Authentic Personal Branding: How To Live On The Internet & Still Be Yourself

model: @taryn.kb

            As a creative, you’ve probably noticed that in the last year or so that the hot, new catch phrase is “personal branding”. What exactly is personal branding? Most experts like to describe a brand as a trademark, a symbol or representation of a company. When I first encountered that definition I was a bit taken aback. It sounded like I was supposed to confine myself to an oversimplified image where a full expression of self would be stifled.  I couldn’t possibly confine my passions, inspirations, and mission into a simple “brand”. These elements all seemed way too significant to be narrowed into a snazzy logo and some catchy idiom—I’m a person, not a commodity! Still, I found that by shaping my online presence into a personal brand I was able to present myself as an easily identifiable creative and connect with other professionals.

So, how did I genuinely promote my work while not reducing my online presence to a superficial, posed picture on Instagram? Here are three tips for how to create an authentic personal brand without losing yourself in the crowd:

1// Know your audience:

It’s well known that when Steve Jobs would run a meeting at Apple, he would purposefully leave a chair empty at the conference table. The empty chair was meant to symbolize their consumer. The purpose of this exercise was to get across the idea that your consumer, or audience, is a real person who has real concerns, real passions and real wants. Get to know them! Look at who is following you on social media, who reads your blog posts and buys your products. Compile a list of what you believe to be their motivations for consuming your content, their daily activities and what their favorite brands are.  Whenever you generate content, create it out of love for your work, yes, but also keep in mind your audience’s needs and desires.

2// Be Vulnerable:

It’s great to promote yourself as an expert in your industry. You have valuable knowledge and information to share. However, it’s important to ask questions and expand your craft. Admit that you could improve your skills, and you could open yourself to a whole new world. Get a feel for the landscape of whatever community you are a part of and ask them questions about their own expertise. Join or create a Facebook group for other makers in your field and invite them to answer a question about something you’ve been struggling with, such as time management or juggling work/life balance. I think you’ll be surprised with the positive feedback you’ll receive.

3// Have a Real Voice:

Millennials are the first generation to have grown up online. We can smell inauthenticity from a mile away. The point: know the message you are trying to get across to your audience and communicate that message in a clear and precise manner. One of the tangible ways to accomplish this task is by having a consistent brand identity. What’s your identity? It’s the combination of the what? why?, and how? of your craft. Post content that always go back to the answers of those questions.

            Lastly, always go with your gut. If you’re tempted to publish something that just doesn’t seem “you”, then don’t—no matter how popular it might be or how many likes or views you think it might generate. Trust yourself and you will always succeed!


Elise Crawford is a digital marketer who is finishing her Masters in Communication at Johns Hopkins University. She works part time at the PR firm, Appleseed Communications, and blogs over at Anchored Hope. She is passionate about empowering small businesses and girlbosses to know their core and share their brilliance with the world.

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