A 12-Step Guide to Launching Your Personal Brand

By Stephen Dupont, APR

This article about how to launch (or enhance) your personal brand was published in the May 2018 issue of PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics.

When Phil, my barber, retired, I needed to find a new barber. So I called my brother Patrick and asked him for the name of his barber.

“I go to Cedarvale Barbers,” Patrick said. “I go to Al the barber. But I think you would like Ron, because he’s a bit more talkative.”

Well, that clinched it for me. I walked into the barbershop, and introduced myself to Ron and said,“Ron, you’re my new barber.” Ron not only proved to be a good barber, but we had a pleasant chat about hockey. So I’ll be back to see him in a couple months.

Whether you’re just starting off in your career in public relations, communications or marketing, or you’ve been at it for 30 years, you have a personal brand. You become known by family, friends, colleagues and customers for what you do best. When I worked at a large law firm, I was known as “Steve, our marketing director.” When I worked for a large financial services corporation, I would regularly hear, “Hi Steve, I hear you’re our PR guy. I need your help.”

The question for you isn’t whether you have a personal brand, instead, it’s how will you build the desired brand for yourself that will last a lifetime.

A brand is a tool that helps a brand owner communicate the identity of a product or service to a person (a consumer, another business) who has an unmet need. Through consistent, positive experiences, customers come to trust specific brands. That makes it easier and more efficient for them to select products or services in the future.

That’s how Phil became my barber; he’s been cutting my hair for 10 years. It’s how Ed has been my handyman for eight years, and why Keith has been my tax guy for the last 20 years.

How can you start to develop your personal brand? Based on many informational interviews that I’ve conducted over the years, here is a step-by-step process that will help you think through what you can offer the world. I strongly recommend that you purchase a notebook and write notes to yourself, by hand, to the following:

1.) Goals – Write out your goals for the next one year, three years, five years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years, even 50 years. Include not only your career goals, but life goals, relationship goals, travel goals and financial goals. If you’re in a long-term relationship, have your partner do this as well. It’s important to work with your partner to achieve your goals together.

2.) Values — List up to five values that define your approach to your work and life. Consider such values as integrity, kindness, respect and courage, among others.

3.) How you will make key decisions – List up to ten key factors that will help you make decisions. Examples: I need to live near water; I need to be near family; I need to live in a state/city that aligns with my political beliefs; I need to work for a company that is purpose-driven or does great things to improve humanity, etc.

4.) Attitude words — List of up seven words or phrases that describe the way you want to approach the world. Examples: bold, driven, sincere, futuristic. Related to this: In addition to having several photos of yourself taken for use on social media, choose images that reflect you – landscapes, technology, favorite locations – which can serve as background photos on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. These photos should reflect your attitude words.

5.) Strengths – List everything that you’re really good at, but put stars next to the five things at which you shine. Examples: writing, interviewing people, strategic planning, crisis communications, event planning.

6.) Products or services – List what you’re selling. For example, whether I’m working for a corporation or serving clients through an agency, I am selling my expertise in strategic communications, marketing and branding. What do you offer? List out what you’re selling or hope to sell over the course of your career. This could include, but is not limited to: media relations, investor relations, digital/SEO, speechwriting, social media, etc. Think in terms of how the customer (employer or client) actually buys.

7.) Making the world better – Write out what you want to do to make the world better. This can include the causes you want to become involved in, the political causes you want to support, or the non-profits to which you want to donate. In many cases, these causes will relate to activities you’re already passionate about, a hobby, or an event that made a big impact on you as an individual.

8.) Personal brand statement – Using what you’ve written down in steps 1 through 7, write a 250-word statement that describes who you are, who you’re destined to serve, your unique approach, and what you’re passionate about. This is essential to expressing your brand in a resume, a LinkedIn profile, on social media or in other communications.

9.) Express your brand – Begin the process of expressing your personal brand. Start or refresh your social media pages (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) with the words and images that reflect your personal brand statement. Update your resume. Consider starting a blog or a website to showcase your work, or your opinions and reflections about marketing and public relations.

10.) Establish your expertise – Write articles about topics on which you are an expert or on which you feel confident in sharing advice or insight. Publish your articles on LinkedIn or Medium. Write blog posts for your local chapter of PRSA. Post links to articles and videos by other people you respect in your social media posts. Write a book. Ask if you can speak about a topic at an upcoming PRSA chapter meeting. Whenever you write an article, give a talk or participate in a panel, do so with an understanding that you’re trying to share information that will help others do their jobs better. Offering something of value will attract more people to your brand.

11.) Build a small group of mentors – Establish professional relationships with a small group of peers who will freely share advice and insight with you about developing your career.

12.) Leverage your network – Use LinkedIn to connect with everyone you know and meet throughout the course of your career – friends, family, college classmates, co-workers, fellow PRSA members, professional contacts, prospective employers and others. But remember: your connections on LinkedIn are not your network. Your network is the personal relationships you develop with others – exchanging valuable information and insights that benefits both people, which is often best done, face to face. Remember, people do business with those they like, know and trust.

Listen to Stephen Dupont’s on-demand webinar, How to Ignite (or Re-Ignite) Your Career, which is free of charge to PRSA members, available through PRSA.org.

Stephen Dupont, APR, is vice president of public relations and branded content at the Minneapolis creative and branding firm Pocket Hercules. Dupont blogs about creativity, curiosity, marketing and careers at stephendupont.co. To reach him, email [email protected] or visit pockethercules.com.

Written by Stephen Dupont

Stephen Dupont, APR, Fellow PRSA, is vice president of public relations and branded content at Pocket Hercules, a Minneapolis branding and creative firm. He blogs at www.stephendupont.co.