9 Secrets to Building Your Killer Personal Brand Story9 Secrets to Building Your Killer Personal Brand Story
Your personal brand story defines you in the minds of those with whom you connect inside and outside your company.
October 26, 2023
When it comes to your business brand, I’m all about the story. When we tell stories, we obtain a greater level of engagement and connection with our audience. That’s why I am always begging encouraging companies to consider the stories that they can share about their brands that will make a real impact with their audiences — both internal and external.
What About Your Personal Brand Story?
It doesn’t matter whether you’re the CEO, president or an associate solutions architect, your personal brand story matters just as much as your business brand story. Perhaps more so because your personal brand story is what will define you in the minds of those who you connect with inside and outside of your company.
Have you ever noticed that some people come into a room and really know who they are? They’re confident, ready and able to connect. In a room filled with similar business people, there are some people who just really stand out. Everybody in the room seems to know who they are! The reason is that they truly know and live their personal brand story. It's as if they’ve read a book about who they were supposed to be. Actually, it’s more than that — it often feels like they’ve written the book about who they were supposed to be.
Once you’ve met them or heard them speak, you know and can share their brand story as well. This is because once you are very clear about your personal brand story, it helps people know who you are and what your personal brand represents.
It’s Critical to Know Your Personal Brand Story
Knowing your personal brand story is important because it helps keep you focused when you’re meeting with people and introducing yourself. It keeps people interested in who you are and what you do. And it helps people help you.
When you don’t know your brand story, you can sound like you're all over the map — and people are going to lose interest really fast. Consider some of the celebrities, sports figures or politicians you’ve seen on talk shows. You can always tell when the host is playing dentist and pulling teeth to get a response or start a discussion. Or worse, when the guest isn’t focused and they’ve lost the thread of their story, their personal brand story suffers as well.
One more thing and this is important: Being able to share your brand story helps people to help you. I’m of the belief that people want to help other people. You may have a different worldview. But the things that you are able to do to help others can help you as well. The more that you can share about what you can do, the more successful you’re going to be.
Knowing your personal brand story, sharing that personal brand story and connecting your personal brand story with your audience — employees, partners or customers – in a way that is authentic helps them see how they can help you and how you can help them as well. When you know your personal brand story — your strengths and weaknesses, your super power and Kryptonite — you know how you can be relevant and helpful to others.
9 Secrets to Building Your Killer Personal Brand Story
We all have different stories. Some of you are leading the business, you may be building a new practice area or you may be in transition. No matter what your story, if you can really sharpen and focus that personal brand story, you're going to have greater success as you're speaking with people, networking with people and beginning to form relationships.
#1. Perception = Reality.
One of the services that I provide for my clients is public relations and media outreach support, so here’s a big inside secret: Perception equals reality. The CEO of a public relations firm that I worked for was fond of saying that a client’s new products, services or business launched when he said it launched. It didn’t matter whether the service or product or the business already existed. When our agency published a news release, reached out to the media, set up interviews for the client and obtained story coverage — that was when the service or product or the business had actually launched and not before. We set the perception and created the reality.
The same is true for your personal brand. The perception that somebody has of you becomes the reality of what they build about you. If you're perceived by others as smart, flexible, or easy to talk with — then those attributes will become part of your personal brand story.
The opposite is also true. It’s tough to overcome negative perceptions. That’s why remembering in each interaction as you're talking with people that perception equals reality is, is the number one key here.
Here’s a quick example. I have trained myself to answer client email requests with one word at the beginning of my note: “Absolutely!” Even if I may end the note with a “No, I’m sorry.” Why? Because I want clients to perceive me as responsive, not reactive. I want them to view me as a team player they can count on. If the request is something that I can commit to and complete, then my initial response will stand. If the request is something that I am unable to commit to or complete — perhaps due to a scheduling conflict or even a difference of opinion, I can shift to that in my response, like this: “However, maybe we should consider a different approach that could be more effective — and will definitely have less impact on your budget…”
#2. You Create Your Story.
The way to build your personal brand is very similar to the steps that I take when building a corporate brand story — I begin by uncovering all the abilities, capabilities, strengths, weaknesses and value that a company brings to its employees, partners and customers. You can do exactly the same thing.
What I recommend is that you grab a legal pad and jot down all those details about yourself. Make a list of all your capabilities and all your skills, list the value that you bring to the table. Get everything on paper — just your strengths, leave out your weaknesses for this exercise.
You will uncover or discover a number of things about yourself that you can begin to group together into a narrative or story. For example, I know that one of my strengths is looking at companies from different perspectives and helping find creative ways to share the value they provide their customers and how they can brand and market those strengths.
#3. Specifics Stick.
It’s much more memorable to hear a story about how you made yourself indispensable than to just say, “I’m an asset to my company.” As you begin uncovering, and listing your abilities, capabilities, skills and the value that you bring, add a second column to record specific stories supporting what you have discovered:
What were the things that you have accomplished?
What was the return on investment for your involvement?
What metrics did you use?
What companies have you worked with?
Who are the people (or titles) that you have benefited?
What are those benefits that you've provided?
In an earlier column, I called this creating and capturing stories, and this is what you are doing now. You are creating some stories about yourself and capturing stories about how you have helped others — fellow employees, partners, customers — achieve their goals. Try to capture as many details as you can. You won’t need everything, but having concrete examples is how you build a memorable story.
#4. You Need to Edit Your Story.
As you're collecting all the story information, you have to edit or curate your story to focus on the most memorable and easy to relate examples. Here are three guides:
Look for Podium Pounding Moments. Remember that scene of Khrushchev from 1960? He's taken his shoe off and he's pounding a podium in protest at the UN. Apparently, the image we’ve all seen was faked (pre-Photoshop and AI) and may not have happened the way we “remember.” However, the impact remains with us. Think about these moments for your own stories. What memorable impact can you share?
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Consider sharing your personal journey and timeline in terms of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Have you ever watched someone go through their entire life history to make a point? “Back in '94, wait, I think, no, it was '95, because my daughter was born in December.” It can be exhausting to listen to them. Instead, summarize your experiences: “I spent a dozen years as a technology journalist, then another dozen years, handling marketing and public relations. And I used those skills to create the agency that I have today, where I help tell brand stories.” Much easier and to the point.
Think in Threes. We've all seen the slide presentation with 20 bullets in 8-point type. Your story should be brief and bold. Hit the highlights and try to stick with three things. “We discovered the client had a Wi-Fi dead zone on the second floor. Turns out there was a lot of duct work causing interference. We used Cisco CleanAir Access Points to automatically change the Wi-Fi channel to operate clear of interference.”
#5. Your Story Must Be Authentic.
It should go without saying, but your story must be true and authentic. There are plenty of high-profile examples of individuals who have shared personal brand stories that — surprise — were not entirely true. People are going to check your LinkedIn profile and Google your name — just like you do.
#6. You Should Have an “X for Y” Statement.
One of the easiest types of shorthand for brands is what I call the “X for Y” statement. For example, “LinkedIn is Facebook for Business” or “Zillow is Amazon for Real Estate.” These are shorthand ways to identify the values and benefits these brands deliver by comparing them to a not-competing category brand.
This is something that VC firms often look for during a pitch. When somebody asks what I do, I will sometimes say, “I’m a brand storyteller for businesses.” Try this exercise for yourself and see if you can identify your “X for Y” statement.
#7. Consistency Counts.
We often talk about consistency when it comes to our business brands. Is the logo consistent? Is the color consistent? Is the typeface consistent? Is the trade show display consistent? Does the collateral look the same? Do the business cards look the same?
This is just as important when it comes to your personal brand story. I don’t mean that you must share the same story all the time, but when you are sharing a story or a few stories, you want to do so in the same way so they will have the same desired impact. You want to internalize the details so that you can share the story without wandering and losing the thread of your thoughts.
This can really be important in a selling situation where you might meet with one person in a group and then with another person who has questions about a story that you shared. If you concentrate on consistency, you can share the same story with your new audience and everyone will be up to speed.
#8. There Will Be Changes.
This may seem counter to my last “secret” however it is true that all stories will change over time and your personal brand story is no different. Company stories change frequently. One company acquires another, launches a new product or service, or opens a new location.
Similarly, you may be promoted, receive new awards, improve your skills, obtain additional degrees, certifications or industry credentials. This is terrific and should become a part of your personal brand story as well.
#9. WII-FM Is Always Playing.
There is a radio station that everybody is tuned into in the background when they’re supposed to be listening to you. It’s called WII-FM or “What’s In It For Me?” When you’re sharing your story, people are listening for you to say, “…and here is how this is relevant to you.” Your employees, partners and customers all want to know how your personal brand can help them solve some challenge they’re facing. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to review these “secrets” and create, capture and curate your personal brand stories. You always want to consider how you can make those stories relatable to whoever your internal or external “audience” might be.
Developing a compelling personal brand story doesn't happen overnight — it requires understanding your value, consistency in communication and an authentic narrative that resonates with your audience. Review your strengths, tie them to concrete examples and make them a significant part of your unique narrative. Being authentic is crucial as people can distinguish a genuine story from a contrived one. As your personal journey unfolds, don't fear revising your brand story to reflect your growth or new achievements. Each interaction is an opportunity to enhance your personal brand story, making sure it always answers, "What's In It For Me?" for the audience. Your personal brand story is not just about who you are, but about how you can add value to others' lives.
More articles from this author:
Arthur Germain is the principal and chief brandteller at Brandtelling. Follow him on LinkedIn. He has recently authored a book called “The Art of Brandtelling: Brand Storytelling for Business Success” available in paperback, Kindle and eBook formats. Visit https://TheArtofBrandtelling.com for information.
Read more about:VARs/SIs
About the Author(s)
You May Also Like