Do you know what you stand for? Are you sure others perceive you this way? If you’re looking to grow professionally, you need to know the answer to these questions.

As the famous adage goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Knowing who you are, your mission, purpose, and values are essential ingredients for success. You are your most valuable asset. If you’re like many of the people I know, I bet you devote considerable energy to nurturing other people’s profiles, products, and company brands. Why not raise your bar and dedicate time to cultivate your brand? As Ralph Waldo Emerson declared, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

When it comes to personal branding, there are numerous elements. This article focuses on your brand identity – your outward expression of yourself and your personality. It looks at how you put yourself together, comes across to others, and communicate with the world. As Jeff Bezos notably said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Branding – Behind The Scenes

At the core of any successful brand, there’s a strategy, which includes a purpose, vision, mission, and values. Strong brands are distinctive, memorable, cohesive, and scalable. Furthermore, they factor in the employee or customer journey, which comprises what one goes through when interacting with the brand – from initiation to completion – to follow-up contact. The look and feel of a company or product’s brand identity are visually expressed through its logo, colors, typography, photography, and graphics.

Your brand strategy should get to the heart of you – your essence – and depict who you are, why you exist, what you do, and where you’re headed, with core principles that guide your actions and behaviors. As your own advocate, you can then “live your brand” and position yourself in an articulate, coherent, and consistent manner to achieve your goals.

To help you get started, here are five steps to build your identity:

1. Outline your purpose, values, vision, and mission.

To start, check out this article which guides you through a pragmatic way to find your voice and get these fundamentals on paper. From there, do a gut check and determine if you’re aligned in how you behave and act. If you are already aligned, then move ahead. If not, spend a while thinking about methods to move from your current state to your desired state. Here are five steps that can help you get started.

2. Determine your unique value proposition (UVP).

In step two, you want to determine your value proposition, your unique gifts you bring forth in your daily actions. It’s what people like best about working with you. It’s your promise of the value you will deliver and shows what sets you apart from others. Watch this video tutorial, or read this article on the message triangle to help you build out your UVP. For example, if you’re interviewing for a new job, you can frame your UVP by writing out what the employer can expect from you in this new role. Additionally, the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO®) assessment can help you if you’re looking to gain insight on what you express to others and achieve clarity on whether or not your perceptions are aligned.

3. Develop your narrative.

After you have your core messages outlined from step two, you can script your narrative for use in multiple settings. These tailored stories showcasing relevant experiences and expertise based on different aspects of your life. They are usually a few paragraphs long and summarize you in a nutshell, and can be included in your bio or about section on your LinkedIn profile. It’s what you want others to know about you. These accounts should be authentic and accentuate the spirit of your brand, and you should practice presenting them out loud. You want to be relaxed and at ease sharing them in quick bites, such as responding when someone asks you to tell them a little about yourself. Also, you’ll want to have a few versions, including a 15-20 second elevator speech.

4. Elevate your presence and packaging.

Another big part of a brand identity is its look and feel. What does this mean for your brand? A few things. Sticking with the example, interviewing for a new job, think about how you put yourself and related documents together. This includes your outfits, how you carry and present yourself online and in person, and your resume, cover letter, case study portfolio, and thank you note. It also includes your online presence: the LinkedIn profile, visible social media accounts, and google search results. You may have to pass an initial video screening.

The author of “The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding,” cites a statistic from another researcher that up to 90% of snap judgments made about products can be based on color alone. Although this is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison, it’s a good reminder to confirm that you’re consistent in your appearance, voice, and tone when presenting yourself, and with your use of colors, visuals, and fonts in your materials and packaging.

5. Be reliable and authentic throughout your stakeholder’s journey.

I know some of the items in step four can seem superficial, but I encourage you to view it from another person’s perspective. Continuing with the interviewing for a new job, think about the hiring manager’s experience interacting with you throughout various touchpoints. Does your UVP align with your behaviors and actions? Do your examples reflect your brand? For example, if you highlight your strengths as being dependable and detailed-oriented, did you demonstrate this throughout all aspects of the interview process?

Cultivating your personal brand takes dedication.

What makes us unique is our beliefs, values, purpose, and actions. Your brand will evolve as you do. Invest the time to do regular check-ups to make sure you and your identity are aligned. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” I’ll close by repeating that you are your most valuable asset. Live your brand and share your distinctive magnificence with the world.

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