Whether you like it or not, you are a brand, so why not do your best to present the "authentic" you in your personal and professional life?
It's a question posed by creative coach Maggie Eyre, who has written a book that encourages us to be ourselves. In Being You: How to Build Your Personal Brand and Confidence, she shows us how to build our personal brand and confidence, and explains why it will help us to become more successful in our creative endeavours.
"A personal brand tells the world about who you are as a human being personally and professionally," she writes. "A personal brand is about authenticity and is derived exclusively from your mind, your heart, your values, your passions, your imaginings and what you believe to be true at the core of your personal and professional self. That’s why it’s unique – because it begins with and is created from the very original place/ being which is you."
So how do you build your personal brand? Here, we share some of Eyre's top tips to help you start thinking about a more authentic "you".
First, take a closer look at yourself
What is your authentic self? What is your reputation? What is your legacy? These are the questions Eyre poses to help you get started. Because you won't get very far unless you know who you are, what you stand for, and where you're heading.
Firstly, we'll look at authenticity. The Oxford English Dictionary definition of authentic is: 'Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine'. "If you know who you are, you will stand by your values and begin to honestly express and radiate your beliefs," writes Eyre. "Through living your values, you will be seen as somebody who is clear about what matters, and you'll inspire people's confidence and trust in you and your brand."
Start by writing down three words that describe you and your personality. For example, I'd describe myself as kind, loyal and fun. Now ask a close pal how they'd describe you. One of my friends pitched me as "caring, thoughtful and bonkers". I'll take that as a compliment.
"People perceive us differently, often in ways, we don't realise," Eyre writes. "A good way to discover how you are perceived and how authentic you are in both your personal and professional life is to get feedback from others. Be brave and start asking people how they perceive you. Youll learn a lot!"
Next, think of your reputation. What is it now, and what do you want it to be? "Ask yourself what the steps and actions are that you need to take to build the bridge between what your reputation is now and what it could become," Eyre adds.
And finally, what do you want your legacy to be? What do you want people to say when they remember you? What do you want to stand for? What would be on your gravestone? For me, I wouldn't mind being known for supporting the creative community and giving back to the world. What do you want to see carved in stone?
Define your personal brand
Gandhi once said, "Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny."
Maggie Eyre believes that your answers to the questions, 'Who am I?' and 'What do I care about?' will form the template for defining your personal brand. In which case, here's a brand definition checklist to help you get started:
- Identity your values: What do you stand for in life? Loyalty? Tolerance? Social equality? Family? Integrity? Write them down.
- Prioritise your values: Ask yourself daily whether you lived by those values. If you're not doing so, make room for them.
- Align your values with your strengths: How do you match your values with your creative profession? What are you good at? Are you doing what makes you happy? These are the things to reconsider, especially if you're stuck in a rut.
- Be vulnerable and tell the truth about your weaknesses: Facing your faults is a healthy exercise. It's an opportunity to be more in touch with your authentic self and also consider your values.
- Be self-compassionate: If we cannot feel good about who we are and our behaviour, how can we motivate and inspire others? Love yourself.
Consider what your target audience cares about
What about the people you want to connect with? Clients who might want to hire you for your illustration or design services? Is there something they believe in that you also share?
"If you know your particular target market or audience," writes Eyre, "you can design and offer something extraordinary that changes people’s lives for the better. So it's important to know your target market and to understand who they are. You can then build a unique business that stands out and gets sensational reviews and attracts media attention. You can sow a seed and watch it grow. Then one day, with a sprinkling of luck to accompany the hard work and tenacity, you might be able to assert with pride, 'I did it. I am an international personal brand'."
Eyre urges us first to consider what is unique and real about what we are selling. Do you love what you're doing? Do you care about it? You have to have passion and belief in your products or services before you do anything else.
You then need to consider your audience and why they need to hire you or buy your products. Where do they live? What are their values? How can you match your own beliefs with theirs?
"If your personal brand has a strong direction, you will always be sailing on course toward your target market," writes Eyre. You know what they say: if your heart's not in it and you don't believe in yourself or what you're selling, how can anyone else?
Finally, Eyre urges us to describe our perfect client. By understanding who we are, what we stand for, and who we want to work with, we are unwittingly building a personal brand that will resonate across everything we do. From how we write about ourselves in our CVs to how we pitch in new business meetings. We even get better at understanding who to say "no" to and why we can't please everyone.
Next, build your online presence
Your website is your shop window, so you want it to reflect everything you've discovered about yourself when considering your personal brand. Does your current online presence reflect your personal brand, your values, and who you indeed are?
Maggie Eyre has these top tips to help us manage and improve our brand online:
- Be yourself: "Pretending to be someone you are not is the biggest mistake anyone can make. People want the sincere you," writes Eyre.
- Tread carefully: What happens online can become permanent and even has the potential to go viral – think twice before you tweet.
- Avoid bad behaviour: Treat everyone with respect. Be kind. "Your intention is to enhance your brand, not damage it. Even a harsh tone in your voice can be misinterpreted," says Eyre.
- Tell a consistent story: From your website to your social media profiles, what story are you sharing about you? Is it consistent? What about your brand identity? Does it match what you stand for?
- Review your photograph: A picture can tell a thousand words, so choose your portrait wisely. What does your current pic say about you?
Create a digital strategy to reflect and build your personal brand
Maggie Eyre believes there are just four key steps to creating a strategy that builds your online presence and personal brand. Here's a summary:
1. Define what it is that you want to achieve
Do you want more Instagram followers? Or more people buying one of your prints? Really think about your ultimate goals.
2. Define your target audience
Who are they? What do they care about? Where are they most present – Instagram? Facebook? LinkedIn?
3. Build a content strategy around your target market's needs
How will you create content for those channels? And, more importantly, how you can add value to your audience? For example, can you provide tips that relate to a service they might need? Could you start a podcast that supports them and your industry? Keep your brand personable and remember the authentic "you". But tread carefully, Eyre believes only 20% of what you put out there should directly promote your products or services.
4. Create a 'content calendar'
What content will you create regularly? Organise it into a calendar to save you time and money, and keep you track. Think about seasonal opportunities and special events that you can tap into, like World Kindness Day.
Tell your own story to help build your brand
"Experience has taught me that you stand out more if 'the real you' is present in your storytelling," writes Eyre. "If we tell relevant and engaging stories and use colourful examples, our customers or clients know who we are and are more likely to believe us. Stories connect us to people. They make us feel emotion — so much so that we identify with parts of a compelling story."
But how do you develop your own story? A story that will be shared not just on your website's 'About' page but in your social media bios, your blog posts and everything you share online and out in the real world? How how can you make your story moving and compelling while being a truthful account of your life so far?
Start with the following exercise:
- I'm [name] What's your full name? Where do you come from? Is there an interesting story about your hometown? Your childhood? What are you currently doing? Have you won any awards? Who are you?
- Share your story on how you got into your current role: How did your career or business begin? What's happened along the way? Who've you worked for?
- What inspires you?: Who's work do you admire? Do you have a mentor?
- What are the key things you've learnt along the way?: Have you discovered patience? Integrity? Have you stuck to your true values?
- What is it that you love about what you do?: People love to know what makes you tick – your passions, the fun experiences, the reasons why you get out of bed every morning.
- What do you stand for?: Dig a little deeper and consider your ethics.
- Take off your armour and show some vulnerability: Because people will relate to the truth.
Eyre writes: "Stories are transformative. A story told well has the power to transform the way we perceive our lives and the way others perceive us. Great narratives create a lens through which we see the world and through which others see us. This is a very powerful idea to understand and, once embraced and incorporated in your life and business, huge breakthroughs with big outcomes await."
To read more tips, grab yourself a copy of Maggie Eyre's Being You: How to Build Your Personal Brand and Confidence, available now. To find out more about Maggie, visit www.maggieeyre.com.