Personal Branding: Maintaining an authentic personal brand
When starting a new blog or online business, it is tempting to lean on leading bloggers in your niche for inspiration for developing your personal brand. We see people who’ve achieved so much success with their blog and naturally we want to replicate that success in the development of a similar personal brand and way of writing. We’ve heard the mantra over and over again: Fake it ‘til you make it. And looking and sounding like somebody who has “made it” is the fastest way to make it - right? Not quite.
The downside of the hero worship of blogging influencers is that by trying to replicate someone else in your personal brand you often end up sounding forced, generic and unoriginal. With too much emphasis on who they are instead of who you are, you leave out the distinctive attributes that make you attractive to potential clients.
With this attitude, you risk diverting focus from the reason why clients should work with you instead of that influencer you’re trying to mimic. You are a sparkling individual and within you there are unique thoughts and knowledge that no other person on Earth has. A potential client has landed on your website to gain that unique insight. Don’t let your wisdom go untapped.
The following advice is here to serve you in your mission of staying authentic when developing a brand strategy. This isn’t a how-to brand yourself, it’s a how-to stay true to yourself throughout the branding process and beyond!
Embrace your own voice
We all write in different ways. The best way is to just write the way you speak. Some people naturally flow in a conversational, informal tone. For others they naturally write more formally, because they feel uncomfortable writing with colloquialisms. Don’t try to imitate those 6-figure bloggers by stealing their voice. They got that famous by being something unique and special, not by imitating anyone before them! There is no other you and nobody will be saying things in quite the same way you will. Even if you’re afraid your thoughts are unoriginal, at least you’re giving them a fresh perspective. Embrace whatever comes out of your efforts.
Don’t be over-polished
This is a big one! In our attempt to convince clients we’re reliable, it’s tempting to try to cut out as much of our personality as possible to sound polished and professional. Alas, people aren’t looking to hear the opinions of a faceless robot.
The people consuming your content want to know you’re someone they can trust. Personally, I find it unsettling when a website is too streamlined and “professional” looking. Is there a real person running this website? Who are they? Are they right for my brand? Or are they actually a robot?
Loosen your iron grip on the idea that you have to present yourself as perfect. Crack open the door, let people peek inside to see there’s a real person behind the facade.
Be flawed, it’s endearing
If blogging is your game, stop taking yourself seriously right now! Believe it or not, people actually want to know about you and what’s happening in your life. This means the funny and sad stuff, too. Getting a look into someone’s life is actually the juicy stuff we all enjoy! The gossip rag industry is fair proof of that. You’re allowed to make silly mistakes. You’re allowed to not know the answers to questions. You’re allowed to be a perfectly flawed human being, who lives a real life behind the scenes and sometimes delivers less than perfect work sometimes.
Have you made a mistake recently? Share it! Do you have an embarrassing story? Share it! Did you learn what NOT to do the hard way? Share it! Be flawed, be real, be you. It’s endearing. People will respect you all the more for it.
Don’t fall into the trap of disingenuous engagement with commenters and social media followers. Don’t use paid bots to spam people’s accounts and don’t use generic copy + pasted comments either. Be a real person! Read captions, respond to questions, compliment photos you genuinely like.
Respond to comments on your own content positively. Be present and accessible, with genuine responses. Nothing forced or so over the top cheery they know you could never be that happy over a comment. If you want real people to become clients and customers, treat them like real people.
Don’t over-consume content
What are the signs you are consuming too much content from other bloggers? You’re finding it hard to decide on and stick to the topic of each blog post, or you’re finding your content is coming out far too bland and generic. Trying to incorporate everything you’ve liked from other people’s work will have these effects.
If you find yourself struggling to cut through the content tidal wave to find your way back to your own messages, it’s time to take a step back from your consumption. You don’t have to sign up for every newsletter or read every downloadable resource. Take a breather, unsubscribe from a few. Log out of your social media accounts immediately after using them so you’re less tempted to hop straight back on and spend hours scrolling. You’re not here to imitate, you have your own thoughts too!
Remember why you got in the biz in the first place
You’ve got the logo, the brand name and you’re starting to generate clients. Have you found the recipe for success? Be careful not to follow it too closely! You decided to launch this biz because you liked it, remember? Because it fit with your lifestyle? Because you liked the freedom of doing things your own way?
So, keep doing things your own way! Get back to the original intent. Have fun and enjoy running the show!
There are a lot of resources out there that will teach you about personal branding and how to put your best foot forward. I support them all! Tweak the best bits about you! Put that best foot forward. But through it all, I hope you don't lose sight of your authentic self and your ability to connect authentically with your clients. You'll be running your own business for hopefully a long, long time. And that's too long to uphold a facade.