Apple and Steve Jobs. Microsoft and Bill Gates. Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. One name is a business. The other is a personal brand. The two are connected, but they’re not quite the same. A successful business doesn’t necessarily lead to a successful personal brand—and vice versa.
Personal branding is a double-edged sword. It has the potential to build a legacy or destroy a business.
Take Adam Neumann, for example. His name and personal brand tarnished WeWork (potentially forever—we’ll see). On the other hand, look at Henry Ford, whose personal brand continues to push Ford Motor Company’s mission forward despite passing away almost 75 years ago.
Anytime you start a business, you tie your personal brand to the fate of your company. Both usually rise or fall together. However, building a business doesn’t necessarily mean building your personal brand.
Why have you heard of John Legere (former T-Mobile CEO) and not John Stankey (AT&T CEO)? Because of personal branding.
Remember, everyone has a personal brand, whether good or bad, strong or weak, bold or cowardly. You don’t get to decide whether you have a personal brand or not—but you do have a say in how it develops.
That’s where this guide comes in. To build your personal brand and leverage it to grow your business, you need to be intentional. We’ll show you:
- Why personal branding matters
- Examples of great personal branding
- 9 tips for building your personal brand
What Is Personal Branding, and Why Does It Matter?
Personal branding is the brand associated with yourself. It’s a combination of the thoughts, impressions, products, businesses, conceptions, and feelings associated with your face and name.
For example, think of Walt Disney. What comes to mind? Likely Disney World, princesses, and happy-ever-afters. Now, think of Kylie Jenner. What comes to mind? Probably reality TV, makeup, lip kits, and social followings. That’s their personal brands.
So, why would any founder or CEO want to spend time building their personal brand instead of their business? Is it selfish or strategic? Well, it’s a bit of both.
It’s selfish because a personal brand transcends a business. A well-made personal brand can survive, even if a business fails. It gives your name and presence power and influence.
And it’s strategic because a personal brand can push business initiatives forward. Think of Elon Musk announcing new Tesla inventions or when he skyrocketed Dogecoin prices with a series of Tweets. That’s the strategic business power of a personal brand.
Best Personal Branding Examples
Now that we’ve seen what personal brand is and why it matters, let’s look at a few modern-day individuals who are doing it right. Love them or hate them, these personal branding examples excel when it comes to building a larger-than-life name.
Gary Vaynerchuk is the master of personal branding—it’s essentially what he coaches through every channel (that’s meta). That’s why it’s no surprise he does it best.
Not everyone likes Gary, and that’s just fine with him. He’s bold, loud, and uncanny with practically everything he says, and that’s what sets him apart from the rest. His brand is all about hustling, achieving, and being true to you. And he practices what he preaches.
This man is the uncensored content personified. If he thinks it, he says it—and that’s what’s wonderful about Gary. He might be strongly opinionated, but you know you’re always getting the real, authentic man himself.
However, Gary isn’t an overnight success. It took years for him to build his personal brand. You can see the man, the myth, and the legend first building his personal brand in this YouTube video published just 15 years ago. He’s come a long way.
Elon Musk is synonymous with Tesla cars, space exploration, and pretty much anything related to technology and innovation. Musk’s projects have all been consistent and tell a continued story of using technology to accelerate human progression, whether by reducing carbon emissions with advanced electric cars or launching rockets and spacecraft to progress humankind’s vision to explore space.
The magic behind Tesla is that the company doesn’t do any advertising. None. Well, not any traditional advertising, anyways. Instead, Tesla largely depends on Elon Musk to Tweet the brand’s way to fame, eyeballs, and purchases. Here are a few of his more famous Tweets that made for powerful headlines:
- “Apple only hires Tesla’s worst engineers.”
- “Vehicles will drive themselves in two years.”
- “Nuke Mars!”
However, this strategy can backfire, too, like when Elon Musk tweeted, “Tesla stock price is too high imo.” After that, the company’s stock tanked by $14 billion.
Marie Kondo falls into the special realm of transforming her name into a verb. It’s not weird to hear someone say, “I’m Marie Kondo-ing my house.” That’s because of the powerful personal brand she’s built.
Marie Kondo first launched her 2015 best-selling book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Her book’s success led to the trending Netflix series, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. After that, her name (not the book, not the show) became synonymous with minimalism and cleaning up your home.
She then utilized her peak popularity to add an ecommerce shop to her website to sell lifestyle products that’ll “spark joy for you.” However, the quiet and sweet Japanese consultant hasn’t let the fame get to her head—her ongoing humility is one of the core components of her personal brand.
Beard—that’s what you think of when you hear the name Eric Bandholz, and it’s definitely what you think when you see his face. Beard.
Eric is the founder of Beardbrand, and his business thrives because it’s literally an extension of his well-groomed face. Despite having millions of followers across his social media profiles, Eric still takes the time to respond to comments and questions individually.
He’s done a great job at personifying his brand and adding the human element to the business—and it’s helped his company grow from a $30 investment into a multi-million dollar store.
Want to see how he did it? Learn from the legend himself in our course: Blow Up Your Brand—The Complete Content Marketing Playbook.
9 Tips for Building Your Personal Brand
Now that you know what good personal branding looks like, it’s time to take action. We’ve collected inspiration from these examples and other successful individuals to provide 9 tips to help you build your personal brand.
We’ll show you exactly what you need to do (and not to do) to establish a personal brand that’ll profit your business and stand the tests of time.
1. Define Your Personal Brand Statement
Your personal brand statement is a short and sweet description of who you are, what you do, and what makes you unique. This isn’t necessarily something you’ll share with the public, but it’ll be foundational in creating a consistent story, tagline, and slogan for marketing yourself.
Your personal brand statement will essentially be your elevator pitch to anyone who ever asks, “Who are you?” For the most part, you’ll have complete control over it. Well, at least until people don’t have to ask who you are anymore.
When crafting your personal brand statement, don’t necessarily limit yourself to who you are—think more about who you want to become. Use this statement as your personal mission and vision, and refer back to it often to ensure you’re staying true to yourself.
2. Make Your Presence Known
You either develop your personal brand or let someone else do it for you. It’s best to do the former.
If you stay quiet and in the dark, you leave yourself vulnerable to whatever the first (or last) reporter or influencer says about you. However, if you’re proactive about establishing your presence and what you stand for, you’ll get first dibs at writing your story.
Be active in your online and offline communities. Post and share online. Be strong and stand for something.
By sharing high-quality, thought-provoking content related to your industry, you’ll transform your personal brand into a trusted source. Curating a personal blog can lead to organic traffic, journalist interviews, keynote speaking at events, or authoring books and online courses.
You could be like Eric Bandholz and respond to all your follower’s comments and replies, or you could be like Gary Vaynerchuck and post impulsively whenever you have something to say. There’s no wrong way to go about it.
Silence isn’t an option—at least not in the early days. Sure, if you’re big and famous like Taylor Swift, you can do a lot for your personal brand by disappearing from social networks for an entire year. However, until you have a following and a well-known brand, it’s better to be proactive.
3. Add Value
We don’t listen to Elon Musk because he’s pretentious—we listen to him because he has brilliant ideas to share. Think about what unique value you have to add to the world and your communities. It doesn’t have to be high and lofty or altruistic, either.
For example, Adam Sandler doesn’t necessarily “make the world a better place,” but he sure does know how to make people laugh and smile. And Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t share innovative ideas or outlooks on life, but he can entertain just about anyone with a soccer ball.
Consider your talents and your personality to figure out what value you can provide. Think about what you want to be known for. Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos don’t have reputations for being likable—they have reputations for being ruthless business visionaries. Decide now what you want your personal brand to look like.
4. Tell a Story
Your personal brand can’t be an isolated profile disconnected from its surroundings. It needs to be a cohesive part of who you are, what you’re trying to do, and how your business plays a part. It needs to tell a story.
“The most effective personal branding strategy these days is to build a true narrative—single character monologues are boring in Tinseltown, and even more boring for your personal brand,” said Allen Gannett, chief strategy officer at Skyword.
Elon Musk’s story is about progressing the human race. Mark Zuckerburg’s story is about connecting people through technology. What is your story?
5. Be True to You
Remember the notorious entrepreneur behind Fyre Festival, Billy McFarland? He’s the perfect example of how not to be true to yourself. Billy built a fake personal brand around an illusion that never existed. Whether Fyre Festival was a success or not, his personal brand was never going to be sustainable.
Build a personal brand that’s authentic and true to you. You shouldn’t have to put on a face when you go to work or when a podcast wants to interview you—you should be comfortable in your own shoes.
6. Embrace Your Humanity
Personal brands are relatable and approachable. They’re real-life people who overcame the odds to become successful. They have doubts and worries, as well as gratitude, optimism, and excitement.
Be human with your personal brand. Don’t sound like a robot that’s going through the motions. When your startup scores seed funding, don’t be afraid to do a little jig and celebrate. And when something doesn’t go your way, don’t pretend like it never happened.
Embrace your humanity and make it part of your personal brand. Allow your followers to laugh, cry, and party with you. It makes them part of the journey, too.
7. Build a Legacy
The goal of any good personal branding shouldn’t be to just outlive the business—it should be to leave a lasting reputation, community, product, or concept.
The best personal brands don’t end with you. For example, Walt Disney still lives on through the hearts of every theme park, movie, doll, and inspired child. And Steve Job’s mindset still lives on through Apple’s core beliefs, values, and products.
8. Separate Your Identity
As an entrepreneur, your company is your baby. You’ve poured metaphorical (or literal) blood, sweat, and tears into your business, and you’ve enjoyed watching it take its first steps.
However, like any dedicated parent, perhaps raising their first child (or business), you can lose yourself in the life of your baby. Focusing on yourself can be a challenge as an entrepreneur, especially when your company is still young.
Distinguish yourself from your business. While your name might be synonymous with your startup, you should separate yourself whenever possible to increase your personal exposure and reach. This will also prevent you from losing touch with yourself.
Don’t just rely on your business website—create a personal website, too. And do the same thing with your social media profiles. Separating your digital identity will help people connect with you and not just your business.
9. Develop a Content Strategy
Be intentional with what you say and when you say it, or you just might follow in Musk’s shoes and tank your own company’s stock price. That’s an extreme example, but it illustrates an important principle: have a content strategy.
Use your personal brand statement and story to craft your messaging. Plan which channels and marketing tactics you’re going to use, and then stay consistent.
Today’s modern world moves quickly—you can’t afford to drop off the map. If you’re going to invest in building your personal brand on LinkedIn, you need to be on the platform every day, sharing, posting, commenting, and more. You’ll see little-to-no growth if you engage sporadically.
Stay personable, but don’t be afraid to schedule your content in advance. This not only helps with consistency, but it’ll help unify your brand story, too.
How to Start Personal Branding
Building a personal brand from the ground up isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. The hardest part is generating the initial momentum. However, once things start rolling along, growing your personal brand is just another part of your day job.
How much time and money you spend on building a personal brand is a personal preference. The process and outcome can benefit both you and your business, but that’s not to say you won’t succeed without one.
A personal brand creates another outlet for your business promotion. It can establish you separately from your company, which can benefit you in the long run if you’d like to become an influencer or diversify your portfolio with additional ventures.
Ready to put your personal brand behind something bigger? Launch your online side hustle in 30 days or less—we’ll show you how. Sign up for our free masterclass to learn the proven roadmap for turning your time and talents into income (all without quitting your 9-to-5).