Personal Branding

Building a strong brand story

“Brands are built around stories. And stories of identity—who we are, where we’ve come from—are the most effective stories of all. The storytelling is a powerful way to bring brands to life.”

–Bill Dauphinais, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

What is a brand?

While most of us can name a plethora of household brand names at the drop of a hat—like Apple, Coca-Cola, Amazon, Tesla, Google, and more—it’s defining what makes Amazon a brand and not just a rainforest can be challenging.

However, when it comes to marketing, your brand is one of your most powerful assets.

The problem is that most people don’t know how to cultivate their brands at that level, and miss out on building credibility, authority and trust with their audiences in the process.

Going back to the brand names mentioned above, something immediately comes to mind. That is the essence of what a brand is: The feelings, emotions, and beliefs that people have when they think of your business.

Because your personal brand is your business. Share on X

Developing a powerful personal brand, though, is easier said than done. And it all starts with your brand story. 

The better you can tell your story and describe what your business is, why you do what you do, and why you’re different than anyone else out there, the easier it will be to get people to realize what your business means to them and… Share on X

In a previous article, I took you on a deep dive into the path to building a strong personal brand. If you’re new to the blog, or just getting started building your brand, I recommended you start reading there to gain clarity around the vision you have for your brand. It’s important.

In this article, we’re going to take your personal brand a step farther by taking control of the brand story you put into this world and how important it is to be the author of how your story is told.

Sharing my story

What qualifies me to speak to you about personal branding? Because it’s something I’ve done successfully. I know how personal branding works after leading my own efforts both in and out of the Toshiba boardroom. And I know which pieces and parts work well while establishing one’s personal brand.

As someone with experience showing up digitally and navigating telling my journey while simultaneously having a corporate brand, I’ve learned quite a few lessons about building a personal brand the right way.

One of the first things I learned about building a brand was that I needed to become the CEO of my own brand and share my story—the way that I wanted it shared—before anyone else had the chance to do it for me.

And with it, I built an authentic and powerful digital community.

Now, with the successful launch of my personal brand, I’m sharing the best practices I used to help businesses and professionals do the same.

And it starts with sharing your story.

Sharing your story

Sharing our story with others isn’t the easiest thing to do. In fact, for some, it’s nearly incapacitating. If you feel this way, it’s essential to look at your journey and be thankful for all the challenges that made you who you are today.

First, you need to identify your strengths and talents. The secret to storytelling your personal brand is to have a mix of different variety of content that leads your audience on a journey. While this can seem like a daunting task, in reality it’s as easy as asking yourself the following questions:

  • What can you share with your target audience so they to get to know the real you?
  • How can you show them your life through a professional lens, so that they can understand where you developed your passion?
  • How do you go about learning the lessons that made you decide on your values?
  • What path led you to where you are today?

Once you’ve established answers to the question above, you’re well on your way to establishing your brand story. The next step is to take elements of your personal brand story as outlined above and add them to your social media profiles. You can do this in a variety of ways, including adding in tidbits to your bio and on your website’s About page.

Remember that as you work through telling your personal brand story, to do just that—make it personal. The easiest way to do so is to be your genuine and authentic self. The more obviously you copy or mimic someone else, the easier it is for people to see through your brand.

You also will want to include other people, as others tend to pay more attention to what’s in front of them when it impacts them directly. Don’t forget to include emotion. By engaging with others through feelings, you’ll create a community-like bond that endears them to your brand.

Finally, share your success. It’s not bragging to shine a spotlight on your accomplishments. Once your people have found you, they’ll want to know what you’re up to. And help you celebrate all your successes.

Creating content pillars

Your storytelling journey begins through content pillars, which are the big ideas you have, issues you solve, or life experiences that you bring to the table.

My content pillars are a lot like my story. As in, not paved with privilege or a first-class education. Rather, my brand story starts out as one of loss, loneliness, and struggle. But I turned that story into one that I am now proud to tell. 

This is where my content pillars shift. I turned foster care, no high-school diploma, and the lack of a college degree into the narrative of a professional woman sitting at the top of a world-renowned company, innovating, winning awards, and setting new records. Because that’s now what I’m doing.

If you looked at my past, you’d see I wasn’t supposed to be in the role I am today. This goes to show that the definition of who you are on paper doesnt determine your path forward. So remember: You can change the narrative, albeit your brand, at any point in time that you choose.

And you can start by creating your content pillars.

Approach the process of creating content pillars with the idea of forming your brand and around the thoughts, opinions, passions, and skills that you currently have or are interested in pursuing. This exercise also will help you create thought leadership.

To get started, ask yourself:

  • What type of content do you want to share?
  • Where do you want to share this content?
  • What’s your origin?
  • Where did you get started?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are you an expert at?
  • What did you overcome?

Take your time with this exercise. Don’t just jot down answers and move on to what’s next. Sit and think through each of the questions above to identify what resonates most with you before adding it into your brand story’s content pillars.

Having a thorough understanding of these pillars will help you more easily create content for years to come. Don’t rush through the process.

Your Brand Messaging Brief

Once you’re clear on your brand vision and you’ve established which content pillars you’d like to base your brand’s foundation on, it’s time to tie all of your hard work together. And you can do that through messaging.

Or, put more clearly, by leveraging the voice and tone of your brand through a Brand Messaging Brief.

Why is this document so important? Because a Brand Messaging Brief will help you take your content pillar focus, passion, and purpose—all the things that distinguish your brand from the competition—and break it down into short, simple, clear, and actionable words.

A Brand Messaging Brief is also important because it helps you carefully craft your messaging. After all, you can say anything to anyone, but it’s the way you say it that matters. Especially in this day and age, when you now have to consider how to deliver your message with authenticity digitally.

You may have a version of your Brand Messaging Brief—or pieces of it—already documented. If it’s been a while, however, gather your previous work together and revisit each element identified below in detail. Once you have each element of the Brand Messaging Brief articulated, it’s important to visualize it so that content creators can see how each tier influences the next. 

That said, know that strong brand messaging doesn’t start with your tagline or value prop; it starts with understanding the core of your brand. And that is your brand story. Thus, before diving into your messaging, it’s crucial that you have a solid understanding of what your brand story is.

To get started on your Brand Messaging Brief, use your content pillars as your fence around messaging while also adopting your brand voice and tone. Then, work your way to a finalized personal branding process by identifying the following:

  • Title
  • Bio, in the third person
    • Short form
    • Long form
  • Tagline
  • Differentiator
  • Motto/slogan
  • Story + key messages + pitch
  • Standard social responses
  • Personal close out

When you get right down to it, great brands are memorable and beloved for three simple reasons:

  1. They know exactly who they authentically are,
  2. They know how they fit into their customers’ lives and which problems they solve, and
  3. They know who their target customers are and how to speak directly to them.

If those three elements are consistently present throughout your marketing efforts, you’re well on your way to building a personal brand that leads to the visibility, credibility, and trust you are looking to build with your audience.

Remember, life is about relationships. It’s as true for businesses as it is for people. The more your target audience feels understood by and connected to your personal brand, the more likely they are to build a relationship of trust… Share on X

That’s the key to every successful personal brand.

Want to learn more about how to bring your brand story to life? Get tactical steps to build by clicking here.

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