A personal brand story is a succinct narrative that describes who you are, what you stand for, and what sets you apart from others. It encapsulates the story of your professional journey, your experiences, and the values that drive you.
In fact, if you look at your favorite influencers, you’ll see that they frequently repeat their personal brand stories.
Often tells the story of how the elusive “Ramone Simone” whisked her off her feet and became her life/business partner, only to leave her 7 years later to marry her secretary. This became one of the motivating reasons to start The Corcoran Group.
Often shares how he started working at his father’s wine business at a young age, and how, at age 30, he started reviewing wines online in a series that became known as Wine LibraryTV. This propelled him to start speaking, landed him a 10-book deal, and served as the launchpad to his various ventures today.
Often talks about how he kickstarted FUBU by sewing hats in his mother’s house, netting $800 retailing them on New York streets. He also makes it a point to share how many times they were rejected by banks, and how pivotal his mother’s belief in his company was in getting it to be the $6 billion+ brand it is today.
So why do you need a personal brand story?
- For a few reasons, actually, the guiding one of which is this— as human beings, we are literally wired to respond to stories. Stories foster:
Emotional engagement: Stories have the power to evoke strong emotional responses in us. When we hear a story, we become emotionally invested in the characters and their experiences, which can lead to feelings of empathy, joy, sadness, or fear.
- Attention and memory: Our brains are wired to pay attention to stories and remember them more effectively than isolated facts or data. This is because stories activate multiple parts of our brains, including those responsible for language processing, sensory perception, and emotional response.
- Sense-making: Stories help us make sense of the world by providing a structure that we can use to understand complex information. By presenting information in a narrative format, stories allow us to see patterns, draw connections, and make meaning from our experiences.
- Social connection: Stories are a powerful way to connect with others and build relationships. When we share stories with others, we create a sense of community and mutual understanding that can strengthen our bonds with each other.
What are the elements of a great personal brand story?
1. How you became the “you” that you are today
A personal brand story could also be referred to as an “origin story.” In short, it’s how you got to where you are today. Now, many of you say, “Well, Kait, I don’t have some remarkable, life-altering event that makes me interesting!” That’s A-OK! You don’t need to be remarkable; you can be relatable.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What made me want to start building my personal brand? What got me into the field I’m into today?
Example: I often share how I was consulting startup companies on their corporate brand and how quickly their brand grew when I shared the founder’s story. I often cite one of my first clients, a medical marijuana dispensary run by two suburban working moms, and how their personal brands were so catchy that they wrote a book and ended up on the Today Show.
- How does this relate to your audience?
The best personal brands are writing to “themselves” about 2-3 years back. What has happened to you in the past couple of years that has accelerated your personal brand journey or learning curve that you’d be remiss not to share with your audience?
2. Authenticity: Your personal brand story should be authentic and reflect your true self.
If your personal brand story doesn’t showcase your personality, experiences, and values in a way that feels genuine and relatable to your audience, you don’t have a personal brand story; you have an audible CV/resume…snooze.
Remember that storytelling helps us connect with our audience. Make sure you infuse emotion into your story.
For example: When I tell the story of the two women cannabis founders, I often laugh, saying how funny we found it that people were so infatuated with middle-aged women slinging weed. Through my delivery, it often conveys that I don’t take myself too seriously, like to have a sense of humor, and try to keep stories simple and relatable.
But maybe humor isn’t your thing. Maybe reflectiveness is. I have a client who climbed Everest (I know, what an underachiever…) and he often retells the story about how what he found on the mountain wasn’t “more accomplishment” but rather the distillation of everything that isn’t him. Much like the sherpas guiding him, his stories are often deep, impactful, and incredibly thoughtful. You feel the struggle and the “aha’s” in his narratives.
3. A compelling narrative
Your personal brand story should tell a compelling narrative that captures your audience's attention and holds their interest. Again, this doesn’t mean you needed to summit Everest or sell weed much to the chagrin of your neighbors. It could simply mean that you dared to take a bet on yourself and quit corporate America with only 1 month of savings. Or perhaps, you tell a story of how you sweat through your blouse telling your then-boss that you were uncomfortable with your old company’s maternity leave and you realized it was your mission to fix how America views paternal leave. Whatever it is, channel philosopher Joseph Campbell by using “The Hero’s Journey”: