"A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another."
Every single person we connect with experiences us differently. They engage with our "brand." Like the onslaught of obnoxiously intrusive ads (our phones are definitely entrenched in subliminal espionage) sprawled across social media, we are constantly "marketing" ourselves to others - ideally in less rapacious ways. What happens when we treat ourselves like a personal brand? How does that change the ways that we carry ourselves, who we portray ourselves as, and the story we seek to tell about who and how we are? Branding is about storytelling. Each and every one of us has a story worth sharing/experiencing. If we don't tell our story, we cannot expect others to know, inquire about, or honor it. Knowing our brand means taking stock of what we've been through, what we're enduring now, and what lies ahead of us. When we take control of our own narrative, we get to be curate what others receive from us. We are who we are because of what we've learned, been taught, and experienced. We are the sum of our identities, experiences, thoughts, feelings, and opinions. We are constantly in flux, but the moments we carve out to pause, reflect, and process how we're impacted, and in turn doing the same unto others, lets us have a critical perspective about the role we're playing in the world, or at least our worlds. Who we are becomes our brand, and our brand becomes who we are.
Storytelling has long been the method that people have used to communicate everything from lessons to values, experiences, and beyond. It is a crucial part of our daily lives, and is a learned skill that can/should be refined. It is deeply moving to be able to witness a masterful storyteller whether it be in a traditional sense or it be musicians, artists, writers, chefs, marketers, designers, and on, and on. When we take in either a good story, or one is conveyed to us well not only does it stay with us, but the person it originated with does as well. It's how we become invested in others by being exposed to their stories. Stories make us feel, and feeling for others makes us feel proximate to them.
A compelling story is a powerful force to be reckoned with. In telling our stories, it's worthwhile for us to consider: why we are telling this story; what is the point we're trying to get across; what information is pivotal to this story; what context does someone need to understand this story. Beyond that how we tell the story matters. In communicating verbally - tone of voice, intonation, body language, eye contact, movement, gestures. We debate if we're be animated, lowkey, serious faced, upbeat energetic, etc. Then the format of our stories alters said story - words, images, arts, sound, touch, taste, feel. All are tools at our disposal to help us deliver potent stories that stay with others. We write stories about every single person we encounter; and others are doing the same with us. We must let others tell us their stories, in their own ways, be open to those stories, and celebrate them as true.
How does anyone know who we are? It's our actions and our words that speaks to them about who we are, what we're capable of, and what they can expect from us. Positive attributes draw others in, while negative or at least those perceived to be that way push them away. It's the difference between a head nod, versus a warm embrace where your chests touch, and your ears rub. Our reputations precede us. Before we arrive, our reputations (plus stereotypes and assumptions) have already set the scene for the story that will be told by us, and the lens through which others will view us.
The things we cannot control - our social identities (race, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sex, sexuality, religion, mental health, physical health, ability, socioeconomic status, family dynamic, age, residency status, body-size, and so on come with their socialized biases depending on our memberships to in-groups or othered groups. Combine that with our personal identities and personalities, and there is much to be said about us continually. How would others describe us? What do we want to be known for? Those are questions for us to ponder and explore to clarify our personal brands. Knowing who others perceive us to be lets us manage their experiences of us. We are NOT others' perceptions. We determine who we are are, AND we have to constantly prove that.
Our brands should be specific, real, and consistent. What can people count on us for? For me, it's empathy, authenticity, humor, light, and an unrelenting work ethic. I want people to leave an interaction with me feeling fulfilled, refreshed, and brighter. I hope people feel seen, heard, valued, and mattered by me. I strive to shine light into the lives of other people. Our brand should be memorable, and we must know that it's how we make people feel that stays with them even when we're long gone. For me, it's the minute things that make all the difference. It's the personalized gifts, raw letters, full-body hugs, remembering and following up about them or something they care about, sitting in silence with others, embracing discomfort, and telling people my hopes for them candidly. I am always floored by how much those things, particularly how my honesty in articulating my feelings/thoughts for others resonates with them. It matters to them, and reminds people that they do matter. If that's the one thing they get from me then I feel purposed. Our brands should market themselves. People should recognize, and have immediate positive reactions to our names being invoked. What makes us unique is one of our biggest strengths. The more we trust it, and share it the greater it becomes.
I have spent quite a bit of time recently thinking about my personal brand. I was challenged by my therapist to ask others what they get from knowing me and being known by me. What I found was more remarkable than I could have imagined or foreseen. Who I know myself to be, and who others experience me as were nearly antithetical.
Building Your Personal Brand Tips:
- Show AND Tell - how you feel about them; often & consistently.
- Make people feel welcome however you can
- Find your thing, perfect your thing, and share your thing, freely
- Prioritize people and their humanity - prove your character
- Capitalize on your strengths, and refine your areas of improvement
- Implore genuine positivity, reframe challenges with optimism
- Ask for feedback, accept it to be true, and modify as you see fit
- The most "marketable" you is also the most authentic you