Personal branding is a constant process with no particular start and end date. That is because the reputation you have in the eyes of people in your network shifts and evolves over time based on a host of different elements, some of which you can’t always control, like the first impression someone has of you when they come across one of your marketing channels online.
However, this can be influenced to a degree through the process of personal branding, which is the act of being intentional about managing your online presence and influencing the reputation you have among peers. Personal brands can be crafted to help put your best foot forward, give yourself the best chance of creating a positive reputation in your industry, grow an audience, and achieve professional goals.
To be measured and strategic in this process, a helpful activity is conducting a personal brand audit.
A personal brand audit is the process of assessing the key aspects of your personal brand and identifying what you are doing well, and what areas need improvement.
Personal brand audits are similar to a business brand audit, which is a practice corporate marketing teams engage in frequently to update their brand messaging, update creative assets, and ensure their brand is properly represented on the various marketing channels that they use. Business brand audits involve refreshing company and product messaging, updating design elements like logos and graphics, and evaluating performance and content strategy on marketing channels like social media.
A personal brand audit involves those same steps, as it entails assessing the foundations of your personal brand—like your goals, key messages, target audience, and your profiles and content on the marketing channels you use to build your audience.
While all personal brand audits assess the same general set of characteristics, to make this process simple we’ve grouped theses characteristics into four key areas that we will cover in this blog post:
This is an evaluation of the foundation for your personal brand: assessing what your goals are, what you primarily want to talk about, and to whom you’re speaking in terms of your target audience.
Having these strategic elements in place informs the rest of your personal branding activities, like creating content and selecting marketing channels.
Having the north star identified for your personal brand is important, because it drives your decision making and can help you prioritize. When auditing your personal brand goals, you should first be checking to see if you have any in mind to begin with.
As a first step in evaluating your personal brand, think about what outcomes you hope to achieve from building a personal brand. Write these down, display them at your workstation, or add them to your project management software. Having these in mind will help guide your decision making and execution as you work on your brand over time.
Also, setting mini goals that lead up to your desired long term outcomes is a helpful practice. For example, if your personal brand goal is to grow your Twitter audience by 1,000 followers, try setting mini goals of publishing two Tweets per day. This is an example of a tangible mini goal that is easily measurable, and will lead to achieving your long term goal.
To complete this step of the personal brand audit, review your personal brand goals if you already have them, ensure they are still what you desire to accomplish, and measure your progress on your goals to-date. If you do not yet have any personal brand goals, spend time thinking about them and create a clear set of goals.
Personal brand attributes are the characteristics that make a personal brand unique. The broad categories of personal brand attributes include the tone with which someone communicates, the visual style of content they create, the values they stand for, and the underlying mission, goals, and vision that drives their personal branding efforts.
For example, Gary Vaynerchuk’s personal brand attributes include approachability, a strong work ethic, being innovative and forward thinking, and being inspirational for his followers— these attributes come through clearly in all of the content Vaynerchuk creates, on the way he presents himself on his social media channels, and the way he carries himself in person.
If you have yet to determine your personal brand attributes, think about the characteristics you’d like to be associated with, and that best match your personality and character traits. Are you humorous? Do you enjoy teaching and helping others? Are you inspirational and an outside of the box thinker? Aligning on a handful of these characteristics will serve as a guide for the way you create content, communicate, and make decisions about your personal brand and what it represents.
Brand strategists Kelly Fiance does a great explanation of how personal brand attributes serve as a guide for your personal brand in this TikTok video. She discusses how picking your “brand words,” which is another term for brand attributes, and using them in decision making makes personal branding easier. That is because when you go to create a piece of content, design a graphic, or create a product you can ask yourself “do this fit my brand words.”
Checking in on your niche topic and target audience is another important aspect of a personal brand audit.
Some people choose to start creating content about a variety of topics to hone in on what they like to talk about, and what resonates with people in order to figure out their niche. Others like to set out with a clearly defined target audience and subject matter that they want to be known for.
Both paths are great, and regardless of which you choose, it’s a good idea to evaluate your niche topic and target audience from time to time. Ask yourself questions like:
Take a look at the best content you’ve created recently and the community members you’ve engaged with and determine if the niche you originally set out to focus on is still the one you want to focus on. If it is, then great, keep going. If it’s not, you have the opportunity to adjust and focus a percentage of time on other topics, or change your primary topic altogether if your assessment determines a bigger change in strategy is needed.
After assessing your personal brand’s strategy, it’s time to audit the assets you use to execute on that strategy. There are several foundation assets that you will use across personal brand channels to communicate who you are, what you do, and convey your personal brand’s attributes. These include your personal brand statement, your headshot, and visual branding.
When conducting a personal brand audit, a personal brand statement is a key piece of content to review.
A personal brand statement is a sentence (or series of sentences) that clearly communicates who you are, what you do, and the value people can expect from you. Your personal brand statement serves two key purposes:
To offer an example, here is prominent writer and content creator Niharikaa Kaur Sodhi’s personal brand statement:
“I help writers become consistent & get traction via my CBC, Summit 21. 23x Medium Top Writer | LinkedIn Top Voice” - Niharikaa Kaur Sodhi
Kaur Sodhi’s personal brand statement leads with the value she offers to her target audience or writers, and follows it up with social proof of how she delivers that value, like being a top writer on Medium and LinkedIn where she offers advice to content creators.
To assess your personal brand statement, check to see if it accomplishes those same goals— does it clearly define your target audience (to whom you deliver value)? Does it explain the value you deliver to your audience? Does it offer social proof of your credibility? And if you don’t have a personal brand statement yet, write one for the first time by following similar examples and steps.
Every so often it's a good practice to go back and evaluate your personal brand statement to see if it still communicates the key elements of your brand.
Your personal brand photography is another key asset to evaluate in a personal brand audit.
Ensuring you have a current headshot representative of the vibe you want your personal brand to have, and also ensuring it is the headshot you use across channels is important. This will give your brand consistency, and serve as a recognizable asset that people associate you with no matter what channel they are on.
The example above of Vaynerchuk’s headshot subtly conveys attributes from his personal brand. Vaynerchuk is approachable, responding to as many comments as he can from his audience. He also communicates in a casual, deliberately raw and unpolished way. The casual nature of his headshot with the backwards hat and smile aligns with these attributes. Whereas a serious, formal headshot would be a mismatch for his personal brand.
As Kelly Fiance suggests, using your personal brand words (attributes) and checking to see if your headshot matches them is a good way to evaluate your headshot to see if it is on brand for you.
Update your personal brand headshot every so often to be sure it is current, and aligned to your brand. And if you don’t have a headshot yet, now is the time to have one taken, or take your own.
In addition to your headshot, there are other visual assets that contribute to your personal brand. Assets like your cover photo on social media channels, and graphics you share on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, your website, or your newsletter all contribute to your personal brand’s aesthetic.
For example, in the image above of Vaynerchuk’s Twitter profile, his cover image has the black and green font colors he uses on his personal website and other social channels. It also features fun images of NFTs from his NFT collection, which is an aspect of his personal brand. Vaynerchuk’s cover image is consistent with his other channels, and also matches the casual, energetic nature of his personal band.
Think about the colors, fonts, and types of images you use in these graphics. When you evaluate them, are they consistent? Do they match your personal brand’s attributes? These types of questions will determine whether your current approach to graphics and photography assets is on point, or whether you need to make an adjustment.
If you are making an adjustment to your personal brand graphics, keep those factors in mind. And if you are creating personal brand graphics for the first time, experiment with different styles until you find one that feels like it matches your brand words.
Now that you’ve assessed your personal brand strategy and core personal brand assets like messaging and visuals, it’s time to audit your personal brand channels.
The first thing you should do when it comes to the channels step in your personal brand audit is taking a look at your best personal brand channel, or deciding what that channel will be if you are just getting started.
Choosing a personal brand channel for the first time
If you are choosing your first personal brand channel, we advise people to pick a channel based on two key factors:
For more information on picking a primary personal brand channel, check out our personal branding action plan.
Assessing your best existing personal brand channel
If you already have one primary personal brand channel, which is what many creators advise you start to with vs. trying to create on too many channels at once, you should evaluate it across several factors:
After auditing your primary personal brand channel, you should follow the same steps for your supplemental channels. For example, if your primary channel is LinkedIn and you also create content on Facebook, evaluate Facebook by the came criteria you did for your LinkedIn presence.
Your secondary channels should have branding that matches your primary channel and a consistent cadence of content publishing and audience engagement. If you are struggling to keep up with supplemental channels, consider cutting back and doubling down on your primary channel.
The rule of thumb with both corporate and personal branding is to focus on doing one channel well instead of being inconsistent on multiple channels. But as your personal brand grows, you have the opportunity to consider expanding your efforts to other channels.
At this stage of your personal brand audit, you should evaluate whether or not you have the capacity to start growth on another channel, or if you should consider focusing on your primary channel and scaling it. If you do decide you’re ready to expand your efforts, look for other channels that your audience uses, and where your content creation skills will translate well to the platform.
For example, Dulma saw initial success on TikTok and later expanded to other channels like starting a podcast and developing a presence on Twitter.
A tip for starting to build a presence on another platform is to repurpose content. If you write blog posts, for example, take excerpts from your blogs and turn them into Tweets or newsletters. If you post on Twitter, take screenshots of your Tweets and share them on platforms like LinkedIn — check out this example of Kaur Sodhi executing this strategy.
The idea of an owned audience vs. a rented audience
Another thing to consider when evaluating supplemental channel opportunities for your personal brand is the idea of an “owned audience.” No matter how big your following is on a channel like TikTok or Twitter, you don’t technically own that audience. The platform does.
For example, what happens if you are a TikTok creator with a large following and TikTok is suddenly banned in the United States and you can’t use it anymore? Or what if your profile gets mistakenly banned and takes weeks to restore? These situations demonstrate that social media platforms have associated risk.
However, platforms where you “own” your audience like a newsletter help to reduce this risk. If a newsletter platform were to suddenly go out of business, you can take your engaged newsletter following with you to another platform.
Diversifying your presence on other platforms while balancing your time and resources to ensure consistent content creation is a strategy that will lead to success and the least amount of risk. As you evaluate your personal brand channels, keep these factors in mind.
Related: The Importance of Personal Branding
Conducting a personal brand audit is a great exercise for people who are just starting out with their personal brand, and for people with established personal brands to fine tune their strategy and execution. Use the personal brand audit steps in this blog post to assess your personal brand, and ensure you are on your way to accomplishing your goals.
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