social media strategies, digital strategies, and personal brand strategies >> They are all built from similar components, and you owe it to yourself to take the time needed to strategize your personal brand.
Do you have examples of a personal brand doing it right?? Add their URL/Social profiles in the comments!
-Marji J. Sherman