A friend asked me recently what the difference is between a personal brand and personal branding. Many people believe them to be the same and often use them interchangeably.
I told her they are essentially the same, but different. Here’s why.
Your personal brand is who you are at your core.
It’s your values and your traits. It’s what determines the “things” you naturally gravitate towards. It’s the stuff of Strengths Finder legend.
Your personal brand drives your actions, your reactions, your interests and maybe even your career choices.
Every interaction you have with someone establishes or reinforces your brand in his or her mind.
This is why you have heard so many people say, “You DO have a personal brand whether you know it or not”.
Realizing you have a personal brand and understanding what it is, is critical to your career. Why?
YOU DO HAVE A PERSONAL BRAND
You are sitting at a conference table with co-workers talking about a project you are working on together. Without prior notice, a senior leader walks into the room and sits down.
What are you thinking? How does this person make you feel? Are you comfortable with this person?
Or does the mood of the room change as suddenly as her appearance?
The answer lies in the personal brand of this senior leader. This person carries a perception, persona or vibe that people “feel” as soon as she walks in the room.
The same conference room with the same co-workers talking about the same project. This time, you walk in.
What are your co-workers thinking now with you in the room? Does the mood of the room change?
You see, knowing what others feel and think about you is critical to understanding your personal brand.
Understanding your brand means asking tough questions and requires a lot of internal reflection. Because learning about your brand is hard, a lot of people skip this part. This is a big mistake.
What if your co-workers have a negative perception of you? If you know this, you can work on changing it and every interaction after that point will reinforce your “new” brand with your co-workers.
You’ve heard the expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”, correct?
While this is essentially true, I would argue it is possible to change first impressions given the opportunity and the time.
Ideally, we would meet people for the first time in person, face-to-face. But what about when someone meets us for the first time without us being physically present?
THIS IS PERSONAL BRANDING
In this “always on” world we live in today, chances are, the first interaction you will have with someone will be online, not in person.
Unfortunately, when this happens, you won’t know it because you weren’t even present. You could very well have been asleep.
Not unlike an in-person meeting, the person who just “met” you online will form a perception of you. For them, this perception will determine what they feel, think and say about you when you are not around.
Is your brand ready for this type of meeting?
For most people, it’s not. They haven’t taken the time to understand their personal brand and as a result, have not considered how they want to appear online.
Personal branding is:
The intentional act of telling the world who you are and how you add value online.
In other words, you are leveraging your personal brand online on purpose in a way that is genuine and authentic. Personal branding is about aligning who you are with what you do.
Personal branding is personal marketing. It the process of purposefully putting your brand “out there” in a way that aligns with your true self. It is also the conscience act of determining the keywords you want to be found for when people are searching online.
For me, I want to be found for personal brand and branding, online reputation management and career advice.
If you brand yourself authentically online it's possible when someone meets you virtually, they will “walk away” with the same feelings and thoughts of you as if they had they met you in person. They know what you are all about.
With every interaction, every click, every search result, you are branding yourself whether you know it or not.
This is why learning new skills and building your own website is so important. It allows you to control what people find when they search for you online. Personal branding allows you to market your personal brand on purpose and in a way that aligns with your true self.