Your brand might suck. This is why.
In a world where personal branding is now a thing, where social media, editing apps and the internet give you a chance to be your own PR agency, there’s a distinct rush to be the loudest.
But loud is just sometimes that: loud. Obnoxious. Void of depth or connection.
Here are my quick-and-dirty cliff notes about what it means to elevate your brand — and yourself — from the inside out.
Let’s start by defining the word brand.
Your brand is the impact you leave on someone/s, consistently, over time. It’s not your logo, the colors on your website, your name or even your title.
Your brand driven is by your work (which I’ll define shortly, further down the page) and by eliminating all the crap you mistake as you and/or as interesting.
No one gives a f*ck about the data points on your LinkedIn profile. Not really and definitely not absolutely. So much of how you identify who you are is based on an arbitrary set of check boxes that you fill out 100 times a day.
Unicorn Exercise: If I were to approach you on the street and ask you who you are, what would you say? Write down 20 things you believe about yourself. There’s no right or wrong answer here and if you’re on a roll, keep writing.
Girl. 24 years old. Latasha Silver. Black. Social media expert. Likes to travel. Brooklyn. Outgoing. Scorpio. Sister. Aunt. Prone to hangry episodes. Single. Volleyball player. Bi-sexual-ish. Mono-survivor. Democrat. Pro the Bern.
Now, cross all of it out. Take a big marker and draw thick lines through all of it. Shit, burn it if you want (maybe that’s a little dramatic). You are not those things and your personal brand is not made up of the titles, the descriptions or the characteristics you just listed. Not even your name.
So if that doesn’t make your personal brand, what does?
Your message is the very core of your brand.
Your job is to consistently communicate what you think and feel in a beautiful, responsible way about a sector of the world you have a stake in.
The point isn’t to have reactionary views on world politics and to troll people on the internet for the sake of garnering attention. The point is to dig down deep and ask yourself what you truly want to say.
How do you see the world (or your piece of it) in a way that no one else does?
What is possible for humanity and for that special sector of the world you have a stake in? It need not be big, but you bet your ass it’s important.
What are you too scared to say that needs to be said all the same?
Why are you focusing on your LinkedIn title and ignoring this oh-so-important message, which is the very core of your brand (and influence) in the world?
The world doesn’t need more mindless selfies with sexy Instagram filters. What we need is your voice in the places you are meant to sing, dammit.
Side note: Your core message is normally chillin’ right around the corner from “I’m scared as shit to say that because I fear being judged, hurt or ridiculed.” It normally involves issues you yourself have had to work out and towards (and are probably still teasing out).
It’s all about the bread crumbs, baby.
Let’s assume you’ve narrowed down your core message to a few ideas. How do you know if you’re building your brand? You can follow a trail of distinctly marked bread crumbs. Your body of work is made up bread crumbs — which represent the ideas at the very core of your being — that if unspoken, haunt you at night.
Yeah, shit just got real.
Your work is the delivery of such messages in a cool and interesting way.
Show me your blog. Show me your conversations. Show me your poetry. Show me your websites. Show me your speeches. Show me these oh-so-important-ideas in action in the places you’re needed and desire to be most. Show me the people who have been impacted by you in a memorable way.
If you can’t point to the bread crumbs, you don’t have a brand. I don’t need to see your money. I need to see your crumbs.
The scariest thing in the world is to have a voice.
We’re simply vessels of wisdom with important shit to share. And for whatever reason, that can be terrifying. And yet…
Your personal brand is not about you. It’s about the artistry that comes with connecting to another at and beyond their level of consciousness. It’s about emotion. It’s about you as the medium for something greater.
4 tips to develop your own brand
Here are four insights to keep in mind as you’re making your mark on the world (and the internet).
#1 It’s not about looking good. It’s about first being sincere. Focus on your core message before you’re concerned with style, colors and logos. Write, draw, speak, code, and photograph your way to perfecting your ideas and the journey you take people on. This is your core differentiator.
#2 Limitation gives you focus and voice. It’s helpful that you suck at certain things. Your imperfection is the strain of your voice as it appears in your work. It’s what makes it unique. Don’t kill that. Those are the markings of your brand, of your identity. I don’t need, want or trust perfect. But I do need, want and trust you in your most sincere form.
#3 Everything is in service to your message. Colors, fonts, images, words, even you yourself are all in service to your message. Messages can be expressed through any medium and they need not be serious to be effective.
#4 If the message doesn’t serve you, be willing to let her go. Allow her to evolve, like that of a devout, free-spirited lover. Your job is to help her fly and if she feels she wants to go elsewhere, let her roam. To chain her is to kill her.
Your brand is the impact you have on others. And it’s when you reinvent yourself through your work in a devout, selfless (and public) way that it begins to take on a life of its own.