In a previous post, we talked about personal branding essentials every professional should have, and that foundation included a defined target audience and message.
In this post, we will get into details for how to define your personal brand’s goals. This personal brand framework includes selecting a target audience, developing a messaging strategy that speaks to them, and selecting marketing channels to deliver that message.
Those critical steps serve as the framework for establishing your personal brand. Let’s go in-depth on each.
Before you can build a strong personal brand, you need to consider why you are building it in the first place, and establish your personal brand mission. Are you trying to network with more of your peers? Are you trying to find employment opportunities? Start a business? Setting your goals is the foundation of a personal brand framework because your goals will inform the other key steps to defining your brand, like audience selection, marketing channel strategy, etc.
While we advise limiting your focus when it comes to other components of your personal brand like messaging (see messaging section below), when it comes to your goals, you can have several. This is because there is a strong chance your goals will service each other.
For example, we will use a hypothetical case where someone is trying to develop a brand focused on B2B marketing throughout this blog. This individual’s personal brand goals might be exposing themselves to more job opportunities in the B2B marketing space, and networking with more of their marketing peers. In this example, creating content about B2B marketing and establishing a strong following in that industry niche will service both of those goals simultaneously, as a strong peer network will likely yield referrals and job opportunities.
Make a list of your own personal brand goals, considering where you want to go with your career, and how building a stronger network and audience can support that. Having these goals defined will help to inform the topics you create content about and your marketing channels. The reason for the latter being that if you pick channels that won’t service your goals, you’ll be wasting your time (ex. Investing time in LinkedIn would be a good personal brand channel for the marketer mentioned above, as it would expose them to both employment opportunities, and industry peers for networking).
If your goal is to make money with your personal brand, check out these blog post: "How to Monetize Your Personal Brand"
In addition to tactical goals, another key element that should define your personal brand are your passions. This is going to sound silly, but personal brands should be personal. When you are creating content and making connections for yourself it shouldn’t feel like you’re doing it under another company or person’s persona, it should feel like expressing yourself.
If you aren’t actually passionate about the topics you try to build a brand around, not only do you risk coming across as phony to people who are truly passionate in that space, you also won’t enjoy the process, and will likely get bored or burn out.
You are also unlikely to enjoy the fruits of your labor. For example, if the marketer mentioned above wasn’t actually passionate about marketing, they won’t enjoy the marketing focused conversations they’ll have with the professional network connections they make in the marketing industry, and they won’t feel fulfilled by any of the marketing employment opportunities their efforts yield.
Focus on Your Passions
That is why the best personal brands have the individual’s passions at their core. Consider the things you enjoy doing and get excited to talk about, and do not feel limited to business / more traditional professional topics, like the marketing example above.
For example, if you love fitness, food, or music, make those passions a pillar of what you focus on talking about with your personal brand. This will help you to connect with like minded individuals who love the same things you do, and will lead to opportunities that align with who you are and what you enjoy doing.
With your goals and passions defined, the next step in developing your personal brand is figuring out the people you want to connect with to discuss your passions, and who will help you achieve your goals.
Think about the people who are also passionate about the pillars of your personal brand, and who have something to offer to help you achieve your goals. This group of people should be your niche target audience that you seek out to make connections with, and the target recipients you focus on providing value to in your content creation efforts.
For the B2B marketer we mentioned above, their passion is marketing, and their goals were to make connections with more fellow marketers to network with, and to set themselves up for more job opportunities in their field. Based on these factors, their target audience should be other marketers who are focused on marketing for B2B products. This audience will understand and relate to their passion for marketing, can help them continue to learn their craft (and vice versa), and could open doors to job opportunities in the B2B marketing industry.
We’ll use a fitness enthusiast as another example throughout this blog. This individual’s passion is fitness, and their tangible goal is to build a business out of their fitness hobby by becoming a personal trainer and attracting clients. For the fitness enthusiast, their target audience should consist of fellow fitness enthusiasts who will be interested in the fitness content they share, and who could potentially become a client or partner (ex. Another professional fitness trainer they could partner with to host fitness classes).
In both of these examples, personal brand target audience selection was directly aligned with the individual’s passions and goals. Focus on your own personal brand goals and your passions, and identify the audience that aligns with them.
Build Audience Personas for Your Personal Brand
Once you have a broad idea of who your target audience is, understanding them further will inform your personal brand messaging (what you talk about and how you talk about it), and the channels you use to deliver your message (marketing platforms like social media, blogging, etc.).
In order to better understand your audience and get more strategic about how you speak to them, you should build audience personas just as a brand would do to define its target customers.
You might’ve heard the phrase “buyer persona,” or “customer persona” before. This is a marketing term used to describe customer profiles, or collections of market research about customers. These customer profiles, or personas, give marketers information to help them develop communication strategies designed to reach those customers.
Buyer personas typically take the form of a deck slide, spreadsheet, or text document that lists demographic information and other key characteristics about a company’s target customers. This includes demographics like age, location, income level, and occupation, as well as additional characteristics like hobbies, interests, concerns / pain points, and ambitions.
Taking this same approach to understanding the target audience for your personal brand will help you to uncover what your audience cares about, the type of content that will resonate with them, and where you should deliver that content.
Use this Framework to Develop Your Personal Brand Audience Personas
Typically used to define target customers, this framework can be applied to better understand members of the niche your personal brand targets.
Map these characteristics out in a spreadsheet matrix, with each audience characteristic along the vertical y axis, and each of your audiences / audience segments across the top of the sheet on the horizontal x axis (or just the one, if you are starting small and focusing on one audience).
Download our free Notion audience personas template to create your own personas following these steps:
You can set up your personas in other ways if you’d like, such as creating a one page overview on the persona, and you could even include images and visual elements. Create your personas in whatever template makes the most sense to you, and best helps you understand your audience.
Once you have your personas in a matrix, or another format, this document will serve as a jumping off point to create messaging and content that resonates with them.
Consider these tips for growing your personal brand audience once you’ve established your target.
Now that you have a better understanding of the audience you are targeting with your personal brand that is aligned to your goals and passions, it’s time to figure out what to say to them.
Your personal brand persona work should’ve included thinking through your target audience’s interests, goals, and challenges / problems. These characteristics are critical, as they are characteristics you can cater your personal brand content toward so that it focuses on the things your audience cares about.
For example, for the marketing professional, their audience persona work would likely reveal that marketers are interested in marketing related topics, are motivated to get better at their craft, and are concerned with common challenges that marketers face. For a personal brand geared toward marketers, the core messaging should focus on these pain points and interests, and they should create content designed to deliver that messaging. This could be how-to posts teaching various marketing skills, content that shares marketing industry news and trends, and reviews for new marketing software.
Sell the Problem, Not the Solution
A popular marketing motto says that people should sell the problem, not the solution, meaning that if you focus on making people more aware of a problem they face, their demand for a solution will increase.
This philosophy plays on the emotions of the target audience, and this concept is why it’s important to consider your personal brand audience’s problems and emotional drivers in your messaging. What do they care about? What problems do they have? How can I solve those problems, or provide them value? These considerations should be at the core of your content so that it strongly resonates with people.
Personal Brand Messaging Framework - Define Your “Beats”
It’s framework time again, but this time, you are taking the emotional drivers you gathered during your audience persona development, and mapping them to topics you can focus your personal brand content on.
In the publishing industry, reporters have ‘beats,’ or a specific topic they write about, like technology, pop culture, or politics. The people with the best personal brands all have beats, too. They focus their content strategy on a few topics that their audience likes, and this is what they become known for and build their brand around.
For example, Gary Vaynerchuk’s primary personal brand beats are entrepreneurship, marketing, and self improvement. When you look at Vaynerchuk’s social channels, those are the themes that you see throughout his content. One post might give advice about building an audience on social media to support a business, while another might be an inspirational post giving people tips about following their entrepreneurial dreams, or sharing stories from his own entrepreneurial journey.
While Vaynerchuk does share content about other topics (like his trading card hobby), his personal brand has grown enough that it can support several beats. When you are just starting out, it’s best to keep your personal brand content strategy focused on just a few beats so that you can attract a niche audience that will enjoy the majority of your content.
In order to figure out your beats, use the framework exercise again, and this time list the emotional drivers for your target audience (pain points /challenges, interests, etc) down the y axis. Label the x axis “Topics” or “Beats” - this is where you will come up with content topics for each of your audience’s emotional drivers.
Fill in each cell with a content topic. Using the marketing example, one of their audience’s emotional drivers is an interest in new marketing software. In this case, in the cells to the right of that emotional driver, fill in ideas for content that would align to it, like marketing software reviews, tutorials, and news on new software. Another one of the marketer target audience’s emotional drivers was the problems and challenges marketers face on a daily basis. A messaging topic that would align to this emotional driver is how-to style marketing content that teaches marketers how to solve problems.
Follow this same process for your own audience’s emotional drivers, aligning at least one content topic to each of their emotional drivers. Once you’ve completed your framework, you will have a solid content strategy playbook for your personal brand development.
Personal Brand Tone
Another element to consider is the tone with which you deliver your beats, or key messages. This should be a reflection of your personality, and can play a big factor in how your personal brand is perceived.
For example, many popular personal brands are humorous, and use this to attract people. Others are more serious because of the nature of the industry they are in and their target audience in that industry. Examples of this might include law, medicine, and academia.
Create a list of 4-5 personal brand tone characteristics that align well between your personality and your target audience, and keep it in your messaging framework. Once you’ve landed on them, use them as a guide or lens to pass your writing through. For example if you chose formal as one of your brand tone characteristics, is your copy formal enough? Or if you listed fun and casual as brand tone characteristics, make sure your copy isn’t too dry or rigid. Your personal brand tone will develop over time as you make more content, get comfortable, and see what is resonating most with your audience.
Now that you know what you’re saying, and to whom you want to say it, the final strategy component in the personal brand framework is determining the best marketing channels for delivering your content .
There are a few key factors to consider when choosing marketing channels and the content you should share on them to develop your brand. These factors are based on a combination of your own skills, and the persona work we covered earlier.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Personal Brand Development Channels
The Platforms Your Audience Uses to Socialize and Get Their News
During your audience persona work, one of the characteristics included the channels through which your target audience receives their news and information, and where they socialize. The social platforms, blogs, newsletters, events, etc. that your audience frequents and pays attention to should be used to inform the channels you decide to invest your time in for building a presence.
For example, if you are targeting an audience of B2B professionals, you should consider creating content on LinkedIn and Twitter, which both have a high volume of engaged B2B focused users. This would be different if you were focused on fitness enthusiasts as your target audience, as YouTube and Instagram would be better fits due to the active fitness communities on those platforms.
A popular marketing motto advises marketers to go to their audiences, not the other way around, and this same guidance should be applied to personal branding. Do some research on where your target audience spends their time and likes to engage, and add those channels as priorities in your content strategy.
The Types of Content That Can be Used to Deliver Your Key Messaging
Starting with each of your messaging beats / topics, and thinking of content that best delivers it is a good process to follow. For example, if one of your messaging beats was marketing tips and how-to style content, content formats that would work well for that would be blog posts with lists of tips, how-to videos, and insight-focused white papers.
If one of your messaging themes was being a source for industry news, publishing an email newsletter with weekly recaps on the latest news in your industry, a podcast discussing recent news, or posting daily updates with news commentary on Twitter are all examples of content that can deliver that narrative.
Also, feel free to get creative and “turkey slice” content, or repurpose it in the same way you would reuse leftover turkey from a large meal, and then turn it into other dishes like soup or sandwiches. Made a blog post? Cut it up and turn it into smaller Facebook or LinkedIn posts. Created a video? Embed it on your blog, include it in a newsletter, and post short 10 second clips from it across your social channels to promote the longer piece. Getting creative with how you create and use content will save you time, and increase your publishing volume across channels.
Another important factor to consider is your skillset. This can inform both the channels you choose, as well as the type of content you create on them. For example, back when TikTok was just starting out as a platform and still called Music.ly, creators who had a knack for music, video content creation, and performance were able to dominate the platform and grow large audiences. This is because the platform’s features and tools played to their natural strengths, which allowed them to leverage those skills to create engaging short form video content.
Consider your own skill set when choosing your brand channels, and find platforms and platform features that play to your strengths. Using the B2B audience example from above, if you are a strong writer, and during your persona work you have already identified that your audience uses LinkedIn frequently, then that platform’s articles and written post features will be great for you to have in your content strategy.
Similarly, if you are a visual creator, platforms that are focused on video and images like Instagram and YouTube could be a good fit, as long as your target audience is there. Finding platforms that 1. Have a plethora of users from your target audience, and 2. Favor content types that align with your natural skill sets, should be key considerations in planning your personal brand marketing.
Add these personal branding tools to your toolkit as you build content across channels.
Being deliberate and strategic about your personal brand development will help you reach the people you want to engage with, and deliver a narrative that resonates with them. Use the personal brand framework in this blog to start building the foundation for your own brand.
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