How To Rebrand Successfully Just Like Beyoncé

This blog post first appeared on the Huffington Post.

Can a personal brand transform successfully from one extreme to another? Beyoncé did it. She changed her personal brand identity from sex symbol to feminist. She could have lost her credibility and the trust of her loyal fan base. But it seems like she knew exactly what she was doing. She rebranded at least five times. And her fans loved it. It was an important part of Beyoncé’s branding strategy. Her fan base grew bigger and stronger because of it. How did she manage to rebrand so drastically without loosing her credibility?

This question was raised during a talk at #OnBrand17, an annual branding conference in Amsterdam. Although the list with speakers was impressive, there wasn’t a lot featured about personal branding. The only talk I could find covering it was called ‘What brands can learn from Beyonce’ by Alain Sylvain from Sylvain Labs. His talk inspired me to write this blog post about Beyoncé’s successful rebranding process.

1997 Destiny’s Child: shaping the brand

Beyoncé started her career in 1997 as the lead singer of girl band Destiny’s Child. During her time in the band, she started designing and building her personal brand. With her father being the manager and her mom the stylist, Beyonce’s brand identity started to take shape. She positioned herself as an empowered sex symbol. This especially appealed to female fans who wanted to identify themselves with her.

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2003 - Dangerously in love: taking the first steps as a solo artist

Probably the best move in Beyonce’s branding strategy was partnering up with influencial hip hop artist Jay Z. This put her on the map as a solo star. The romantic relationship between the two was kept a secret for a long time. They waited until 2004 to confirm what everyone already knew.

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2008 - Sasha Fierce: transitioning from single lady to talented performer

Beyoncé developed Sasha Fierce as an alter ego. She used her whenever she needed her. But it was also a way to slowly shake off her sexual image and brand herself more as the talented and hard-working performer with a fantastic voice.

2010 - RIP Sasha Fierce: loosing the sex symbol image

In 2010, Beyonce declared Sasha Fierce dead. She no longer needed to hide behind her alter ego, who according to her, had nothing to do with who she is in real life. “I don’t need Sasha Fierce anymore, because I’ve grown and now I’m able to merge the two,” she explained.

2013 - Mrs. Carter: becoming a wife and a mother

A few years after she married Jay Z, Beyoncé announced she was pregnant of her first child. She revealed her pregnancy ‘en plein public’ at the end of her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. After she dropped her mic, she unbuttoned her jacket and rubbed her belly. The internet exploded over the news. A new brand identity - Mrs. Carter - was born and Beyoncé again exploited it by creating a campaign and tour around it.

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2016 - Bee: being an icon and a role model

There is a time limit on being a pop star and Beyoncé knew that. During an interview with Marie Claire U.K. back in 2008, she said: “I’m over being a pop star. I don’t wanna be a hot girl—I wanna be iconic. I feel like there comes a point when being a pop star is not enough.” She realized that, to become an icon, she had to step up and act like one. That’s exactly what she did. She became a symbol for the new feminism, supports movements like ‘Black Lives Matter’ and donated millions to the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, her home town.

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As you can see, Beyoncé rebranded at least five times. She managed to do that and keep her credibility. There are five lessons we can learn from her successful rebranding process.

Lesson 1: Don’t rush it

Rebranding from sex symbol to activist and philantropist is not done overnight. In fact, Beyoncé spent twenty years to do it. She developed five successful brand identities over the years.

  • 1997 - 2002 Sex Symbol
  • 2002 - 2008 Single Lady
  • 2008 - 2013 Wife and Mother
  • 2013 - 2016 Feminist
  • 2016 - now Activist and Philantropist

Lesson 2: Be authentic

Over the years, Beyoncé shared more authentic content - like behind the scenes images - on social media. And her music became more authentic. Where it was R&B, pop and hip hop in the past, her album now covers a variety of genres such as funk, soul, blues, reggae, country, rock and gospel.

Lesson 3: Be frugal

At the beginning of her career, Beyoncé’ s private life was off-limits. Over time, she allowed her personal life to become more public. At one point she even made her family life her new defining feature. But again, she did not rush it. Yes, she gave us more insight in her personal life, but she took her time and didn’t reveal everything at once.

Lesson 4: Be intentional

Beyonce has a great sense for what is happening in the world - especially the world of branding. We no longer live in a time where we want things to be forced and scripted. It is about bringing value and being real. Beyoncé gets that. She is the early adopter by intention.

Lesson 5: Stay humble

We are no longer impressed by celebs who present a ‘perfect picture’. We want to see their human side by learning about their personal struggles. Adele was open about the anxiety attacks she suffers from before she has to go on stage. Taylor Swift shared details about her sexual assult case and Lady Gaga confessed being bullied ‘for being ugly’ when she was younger. Beyoncé shared her family struggles such as miscarriage and infidelity.

Beyoncé proves that it is possible to transform a personal brand dramatically. But if you want to be successful, you have to take a few things into account. Don’t rush it, take risks, stay humble and authentic. Oh yeah, last but not least, Beyoncé seems to be able to predict the future. So find yourself a cristal ball and get going!

Branding and Content Marketing: Ingredients for a Strong Brand

Did you know that every second, about 60 hours of video content is uploaded on YouTube? And that there are about 2 million blog posts published every day? All of this online noise makes it more difficult to reach the right audience online. On top of that, people are becoming increasingly critical about the content they consume. So, how can you position your brand to stand out from the crowd?

Dare to be different

Strong brands like Coca Cola, Nike and Spotify are successful because they dare to be different in both their brand and their message. We use the following unique mix of ingredients to build a strong brand:

  1. Authentic value: what makes you or your brand unique, real and genuine;

  2. Value proposition: what makes your story unique compared to someone who does exactly the same (work);

  3. Interested audience: a group of people who share the same needs, interests, problems and frustrations;

  4. Effective medium: a combination of the right channels and resources to spread your message.

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We use content marketing to shape these branding ingredients. Content marketing is the creation and distribution of online marketing material (such as blogs, video’s, social media posts) in which the brand itself is not explicitly promoted but the content is valuable and relevant to the audience that consumes it. This powerful tool originated from the fact that, because of technological development, people are able to choose what content they want to consume nowadays. It all started with one simple invention - the remote control.    

Power to the people

In 1989, Nikola Tesla invented the remote- controlled boat. About 60 years later the remote control was first being used in US households. This invention made it possible for people to decide themselves what they wanted to consume on TV for the first time.  

Due to the rise of  the remote control, marketers could reach their audience with segmented messages. Back then in the day, there were just a few channels to choose from which made it quite easy to reach a specific audience with advertising. Nowadays, TV is losing popularity. The way people consume information shifts more and more to ‘on demand’ and online video. A study conducted by Cisco shows that the amount of consumed video content will increase even more in the next couple of years. It’s expected that by 2019, video content is 80% of all internet traffic. No wonder more marketers are aiming for channels like YouTube and Vimeo. They reduce their TV-budgets and invest annually 43% more into online video content.

The problem is that there are so many other channels and social media outlets, it is getting harder to find the right people. How do you make sure you reach the right people? A few tips.

Be memorable

Brands stand out when their message is different from what their audience would expect. They need to find a way to be memorable to their specific audience and stay true to their authentic brand at the same time.

Create valuable content

The time of boosting about the greatness of your brand is over. If you want to be noticed online, your content needs to be interesting and valuable for your audience. Because they now decide if your content is interesting enough to like, share or interact with.  

Know your audience

To find out what valuable content means to your audience, you have to know their needs, interests, frustrations and problems. To discover that, you can look for your content that resonates with your audience. Especially momentum is important. People don’t want to be interrupted by content anymore. Another strategy is to look for content that evokes resistance like the use of traditional advertisements such as banners, sponsored messages and (moving) pop-up screens. An increasing amount of people gets annoyed by this type of content.

Branding and Content Marketing: a successful business case

A great example where branding and content marketing are succesfully combined  is a campaign designed by Jasper van Zandbeek. He was assigned to put the city of Eindhoven and Strijp- S on the map and reach a larger (inter-)national audience. He created a campaign, called ‘AnOther Citytrip, focused on men and women between the ages of 25 and 45 years old. The most effective medium to reach this group of people appeared to be Instagram. This audience was strongly represented on this platform and the daily user density was high.

That’s why an influencer campaign was set up through Instagram, in which 18 relatively unknown (inter-)national Instagramers, took part. They shared pictures of the most famous places in the city (in the categories food, fashion and general) with their followers, so they could experience the energy of the city, in 24 hours. Content was shared by these so called ‘influencers’ at the same time but independently from each other, so they could tag each other to reach a bigger audience.

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For this campaign, the ingredients for a strong brand have been cleverly executed. Content marketing was used to put the city on the map as a hot touristic hotspot. It looks something like this:

1. Authentic value: What makes your brand unique, real and genuine

Eindhoven is the city where technology, design and knowledge come together which creates a unique and creative energy.

2. Value proposition: What makes your story unique in addition to someone who does the exact same thing (work)

Other (city)branding campaigns often use a top-down approach in which the content is being determined in advance. Eindhoven wanted people to experience for themselves how design, technology and knowledge come together in the streets, hotels, restaurants, studios and shops of the city.

3. Interested audience: A group of people who share the same interests, frustrations, problems or needs

Men and women between the ages of 25 and 45 who are interested in food, fashion, travel and lifestyle want to discover all the new / still relatively unknown places.

4. Effective medium: Choose the right channels and resources to share your message

(Inter)national Instagramers experienced and shared the energy of the city in 24 hours with their following.

In this case, the approach to combine branding with content marketing turned out to be the key to success. The expected impressions of this campaign were 6.5 times higher and the engagement ratio was also 4% higher than previously aimed for.  

Conclusion

Content marketing is an effective way to position your brand effectively and to reach your ideal audience. Especially in the current era where ‘old school’ marketing tools, such as ads, are becoming less effective. Due to the increasing amount of (online) content, it’s important to create and provide different but relevant and valuable content if you want to get noticed by your audience. After all, they are the ones to decide if your content is interesting or not.

 

 

Personal Branding: This Is How Google Shows Who You Really Are

Nowadays, we search and review people online. This 'Google test' helps us evaluate people, despite if we ever met this person.  Especially when we can’t find anything online or even worse, when we find negative things. In this blog you’ll find out what ‘test’ Google runs to evaluate the quality of websites.

I describe the similarities between this test and the real life opinions people have. You also read what you can do to influence your Google search results positively. Without you being aware, Google can show someone, that doesn't reflect you. So, make sure, you know what people find about you and that it reflects the real you. The good news is that there’s a step-by-step plan you can follow to pass this Google-test with glance.

Let’s google

Let’s say you want to create a new website and you are looking for a great web designer. What are you going to do? In most cases you ask colleagues, friends, acquaintances and family members if they can recommend someone. Friend A, Acquaintance B and Family member C all recommend someone else. They probably give you a first and last name.

What are you going to do next? You google this person for information. The results you find combined with the recommendationwill make you decide whether you want to do business or not.

Google can't find anything on the recommendation of Friend A. The recommendation of Acquaintance B is a bit unclear because this person takes pictures, writes copy, teaches painting workshops and designs websites once in a while. So, is this person really a professional web designer? You decide to google the third recommendation as well. Now, you get a clear LinkedIn profile, this person lives nearby, is specialized in SEO and creates websites for companies in the creative industry, which look great. This is the person you were looking for! This proofs that running a Google test is useful and that it can provide you customers.

The Google test

Google developed a test to evaluate the quality of websites. They wrote this test down in the Google Quality Rating Guidelines. It’s the Google Handbook that trains people how Google’s algorithm succeeds in rating the quality of websites. Google wants people to focus on three quality requirements: expertise, authority and trustworthiness, together called EAT.

Expertise: People want to do business with people that know what they are talking about.

Authority: This is a higher level of expertise. You can be an expert on a certain topic, but still people might never heard of you. When people listen to you, recommend you and share your vision, you are officially an authority in your field.

Trustworthiness: It takes time to trust someone, so you have to earn this trust, just like in the offline world. That’s why it’s important to take your time to build your online personal brand, so you can develop it steadily. Once you’ve earned the trust , people will put you on their shortlist much faster. The need to replace you for someone else decreases.

High quality websites

Google recognizes high quality websites on a couple of distinctive features. These features answer reader’s questions, provide useful information, contain links and trustworthy resources and create an engaged audience.

What Google does to determine the quality of websites comes close to how we, in real life decide if we work with someone or not.

 Source: Quandra Adams

Source: Quandra Adams

How you can pass the Google test

How do you make sure you pass the Google test yourself? You can use the old sales rule ‘know, like, trust’. When people really know you, like you and trust you, they are open to your offer. The above image shows this very clear. It tells you which questions we ask ourselves when we evaluate someone online.

Step 1 'Know' – Start branding yourself

Questions the ‘searcher’ asks him-/herself:

  • Who is this person?
  • What does this person?
  • What does this person has to offer me?

First, it’s important to be found. That’s why people find search engine optimization (SEO) so important. It doesn’t mean you have to run a complete SEO campaign. You can start with the following things:

- Use Content Marketing: Create and distribute valuable and relevant content

Content Marketing offers huge opportunities to show your expertise. There are many different ways to tackle this. This confuses people and that's why they don’t know where to start. How can you convey your message best? With blogs, video’s, infographics, webinars, and podcasts? And which platform(s) are you going to use to distribute it? Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Google+, Periscope, YouTube et cetera. The trick is to keep an eye on your audience, what platform(s) they use and what kind of content they prefer to consume.

- Publish your content on a successful medium  

Create a list of blogs, publications and media outlets that aim at the same audience as you. Why do you want to be mentioned in their medium? Why do you want to create content for this medium? What do they get in return? A collaboration is only interesting when it adds value for all the involved parties (for you, the platform or medium outlet and their audience).

Step 2 - 'Like'- Increase your like factor

Questions the ‘searcher’ asks him-/herself:

  • Do I like this person?
  • Does the story trigger me?

This doesn’t mean you have to please everyone. The only thing that matters is that you’re desired audience likes you and your story. So:

- Be authentic

Be yourself for 100 percent. We are all unique, so you are your own unique selling point (USP). Share your interests and believes. This may sound familiar, but being authentic is harder than you think. It’s easy for people to portray someone they’re not, especially online. Sooner or later, the online and offline will meet. Then, people find out who you really are.  So, avoid bluffing, duplication and overly optimistic behavior.

- Show your human side

People are strongly drawn to other people. We even tend to see faces in lifeless objects. This phenomenon is called pareidolia. We project our human attributes on objects. No wonder, we talk about ‘humanizing brands’, brand personalities and social brand names. So, give your name a face! How visible are you right now? Are there any search results online that display a face to your name? Maybe a photo when you google yourself? How compelling and recent is that photo?

Step 3 - 'Trust'- Don’t forget about trustworthiness

Questions the ‘searcher’ asks him-/herself:

  • Is this person an expert?
  • Can this person help me?
  • Does this person helped others successfully?

What can you do when the searcher finds various people that meet the expectations? How does this person decide with whom he/she does business? This often depends on the perception of the searcher wether someone is trustworthy or not. To make sure the searcher has enough information to make a decision, you can do the following things:

- Share your best work

Did you ever get something for free, and thought: “I’m curious what this person would give me if I paid hem/her?”. That’s the idea. Don’t be afraid to share important, high quality information and resources. Whatever it is you give away, make sure your audience finds it valuable.

- Be consistent

Whatever you do to increase your online visibility, make sure you're consistent. Publish and communicate the same topics or theme’s related to each other. Stay true to your area of expertise and don’t change your point of view all the time. Repeating your message increases your trustworthiness. That’s how people evaluate if your sincere or not.

- Be generous and thankful

Engage your audience with your work and build online and offline relationships. Talk with other people and share their content. Show your greatful for every milestone. A simple ‘Thank you’ can help a lot!

Step 4 - 'Conversation'- Be reachable

Questions the ‘searcher’ asks him-/herself:

  • How can I reach this person?
  • How are we going to start?

The searcher chose to work with you, or at least contact you. It annoys the searcher when he/she can't find your contact information. It’s reason for someone to choose for someone else instead of you.

- Make your email address visible

Make sure your email address is visible so the searcher knows he’s emailing the right person. Many people use ‘info’ in their email address. A disadvantage is that the sender doesn’t know if his/her email ends up with the right person. Do you only use a contact form on your website? Many people leave your website because of the same reason. So we recommend you to mention your email address in your LinkedIn profile or, if applicable, add it to your contact page on your website.

- Be verifiable

If you have a name that occurs often, it’s advisable to add some additional information. In that way doesthe searcher know he/she reaches out to the right person. You can add a (profile) picture, a company name or information about your location.

-     Ungoogle yourself

Do search results appear that don’t match your desired online reputation? You don’t have to reach out to Google to remove those search results. Google rarely removes content, only if it violates their own terms. In most cases, you can contact the administrator of the webpage where you found the search result you want to remove. Tell them what the content is about, where you found it and that you want to remove it. This information will then be removed in Google and the webpage where you found it.  

Do you publish content you rather not want Google to find it? Like a hobby that has nothing to do with your online reputation? Than you can use the following HTML-metatag: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow” />  Be aware that, whatever you do online, nothing is completely secret.

Control your online reputation

So, there are things you can do to pass the Google test. It’s best to repeat the steps on a regular basis, because the online world changes rapidly. In this way, you can better control your online reputation. If needed, you can intervene in time.   

I’m curious for your thoughts. Have you found something about yourself you weren’t happy with. How did you solve it? What did you do to influence the search results about yourself? What works best for you and what didn’t?

Photo: 123RF

Why You Should Start Building Your Personal Brand

In an effort to get customer’s attention, companies continuously invest in flashy ads and smart marketing campaigns. Today, we’re becoming less tolerant when it comes to conventional ads. Our trust in companies has decreased the last decades considerably. Companies are looking for ways to respond to this ‘anti-corporate’ trend.

Most people think of branding, as a company logo, a slogan, website or company brochure that summarizes all the amazing products/services the company has to offer. They especially mention why you should choose them over their competitors. Many people are bored with this, because we are perfectly able to make choices ourselves.

Why we trust people instead of companies

For years, we are bombarded with ads such as billboards, radio, tv- and online newspapers and magazines as spam in our mailbox on a daily basis. Companies constantly try to persuade you, everywhere you go. We have lost trust and sincerity in companies because of this overkill in ads and tend to believe that companies make offers only to sell more. That’s why we trust people much more than companies. So, it’s not surprising that Michael Brenner and the Content Marketing Institute predict ‘ad blocking’ as the most important content marketing trend of 2016.

Look at the picture below. What do you see?

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Of course, it’s an American electric socket, but I bed you saw a human face in it that also suggests emotion. Is it astonishment? Fear? Scientists call this phenomenon pareidolia; the continuous tendency to see human faces in all kinds of objects.  As human beings we are strongly drawn to other people, so we project human attributes on non-human things. That’s how trends like humanizing brands, brand personalities and social brand names have risen.

The rise of Business Celebs

Personal branding becomes increasingly important. So the stronggrowth of business celebs of the last couple of years isn’t surprising. Also  increasingly more CEO’s and politicians are developing their brand by showing their ‘human’ side. It also works the other way around, because business people and entrepreneurs have developed a personal brand that’s now one of their most valuable assets. What’s Virgin without Richard Branson, Disney without Walt and Apple without Steve Jobs? Neil Patel, a successful internet entrepreneur shares how he earns millions with his personal brand each year in one of his blogs.

So there is a strong correlation between success and personal branding. By creating a strong personal brand it’s possible to position yourself as a go-to expert. This image boost creates new opportunities and chances for everyone, not just CEO’s, entrepreneurs and politicians. A strong personal brand can have a positive influence on your career.

 “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room,” says the founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos.

And that’s exactly how it works. Names are easier to remember when you have a face with it. Let’s say, you are looking for a web designer to create a new website for you. What are you going to do? You ask your friends, acquaintances and family if they can recommend someone.

Friend A, Acquaintance B and Family member C all recommend someone else. In most cases you’ll get a first and last name of this person.

Next, you’re going to google this person for information. The result you get, plus the recommendation of your acquaintance will decide if this person can make you an offer or not.

Google doesn’t find anything on the recommendation of friend A. The recommendation of acquaintance B is unclear because you see that this person is a photographer, writes copy, teaches paining workshops and designs websites once in a while. You google the third person as well and find a very clear LinkedIn profile. This person also lives in the neighborhood, is specialized in SEO and creates websites for companies in the creative industry that look very nice! It’s exactly what you’re looking for! So, a good (online) reputation does provide you customers!

The purpose of online personal branding

The above example shows the importance of (online) personal branding, because it shows that you’ll choose someone you feel comfortable with, such as a web designer, despite his/her company name, right? People buy from people they trust instead of companies. So, people better know who you are. John Rampton shares in his blog on Forbes 5 reasons for CEO’s to promote their personal brand:

1.     Distinguish yourself from others;

2.    Attract the right customers, clients and employees;

3.    Position yourself as a leader/expert within your niche;

4.    It shows where you stand for;

5.    It decreases negative search results.

How does your digital footprint look like?

Do you know what people find about you online? Google yourself to find out. If you already did, what did you find? What did you think of your digital footprint? It’s the only way in which people will see you these days. Your online personality is defined by your online content, brand and persona. The advantage is that you can influence your digital footprint all by yourself. The first thing Google, in most cases, displays, when you type in a name, is a LinkedIn profile and/or your Twitter account. LinkedIn is like a ‘personal website’. It’s the first page people click to find information about you. The great advantage is that you can decide yourself what content you display on your LinkedIn profile!

When you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, it’s good to create one. You can add blogs, photo’s, designs, links, video’s and recommendations in addition to the general profile attributes. That’s how you can distinguish yourself. Also add a link to your website, but make sure LinkedIn only displays who you are. Display what you do or your team does on your company page. We recommend you to fill out your LinkedIn profile as much as possible for the best results. Then, visitors will get a complete picture of you and you also score high in search results. Make sure you add a recent and compelling picture of yourself, because profiles without a (recent) profile photo are perceived less reliable.

Google will EAT you!

The EAT Acronym comes from the Google Quality Rating Guidelines, the Google Handbook that trains people to decide how Google’s algorithm succeeds in rating the quality of websites. Google wants people to focus on three quality requirements: expertise, authority and trustworthiness.

Expertise: People want to do business with people that know what they are talking about.

Authority: This is a higher level of expertise. You can be an expert on a certain topic, but nobody knows you. When people listen to you, recommend you and share your vision, you’ve officially an authority in your field.

Trustworthiness: It takes time to trust someone, so you have to earn this trust, just as in the offline world. That’s why it’s important to take your time to build your online personal brand, so you can develop it steadily. Once you’ve earned the trust from someone, they’ll put you on their shortlist much faster. The need to replace you for someone else decreases.

So what Google does to determine the quality of websites comes close to how we rate someone in real life.

Don’t forget your company website

Your company probably has a company website. That’s good, but have you looked at it critically? On your website you mention what you do. It’s important, because of the EAT Acronym, to integrate an ‘about me’ or ‘about us’ page for more information about yourself or your team. Did you know that the ‘about’ page is the most visited page on a website after the homepage? Although it’s important to distinguish who you are (LinkedIn) and what you have to offer (website), it’s useful to write short copy on who you are on your website (including a recent profile picture), what drives you and how you add value to the team and organization. This makes it easier for your audience to recognize themselves in you. Make sure this copy matches your LinkedIn profile.

Spoiler alert: Building a personal brand takes time!

A personal brand is like a garden. Once you have laid the foundation and planted the seeds, the real work begins. It takes quite some effort and commitment to grow you brand and reap the benefits. When you continuously let your personal brand develop, put consistently time and effort in, focus on the response of your audience and sharpen your focus, you steadily see results.

Virgin CEO Richard Branson explains it as follows: “Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.”

Also Neil Patel writes about this aspect in his blog: “Let me tell you that it is hard and time-consuming. You can’t expect wonders if you aren’t willing to put in the effort. Plus, you can’t expect results right away. It will take 6 months to a year of hard work to start seeing results.”

It was never more easy to share your name and story to create (online) connections and build relationships. Your company name may change, but your own name stays the same your whole life. An online personal brand is a valuable digital asset and footprint that continues to exist after your current job and career.

You can document ‘your’ intellectual property. It might be possible for Google to still index your name in a 100 years. This means your digital identity outlives your real life identity.

I have showed you in this blog what personal branding is, why it’s important for you and how you can create yours. I’m curious if you are busy building your personal brand and if there are things you find difficult. What’s your opinion?

Why Personal Branding Is Important for Designers

A while ago we conducted a survey among female entrepreneurs for marketing in the design industry. This survey showed that the respondents are rather reluctant in branding themselves. When we talked with them about this they thought they were the only ones that struggled with developing their brand. One of the respondents said: ‘In the past I could only show my portfolio and I could do my job. Now, there’s a lot more competition so I have to show who I am and what I’m capable of. It’s completely new to me’.  So, as a designer it’s increasingly important to show people your expertise. To do it right, you don’t only have to show your portfolio, but also your authentic self!

Why personal branding works

Imagine, you want to create a new website and are looking for a good web designer. What are you going to do? You ask friends, acquaintances and family if they can recommend someone. Friend A, Acquaintance B and Family Member C all recommend someone else. In most cases they’ll give you a first and last name. Sometimes, they’ll give you a company name. What are you going to do then? You’ll google the first and last name of the person to find some information about him/her. You combine this information with the recommendation you got of him/her and decide to do business or not. Google doesn’t find anything on the recommendation of Friend A. You only find unclear information about the recommendation of Acquaintance B, because the only thing you find is that this person is a photographer in his/her spare time, writes copy, teaches painting workshops and designs websites ones in a while. So, is this person a good web designer? You decide to google the third person also. A clear Linkedn profile appears, he/she is located in the area and specialized in SEO and designing websites for companies in the creative industry. It’s exactly what you’re looking for! This proofs that (online) branding provides you customers!

The purpose of peronal branding

The above example shows how important (online) personal branding is. You choose someone you feel comfortable with. Despite the company name isn’t it? People buy from people they trust instead of companies. So they better know who you are.

According to Roberto Blake, a graphic designer himself (who also has a successful blog and video's on YouTube) describes personal branding as follows: ‘Your brand is what people think and say about you. It is the values that are associated with you and what you do or provide’.

By branding yourself, people get to know you. There are several ways in which you can do this. In the above video Roberto Blake explains how he addresses it. By writing a blog or creating a video that contains content about his work. The most important thing is that you create content with which you feel comfortable and love to do,  so you can show your authentic self.

How do you do it?

It’s important develop an authentic personal brand. Being yourself is very important. There are four things you can do:

1.     Use your own name as your brand name;

2.     Google your own name;

3.     Create a professional LinkedIn profile;

4.     Add an ‘about me’ page to your website.

Use your own name as your brand name

When people google you after a recommendation, they most likely use your first name and last name to find information about you. Especially when you work as a freelancer you could (partly) use your name as your company name. This increases the online searches and visibility and helps you to become your own brand!

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Secondly, you could measure your ‘brand status’ by googling yourself. The results you get are the same as the results your audience will see. You can ask yourself the following questions:

·       Am I satisfied with the results I get? No, how does this effect my online brand?

·       Am I (online) visible enough? A. Can people find enough information about my expertise? B. Aren’t there too much irrelevant search results?

·       Do these search results match my brand? No, what causes it and how can I change it?

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When you can answer the above questions with ‘yes’ your developing your brand pretty well. When you answered ‘no’ to more than one question, you have to take a critical look at your brand.

Ceate a professional LinkedIn profile

The first thing Google displays when you type your name is your LinkedIn profile and/or your Twitter account. LinkedIn is like a ‘personal website’. It’s the first page people click to find information about you. A big advantage is that you can influence this page all by yourself!

So it’s good to create a LinkedIn profile, when you don’t have it yet. Besides general information you can also add blogs, photo’s, designs, links, video’s and recommendations. It helps you to distinguish yourself from others. Also add a link to your website, but make sure your LinkedIn profile only displays who you are. You can better display your work on your website. Fill out your LinkedIn profile as much as you can, because this generates the best results. This makes it easier for people to picture you and your profile will show up in more searches. Use recent and compelling photos of yourself. Profiles without photos look unreliable.

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Add an ‘about me’ page on your website

You probably already have your own website. Have you looked at it critical lately? The aim of your website is to mention what you do. You can for example create a portfolio of your designs. What you really need to do is creating an ‘about me’ page. Did you know that it’s the most visited page of your website after the ‘homepage’. Although it’s important to distinguish who you are (LinkedIn) and your expertise (website), it’s still useful to create an ‘about me’ page (including a recent photo) on which you write short copy of what drives you. This makes it easier for your audience to recognize themselves in you. Make sure your brand on your website matches your LinkedIn profile.

In this blog I showed you what personal branding is, why it’s important for you as a designer and how you can create your personal brand. I’m curious to what extend you’re developing a personal brand and what makes creating a personal brand difficult.