Elizabeth van den bergh
Last Modified 03/03/20

Personal Branding: my takeaways looking back (and the role of public speaking)

by Elizabeth Van Den Bergh

First I was afraid
I was petrified
Kept thinking I could always live
without you by my side
But then I spent so many nights
thinking how I did me wrong
and I grew strong
I learned how to do it right…

(free adaptation of Gloria Gaynor’s famous song, reflects how I look back on creating my own personal brand)

Fear of personal branding

Yes, I too was once afraid of personal branding.

It was 2013, I had just started my own business. Everybody talked about personal branding and it seemed to be a must to work on if you wanted to succeed as an entrepreneur.

I had no clue about how to start. On top of that, personal branding also sounded like selling yourself and that scared me.

But then I heard specialists explain personal branding, and it became a lot less intimidating.

I started to take personal branding seriously, and got on with it. Here are a few things I took away from that.

What is personal branding?

First, let’s define brand. I would define a brand as the collection of images, stories and feelings that a certain name evokes.

If I say ‘Nike’, that evokes things, and if I say ‘Greenpeace’, that evokes other things. And most people will see about the same in their heads for every brand.

A brand is a shorthand for everything it stands for.

Personal branding, then, is about who you are and how you communicate this to the outside world.

A personal brand clarifies who you are and what you stand for. It’s what you show about yourself and what people deduct from that. It’s is the act of consciously projecting your own personality.

It’s impossible not to do personal branding

If you have just decided to never do any personal branding, I have bad news. Just like you cannot not communicate, you cannot not do personal branding.

Why? Because personal branding is about your clothes, about your non-verbal communication, even about the pen you bring to the meeting. It is also about how you interpret my tone of voice in this blog post.

Still a bit scary, right? As soon as I understood that I am anyway constantly branding myself, I decided to leave my fear behind and take control. I see personal branding now as a fun opportunity to show who I am and what I stand for.

Personal branding is a huge opportunity!

Your personality might play an important role in the professional goals you are trying to achieve. If you’re an entrepreneur, business leader, sales executive, or ambassador for a certain cause, your personal branding probably makes a big difference in your success.

After all, people like to buy from other people rather than from anonymous brands.

And people buy from you because they like certain ways you behave, dress, talk, or otherwise communicate. You share certain values that help people choose you and that helps building connections.

That means that personal branding offers a huge opportunity to increase your business results:

  • First, identify what your strengths are, i.e. what your target audience appreciates or even admires in you.
  • Then, amplify these traits by intentionally shaping your communication to reflect them stronger.

Personal branding doesn’t mean acting like someone you aren’t! Instead, you’re emphasizing your unique points. You stay authentic that way. One of the effects is that instead of you having to go look for clients, clients start to find you.

Getting started with personal branding

Personal branding starts with identifying your key strengths and values.

In my experience, it’s very hard to do that all by yourself. The Gallup StrengthsFinder is a popular tool to self-assess your strengths, and if you’d like to get a clearer picture of your personality and values, 16personalities is a good start. Be sure to share the results with your surroundings for feedback.

As a next step, you would write your own little manifesto that defines what you stand for.

Here’s an excerpt from my own personal branding manifesto:

The non-conformist entrepreneur who relies on her brains, her heart and her gut feeling —

I find excitement in overcoming challenges: I am determined to achieve my goals and I never give up. I want to be as competent as possible and am self-assured. This inspires and motivates my audience and clients. […] I also have a rebellious side. I tend to be non-conformist and have a love for creativity and innovation. I carve out my own path in life.

Remember that public speaking is the #1 way to brand yourself

The story on your website, your logo, your brochure, your company video, your LinkedIn profile: these are all components of your personal branding.

Do remember that public speaking in the broad sense — from speaking to a live audience to appearing on video — is the #1 way to let your personal brand shine through and make maximum impact. People pay attention to other people like nothing else.

When I work with my clients, I help them get a better focus on their personal brand and then find the right words, stories, body language to fit.

For me, this is an exercise in bringing coherence to who somebody is and how they appear on stage — what great fun! Get in touch if I can help you with any of that.