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How to decide what to be known for with your personal brand

linkedin tips personal brand personal branding Apr 19, 2023

One of the biggest challenges in building your personal brand is deciding what the heck you want to be known for…

You may be asking yourself questions like:

  • Is my personal brand tied exclusively to my career? Should I focus on my industry? (Example: ”Leading expert in Web 3.0”)
  • Is my personal brand about a motto or method? (Example: “Start with Why” or “Hero Lifestyle”)
  • Is my personal brand about visual aspects? (Example: Always wearing green)

The truth is your personal brand can be defined in many different ways, and this week I’ll share 5 exercises (and a free worksheet) for how you can zoom in on your “special sauce.” When you do this, you and your audience become radically clear on what you stand for and the value you provide, and your personal brand will take off.

Exercise One: Identify your strengths— and then your sub-strengths

What are you good at? What skills and knowledge do you possess that people are constantly asking you about? Can you identify a “sub-strength” or “sub-skill” in that area?

For example, my cousin Ciara is uber-fashionable; she’s one of those women who steps out in the most interesting outfit combinations (pieces I’d never think to put together), and they just work. I’m always asking her about where she gets her pieces from, and even more frequently, I’m always asking her how she recycles and upcycles them. (She’s the queen of reselling her clothes and making great money on second-hand markets). So, Ciara is definitely a fashionista, but even more specifically, she is an incredible Consigner and Reseller. That is a skill that fits under the broader umbrella of “fashion” that a lot of people are interested in. This way of identifying strengths helps you become a “category of one” rather than “one of many.”

What about you? How can you apply this example to your skillset?

Maybe you’re great at graphic design, and specifically, you’re great at showing non-designers how to use design principles to create their own Canva images.

Exercise Two: Map your values

Your personal brand should align with your values and beliefs. Take some time to reflect on what is important to you and what you stand for. This will help you determine what you want to be known for and what message you want to convey through your personal brand. It will also help you generate great “behind-the-scenes” content ideas.

For example, I place a lot of value on “family.” So, while my personal brand is focused on how to teach others how to grow their personal brand, I share a ton of content about building a life so I can spend more time with my family and how I adore spending so much quality time with my nieces.

Your core values likely won’t become the focal point of your personal brand, but they will shape how you bring that personal brand to life and can serve as a guidepost to helping you determine what to prioritize in your brand and content.

Exercise Three: List out your aspirational mentors

Many corporate branding exercises would have you “analyze your competition” when crafting a brand, and I’ll tell you right now — I don’t condone doing this for your personal brand. Here’s why:

  1. If you’re just getting started, you’re asking for a heaping serving of “imposter syndrome” by comparing yourself to others.
  2. No one is you, and that is your superpower.
  3. There is plenty to go around; don’t start building your brand with a “scarcity mindset.” It will kneecap your creativity.

So, what should you do instead? List out aspirational personal brands or mentors!

When I started building my personal brand, I became incredibly clear on which personal brands and celebrities I really responded to. I wrote names down like Tina Fey, Michelle Obama, Emily Blunt, Oprah, and Jennifer Garner. Then I started getting clear on why I responded to all of them. I noticed through lines of humor, playfulness, determination, candor, and a continual commitment to being open and curious. Bingo— I found my aspirational “tribe.” And that helped me determine how I wanted to show up.

Stop trying to compete; sharing more about yourself and your story isn’t something you should be “battling” with others on. Instead find those who have inspired you in building yours.

Exercise Four: Define your audience — go outward instead of inward

This is a biggie! Wayyyyyyyy too many people spend wayyyyyyyy too much time looking intrinsically to build their personal brand. Self-awareness is great, and so is authenticity, but it can also lead you into a spiral of analysis paralysis and endless self-inquiry.

When you’re stuck, get out of your own way by getting clear on who you want to help. WHO are those people always asking you for advice? What are they struggling with? What would you say to them?

This was how I built my personal brand. I was working alongside a lot of start-up founders and business owners on their corporate brand, and they kept asking me about this “LinkedIn thing.” (This was back in 2015). I found myself giving more advice about how they can tell their story on the LinkedIn platform than I was giving them advice about growing their business brand. Et voila, my personal brand started to bloom.

Exercise Five: Consider your ‘3 V’s’

The 3 V's of personal branding are:

  • Value: The specific expertise you have to help a specific audience solve a specific problem
  • Vehicle: The mechanism you enjoy/communicate well with to carry out your message
  • Voice: Your Personality

The 3 V's in action

In the book Atomic Habits, author James Clear shares the story of Scott Adams, the cartoonist behind “Dilbert.” Adams stated:

“Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.”

Adams’ mastery of his 3 V's has led to a cartoon that’s been around for 33 years!

Here’s how they break down:

Mastering your personal brand's 3 V's is an excellent way to find your personal brand alchemy.

The Recap:

  1. There are a lot of ways to define your personal brand; use these 5 exercises to help.
  2. Remember, when you feel you’re stuck in “analysis paralysis” start creating content to help people.
  3. Use the 3V exercise to identify the overlap of your value, voice, and vehicle and start using this to inform your content online.

Grab Your Free Worksheet

Grab your free copy of the 3V worksheet here to start mapping out your personal brand magic. 

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