personal branding 101

Originally published on ProSky

Thailand, c. 2011

Thailand, c. 2011

I promised myself I would never mention this name on my blog, but I suppose some rules are meant to be broken because in today's post I'm going to be talking about: Kim Kardashian. I'm not a fan of anything this woman does, because in my opinion she's the most prominent example of superficiality, consumerism, and self-obsession in the contemporary world. But I do have a degree of begrudging respect for her.

Kim Kardashian claims to be a lot of things—an actress, a socialite, a model. But love her or hate her, it's impossible not to acknowledge the effect she has on popular culture. She is, above all things, a businesswoman, and a master of personal branding. She has successfully leveraged her carefully-edited, airbrushed, and constructed image to skyrocket to fame, despite having little to no talent, which proves that she is still extremely smart beyond an intellectual capacity. Not only has she created an image that is well-recognized (glamour and sexuality, as exemplified by her lavish lifestyle and provocative magazine covers), but she has also taken ownership of things that already existed, which people now attribute to her. While she didn't invent the hourglass figure or cosmetic contouring, they are things that are now part of the infamous Kim Kardashian package.

For all of us regular humans, personal branding can be a powerful tool in the business world as well. It is what differentiates you from other candidates when applying for a job, when you're trying to make a first impression. It's a lot like regular branding, except that while you're still technically "selling" yourself, you're not necessarily trying to manipulate your audience. While some personal brands are carefully crafted to project a certain image (like a strategically-leaked sex tape or frequent selfies), others are simply created as a way to relate to others.

I started this blog not only as a way to showcase my marketing and design skills, but also to share my passions, like food, travel, and makeup. As someone who wants to work in branding strategy, creating my own personal brand was a natural first stepping stone, and a blog was my way of doing so.

Here are some things to help you out with building your own personal brand. Think of it as a checklist.


1. determine who you're speaking to

The first part of any kind of branding is determining your target audience. For me, my audience was the easiest part of the equation—I write the things I would want to read. I write for young people that, like me, are frustrated with the constant and unrelenting inundation of media messages, and refuse to be satisfied by shallow, surface-level content like BuzzFeed and DailyMail (which are both excellent guilty pleasures, but sometimes my brain misses thinking, and if you're not careful, you can get sucked into a rabbit-hole of clickbait and cute animals). I try to write about things that I think resonate with a lot of people my age, like a simple guide to voting in the presidential election, or things to make people think, like psychological association in linguistics. These are things my generation cares about, but sometimes relevant and engaging content is difficult to find.

2. find your voice

I read a lot of different kinds of blogs, from lifestyle to marketing, and I use the things I read to inform my own blogging. I like to think my writing voice sounds similar to my speaking voice (except a lot more eloquent). Articulate, straightforward, smart, and a little bit self-deprecating. I post content about things that are important to me, like International Women's Day, or things I find interesting, like ethics in medicine. But mostly, I try to keep it short and to the point (the average human attention span is 8 seconds...shorter than a goldfish's), and speak in a relatable way (you won't see me using every SAT word I've learned since 7th grade to sound intelligent).

3. create a narrative

You should have a purpose, a story to share with the people who follow you. On my about me page, I talk about the things I care about and the things that inspire me day-to-day, and explain how I incorporate them into my life and my career. From your personal brand, your followers should have a good sense of who you are and what you hope to accomplish.

4. consistency is key

When you create a personal brand, all of its constituents should communicate a theme. The links at the top of my blog reflect the things I love, like food and travel, all things that I think my personal brand endorses. Curate your online presence...your social media platforms are important in 2016! Try to link them to one another, also: when you share on one platform, provide links to your other channels (admittedly, I've been slacking on this one). Also figure out the best times to post on social media to increase visibility—for Facebook, it's Thursday/Friday from 1 pm to 3 pm; for Twitter, Monday through Friday at noon, 5 pm, and 6 pm; and for Instagram, Monday/Wednesday at 2 pm, 5 pm, and 10 pm. But the more you are consistent, the more authentic you sound (because aren't very overtly sponsored posts just plain awkward?).

5. keep people engaged

Kim Kardashian's app game, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, is successful for a reason—it helps her fans feel more connected to her. The update system allows fans to walk the red carpet at the Oscars in the same outfit she is, or travel on vacation to Mexico with Kim when she's there. It makes them feel as if they are part of the experience, something important when considering your audience. One way I like to do this is writing travel blogs. I've written them for New YorkHawaii, and Seattle, and I plan on doing this for all my trips, not only for my own memories, but also to keep people who actually read my blog updated. The key is to update frequently and provide a variety of good, purposeful content (why I have different categories for my blog posts, like Minute Thoughts and food). Make sure everything you post is in service of your personal brand. My mind is an endless collection of potential blog posts; I think in short bursts and long elaborations.

6. think about your visual language

My design style is very clean and minimalist, so I wanted my website to convey that. I like a lot of big, colorful pictures, but I try to keep ones of myself to a minimum and let the visuals speak for themselves (which is why the pictures in this post are four or five years old). It keeps the attention mostly on my ideas, rather than on me, which I prefer to the trend of very self-centric social media. I chose a dark grey and a light blue for my accent colors, and a cat as my logo (I like cats).

China, c. 2013

China, c. 2013

But regardless of whether you're a Kardashian or a modest little cat-themed blog on the internet, your personal brand is an excellent way to distinguish yourself from the crowd and create a more cohesive presence, especially in the Information Age in which brand recognition is everything. Hope this helps! I've also linked a couple of articles for more in-depth reading. Happy blogging!