What do Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, and Donald Trump have in common? Besides the fact that they were or are incredibly rich and successful? They all used their vibrant personalities to create incredibly successful companies, companies whose customers have been just as attracted to the man behind the brand as they were to the products themselves.

And yet these men did not always have typically lovable or admirable personalities. Jobs, a famously difficult person, was actually put on the nightshift at Atari, supposedly because he smelled bad. Walt Disney could be highhanded, was often accused of anti-Semitism, and acted as an FBI informant during the McCarthy era. And Donald Trump ... well, don't get me started.

Whoever you are, you're probably at least as appealing as these guys. And we live in an age that loves quirky business leaders and offbeat characters. So why not let your unique personality and life story become part of your business's image and use your own story to connect with customers and the public?

That advice comes from Sherry Beck Paprocki, a personal branding expert and speaker and the author of Content Marketing: 50 Ways to Tell Your Story. "Every businessperson has a story that is deeply rooted in their own personality," she says. "Understand that your business's personality is tied to you, both as a professional and as an individual person."

You can make the most of this dynamic by developing your own public personality, story, and personal brand. Here's how:

1. Interview yourself.

"Take 15 minutes for a coffee break with yourself to think about your authentic business story," Paprocki advises. Like any good interviewer, you should write down some notes that will help you gain a better understanding of yourself and your business. "First, explain your business in a sentence or two," Paprocki says. Then explain why your business is different from others in the same niche, why your personal expertise is important to your business, and how you excel within your industry. "Finally, write a sentence explaining why your customers should appreciate your expertise," she says. 

2. Interview others.

"Believe in others' opinions," Paprocki advises. "Ask your best  customers why they do business with you. Now, incorporate their answers into your business's story." You should always believe the good things people tell you about your business and communicate that same message to prospective customers, she adds.

3. Review your story often.

Paprocki suggests doing this every week. Your story will change over time and as new insights, and input from others, help you sharpen your vision of your business personality. Update your story to keep it fresh and compelling.

4. Do what comes naturally.

We often advise readers to step outside their comfort zones, but when it comes to letting your personality shine, it's smart to do what will make you feel most at home and relaxed. "Attend a gala only if you're comfortable in a tuxedo or evening gown," Paprocki says. "If football is important to you and your clients, throw a tailgate party. If you're more comfortable at local gatherings of the chamber of commerce or Rotary Club, then attend those meetings on a regular basis."

Wherever you go, work the crowd and make sure to have fun, she says: "Potential customers will sense your ease and be drawn to your warmth in whatever setting works for you."

5. Choose your social comfort zone.

Follow a similar approach to  social media, Paprocki advises. "Use Facebook, if that's the medium that makes the most sense to you because friends and family gather there often," she says. "Blog on LinkedIn if you have advice that others can use.  Tweet if you're at the forefront of your industry and paving a pathway that others will follow. Use Instagram, if you have a visual business. There's no need to be on all media, but in today's world it's important to chose a social network that you engage with at least a few times each week." Which will be much easier to do if you're happy to be there.

6. Stay focused.

Building a personal or business brand is a matter of consistency, so focus is important, according to Paprocki. "Review your business story and grow one brand at a time," she says. "If you're a restaurateur, don't splinter yourself by developing six semi-successful restaurant brands. Focus on your main business brand until it is significantly successful before you consider a new direction."

7. Don't be bashful. 

If you're anything like me, you were trained at a young age not to brag or call too much attention to yourself. Try and forget that training. "Successful business owners must talk about themselves," Paprocki says. "If you don't, no one will believe how much passion you have for your business. If you've won an award, call the local newspaper editor. Do you have an area of expertise that can benefit the local news? Write an email introducing yourself to local editors and television-station news producers. Let them know you're available for interviews and seasonal ideas."

8. Show your appreciation. 

"Find excuses to give a shout-out to others, whether it's a local letter to the editor or a post on Facebook, a personal thank-you note or a dozen roses," Paprocki says. "Take a moment to let your inner gratitude show through when a friend, a co-worker, or a client does something nice for you." Being known as someone who's thankful and thoughtful is a great way to boost your personal brand. And it's a great way to be. 

9. Celebrate your own uniqueness.

You got where you are because of who you are. Never forget that, and let whatever makes you you shine through. "Different is good," Paprocki says. "No matter where you are and what you are doing, revel in your own uniqueness. Don't try to be like everyone else."

Published on: Jan 11, 2016
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