By Cosette Gastelu
“Know then thyself.” “To thine own self be true.” “Nosce te ipsum.” History and literature have given us no shortage of maxims extolling the benefits — even necessity — of self-awareness. Perhaps all of this phraseology is partly why reaching a true understanding of oneself is often easier said than done. Harder still is being understood by others.
At Copperfield, executives come to us for help with the latter — building a personal brand that communicates who they are to the outside world — but the process almost inevitably leads us to questions that dig into the former: how they see themselves, their values, and their goals. For any leader, there are three central steps to cultivating a personal brand that captures where they are today and sets the stage for where they would like to be in the future.
1. Getting to know you
Above all, a personal brand should be genuine and authentic. Developing a branding and messaging strategy that is a natural fit usually begins with a thorough process of discovery. This can consist of:
- Structured self-reflection: At Copperfield, we typically facilitate this through in-depth interviews with the executives we’re serving. These cover a range of topics, from their personal and professional background to their vision for their current role and beyond.
- Thoughtful conversations with people who are close to you — colleagues, mentors, advisors, and even family members.
- A comprehensive review of your existing brand — that is, past media coverage, social media activity, and any other publicly available material that contributes to your profile.
2. Getting to know the competition
The second part of creating an effective personal brand has to do with differentiation. To set yourself apart from other leaders in your space, it’s important to ensure that the content you create does not repeat or overlap too much with what others are already saying.
- Choose a set of benchmarks — individuals you consider to be peers or those further along in their careers who inspire you. These don’t necessarily need to be your biggest competitors, rather they should be leaders whose profiles will serve as helpful comparisons in the development of your own.
- Carefully examine the content of their messages and channels they use to disseminate them. What issues do they focus on? What online platforms do they prioritize? Where do they speak or publish works?
3. Putting it all together
Once you have the research under your belt, it’s time to craft a message and determine how to share it. Here, consistency is key.
- Select 2-4 main themes to focus on, flesh out your position on each, and stick to them.
- Create a calendar of activity for earned, owned, and social media channels to establish a regular rhythm of content.
- Cross-promote content across platforms — for example, sharing a video clip from a broadcast interview on your LinkedIn page, YouTube profile, and personal (or corporate) website.
Taken together, these three principles — authenticity, differentiation, and consistency — are the building blocks of any successful personal brand. As with any large-scale construction project, assembling them into something sturdy that can stand the test of time usually requires some teamwork. Knowing yourself is a heavy enough lift — don’t go it alone on helping the audiences that matter most get to know you.