As a business branding coach, I've seen first hand how becoming a thought leader can fast-track building a personal brand.
Having worked with Executives & CEOs, along with small business owners and soloists, I know that although business branding is important, customers are more likely to make strong connections if you've got a strong personal brand.
What's the difference?
Your business brand is how your business connects with its customers. What's their experience – how does it look, feel etc.
Your personal brand is how you become known in your industry. You're the face of your business. And no matter what size your business is, every business should have a solid personal brand.
Yes, both are important in the business world, but let's explore more about creating a standout personal brand. After all, people relate to people – not a faceless business.
When it comes to building your personal brand, there are a lot of different elements involved. But two distinct elements set people apart – their story and thought leadership.
Most people who have a memorable personal brand will have an incredible, unforgettable story. And it's often from this story that they become a thought leader.
Take Elizabeth Gilbert, for example. Her book ‘Eat Pray Love' touched the world and changed countless lives. Her story is truly an inspiration.
She also wrote ‘Big Magic', which you've probably heard me refer to as my ‘Creative Bible'. From telling her story and gaining a vast audience, she became a thought leader who inspires so many people worldwide.
I'm sure everyone knows what a story is, and it's not something I can teach you – it's your story, after all. So, let's explore more about thought leadership.
When we talk about thought leadership, it's about how you position your ideas and your unique perspective and beliefs about your market, your industry, or what you do.
Ok, here's another fangirl moment – but Brene Brown is an exceptional example of a thought leader (for me anyway). Her beliefs are based on lots of research and her experiences, so she's someone who is held in high regard for her opinions.
And I'm sure when I say ‘thought leader' that you'd have many others spring to mind – Tony Robbins, Eckhart Tolle, Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, and others in your close networks.
The first thing to ask yourself is ‘What do I believe in?'. What is your position, opinion, thoughts and beliefs on your chosen topic?
No one's thought leadership will be the same as we all have different beliefs.
Your beliefs stem from where you grew up, your parents, the beliefs they had, the beliefs you've created, where you went to school, your life experiences, where you live, if you've got a family and so on.
I believe that you have to decide to play a bigger game, break through challenges, limiting beliefs, and uncomfortable situations to do things in a bigger way.
This belief has been cemented through all the work I've done, the conversations I've had, the interviews and research I've done, and what I see on a day-to-day basis with the people I work with.
My beliefs have become the foundation of my business (my coaching, my programs, my podcasts, my book) and what I talk about all the time – playing big and building a bold brand.
Naturally, you will follow other thought leaders in your industry. Hey, you may even fangirl as few as I do! And that's fine – it's all a part of your collective research.
It's ok to be aware of what others talk about.
You'll listen to podcasts, read books, hear people raving about what someone said, do your audience research, etc.
Similar insights can help you form, alter and cement your personal beliefs. People will feel your message has substance and credibility if you're informed about your industry.
Remember to acknowledge others if you're citing their experience as you don't want to come off as a carbon copy of another person. And ALWAYS put your personal spin on things – your unique insights build your credibility as a thought leader – not simply spurting what others have said.
No one else has your life experiences. Therefore no two thought leader's stories will be the same.
To develop your thought leadership, you draw upon your life experiences and the stories that have defined you somehow. Your story will need to connect to your key message, and you'll need to tell it in ways that will connect with your audience.
My story is about when I decided I had to start playing big by creating a bold brand. My business was ok and going well, but I knew I had either walk away or start playing big to make it what I wanted. And as you can tell, I started playing big with a bold brand and now share my story to inspire and teach others.
When you share your life experiences as part of your personal branding and thought leadership strategy, it helps people understand what you believe in and connect with you.
Your language lexicon is the language you use (words and phrases). When you become known as a thought leader, you want people to see certain words or phrases and think, ‘Ahh, that's so and so'.
For example, I always use words and phrases such as bold branding, playing big, branding bold, etc. These are my unique branding terms, and I'd like to think that most people think of me when they hear ‘Playing big & bold branding'!
When clients come to me, they often say, ‘We want to be bold but don't know how to do it. We want to stand out'. So, I can tell that my branding of ‘being bold' is working.
And yes, it's not for everyone. Some people may read my messaging and think, ‘Nope, not for me', whereas others think, ‘Yes, I want to play big and bold, so I need Suz'. Your ideal audience will connect to your messaging.
Explore what is unique to you. How can you craft a unique message that your audience will relate to?
Your ‘isms' are words you create or use throughout your branding and messaging. They're typically terms that when people hear them, they know exactly who you're referring to.
For example, if I said, ‘Stay kind to each other', you may know it as Ellen from the Ellen show. Or ‘No soup for you' as the Soup Guy from Seinfeld. They are things people regularly say that others instantly recognise.
And if someone were to say, ‘bold branding' or ‘play big and brand bold', you'd think of me, right?!
So, what are things you always say that you could incorporate into your branding? What is the language you use? What' isms' do you have that will help people recognise you?
But whatever you do, never use someone else's ism! It must be unique to you. The last thing you want is someone going back to your competition saying, ‘I heard this person saying xyz, and I thought of you'.
What assets do you have to showcase your thought leadership? For example, I've got the Brand Builders Academy, my book, podcasts, the Brand Builders Lab and the Bold Speakers Collective.
And you'll see that I've created consistent branding around my assets – Brand Builders Academy (BBA), Brand Builders Lab (BBL), Bold Speakers Collective (BSC), Brand Leaders Lounge (BLL – coming soon!). The logos I have for each are similar, as are the naming and the acronyms, all three letters. My product suite (my assets) are all on brand and instantly recognisable as mine.
So, think of your brand and tie it in whenever you're creating your assets. Make your products relate to what you talk about (the language you use – i.e. brand, bold etc.).
You need to get your message out there once you're clear on your thought leadership position. What platforms will you use? Take a good look at the platforms available and work out what ones will connect well with your audience.
My best platform is Instagram, as I encourage DMs and have built a loyal following. Facebook follows closely behind, and then LinkedIn comes in as my third. I've found that although I post a lot of content on LinkedIn, it's on Instagram where I connect the most with my audience.
I've also got the podcast platform, which is one of the best ways to promote yourself as a thought leader. It's a brilliant way to share your thoughts, expertise, opinions, and research with your audience.
If you've got any questions, hit me up on Instagram or drop your comments or questions in the comments section below.
Want a freebie before you go? Grab your copy of ‘Become a paid speaker and get more speaking gigs' here. This eBook will help you think about what you want to be known for, what to speak about, and how to articulate it well.
As always, feel free to DM me on Instagram if you've got any questions.
In this video masterclass, I’ll share the three key areas you need to focus on to scale your business and build a bold brand so that you attract the client that want what you have!
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