We have been taking an in-depth look at a variety of personal branding strategies  over the past several months. Today we are going to take a step back and review the basics of personal branding.
The idea is simple. Personal branding  seeks to shape the way an individual is perceived by his or her audience, whoever that audience may be. That typically includes seeking to brand oneself as an expert in a particular field. It should also include efforts to make the individual stand out from the crowd--this is often done by highlighting hobbies or unique talents.
The first step is defining your brand. This means sitting down and setting your goals--how do you want to be perceived? Obviously the answer to this question depends on the market you are targeting. It doesn’t do a marketing guru any good to brand himself as an accounting prodigy. If you provide support services to restaurants, for example, you’ll want your brand to be relevant to restaurant owners and managers. At this phase it is also important to identify your points of differentiation--how can you separate yourself from the competition? There may be plenty of marketers out there--but how many are there that specialize specifically in marketing for small accounting firms?
Once you have identified your area of expertise, you next need to figure out how to make your brand memorable. This can often be done by highlighting aspects of your personality--maybe you have a great sense of humor, or are a passionate sports fan. Highlight a trait or an ability that will help your brand stick in the mind of your audience.
Now that you have identified the brand you are seeking to build, the next step is creating and implementing a plan. There are nearly infinite choices when it comes to tactics for building a strong brand, including media campaigns, networking, and your social media presence. Carefully evaluate your options and settle on the approach that will best suit your brand.
The final, ongoing stage consists of review and adjustment. After you launch your campaign, regularly assess the effectiveness of your efforts. Be aware of your market--many people fail to pay enough attention to their market and end up building a brand that doesn’t resonate with their market the way they expected it to. At this point, you are like a pilot guiding his plane in for a landing. As the wind and other factors change, you need to make tiny adjustments to keep your brand on track. Don’t overreact--simply make the necessary adjustments as you grow your brand.
Personal branding  is not a difficult concept to grasp. Basically, you want to be known as an expert in your area of expertise, and you want to stand out in the minds of your audience. Accomplishing that goal takes understanding of your market, your target customers, and of effective tactics for building your brand. And it takes commitment. So get started now.
JW Dicks (@jwdicks) & Nick Nanton (@nicknanton) are best-selling authors who consult for small- and medium-sized businesses on how to build their business through Personality Driven Marketing, Personal Brand Positioning, Guaranteed Media, and Mining Hidden Business Assets. They offer free articles, white papers, and case studies at their Web site. Jack and Nick have been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Newsweek, FastCompany.com, and many more media outlets.
[Image: Flickr user tanakawho ]