It’s impossible to think of Tesla and not also think of Elon Musk. Same with Apple-;the tech giant is an embodiment of co-founder Steve Jobs. Microsoft is Bill Gates. Amazon is Jeff Bezos. Through thick and thin, good and bad, these people are synonymous with their companies, tethered to its branding like magnets against a fridge. In this post, we’ll discuss personal branding, deconstruct what it means to brand “big,” and then look at five ways that we can leverage personal branding initiatives to better align ourselves with our companies.
What is personal branding?
Think of branding as accomplished storytelling. At the corporate level, it’s who the company is, how it differentiates from its competitors, and what value it offers to consumers. Personal branding is similar. Who are you? How are you unique? What value do you offer? These are the basics-;now tell your story.
The secret to branding big
Branding “big” is really about being holistic. Brand your business, brand yourself then, hopefully, watch as the two meld together in a perfect state of symbiosis. This is because your business is (or should be) an extension of yourself, your values, and your ambitions.
Those businesses where one leader is completely aligned with the brand? They’re not necessarily doing branding differently. They’re just doing it right. They’ve leveraged personal branding in a way that transcends textbook definitions of what branding is and how it differs between corporate entities and people. There’s more gray area, and rightfully so.
These brands are consistent in voice, point of view, and tone. Their output is a product of company values and goals. They are one story with multiple chapters, instead of one book with multiple stories.
In order to synonymize yourself with your business/brand, you must be willing to look at branding as a singular force-;forget the words corporate and personal. Your mission is cohesive, unified branding.
Five ways to leverage personal branding
Let’s look at five different elements of effective personal branding that can be used to unify person and business.
1. Tell an interconnected origin story that speaks to your company
You don’t need a movie or an eccentric personality in order to brand yourself and your company as one. In fact, a strong personal narrative is a pillar of any successful business. As the leader, you want to imprint yourself onto the ID of your business. You want to be a vital organ within your company’s body. And, more often than not, if you think about your “story” as it relates to that of your company, there’s bound to be crossover. Inspiration. Shared experience.
Highlight this. Brand yourself with your company, and your company with yourself. Without your story, your company isn’t, and without your company, today’s version of you isn’t. It goes back to viewing your business-;your creation-;as an extension of yourself.
2. Live and breathe authenticity
As Seth Godin stated so well, “Authenticity, for me, is doing what you promise, not “being who you are.” It’s critical to do what you say, since you and your company will be known for it.
No matter what you do, be authentic in doing it. Be genuine. Be the walking definition of bona fide, because authenticity travels a long way. As far as your brand is concerned, no one wants to fraternize with anyone or anything that comes off as superficial or inflated. Not to mention, our Gen Z population-that wonderful segment of young humans who often receive more flack than praise-they are bona fide BS detectives, sniffing out inauthenticity from miles away.
They’re also a large subsection of consumers to consider.
3. Build an audience full of customers
There’s no argument about Elon Musk’s authenticity-;for better and worse. He says what he says, all the time. He believes what he believes, and he’s never afraid to voice his opinion. This won’t work for every company leader. Many find themselves unnerved by Musk’s social media forwardness.
But let’s consider-;Musk frequently uses Twitter and accumulates hundreds of thousands of likes and comments. Ultimately the most important part of Tesla’s business model? No. But Tesla’s Twitter doesn’t utilize its account half as much as Musk, because they don’t have to. Musk, with his personable, down-to-earth social media presence (again, for better and worse), has effectively made himself synonymous with Tesla. Sure, he’s the CEO, but his alignment travels beyond his title. Musk is Tesla, and he’s leveraged his personal Twitter account to build a powerful audience of fans and customers. Musk/Tesla is, of course, an extreme case, but it’s suggestive of a strategy that can work in some small part for anyone. Build your audience, one relevant to who you are and what you want to be.
4.Pair ethos with name
Reputation is everything. It’s the foundation beneath telling your story, being authentic, and building your audience. You must decide how you want to be perceived, and then work to make sure that it is so. Legacy comes from reputation and following. Brand yourself with a respected reputation, develop your following, and focus on positive action.
5. Reject impossibility
Throw away impossibility. Really. Whether your company is in start-up mode or simply an idea at this point, embracing that which is only perceived as “possible” will not help you. It’s a familiar story-;making something happen, no matter what. You want your brand to be inspired so that it can be inspiring. This begins with mindset on your part; belief that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Reject impossibility, expect failures, and learn from them. Use them to grow yourself, and you’ll be better equipped to grow your company.
This is how you take personal branding to the next level and merge its seemingly micro strategy with the macro strategy of a company identity. Treat your personal brand seriously, and the rest will follow.