Ignite your personal brand with story

This article will cover how you can harness the power of story to benefit your personal brand.

Your story will inject consistency and authenticity. It will help you sharpen and focus your mind. You will improve the clarity of what you stand for and how you communicate it - whether you are looking for a new job or leading a multibillion dollar corporation.

I am lucky enough to be friends with both Mel Carson and Jenni Flinders – experts in personal branding who come at it from slightly different angles. Mel, approaches the topic with a focus more on communications and purpose. Jenni turns up the volume on “first impressions” and decorum. They both extol the importance of authenticity and suggest putting your personal story at the core.

I agree.

Their approaches help you be proactive and intentional about how you are perceived.

“What’s your mission? What’s your value” – Mel Carson

Let’s take a look at how this all works.

What is a personal brand anyway?

In her TEDx Talk (below) Jenni covers how a brand is the “Intellectual, emotional and visual impression people have when they think of you”. Brands are a byproduct of our interaction with the world. They will happen regardless of the effort we put into them. We can however influence how they land if we are intentional in how we approach their design.

“Intellectual, emotional and visual impression people have when they think of you”.

Jenni’s practical advice on first impressions is great stuff. It is, after all, something we never get a second chance at.

In his practical step-by-step book “Introduction to Personal Branding” Mel Carson says “What’s your mission? What’s your value?” This is about alignment, of audience perception and what you are trying to say. Your audience’s knowledge of what you can do (for them) and what value you can bring (to them), must be in harmony.

Both Jenni and Mel have very practical suggestions on how to explore, draw out and focus on your personal brand. I highly suggest you check out their work.

How does storytelling play into this?

“I have a story. You have a story. We all have a story.” – Mel Carson.

Our authentic story is at the core of who we are. You cannot separate yourself from your story. You are the protagonist in your own adventure. There are three components to this.

  1. Your history – all that has led you to this moment
  2. Your living story – the story you are making in this moment
  3. Your unwritten, future story – what you can achieve in future moments

The red line of your purpose runs through this. I am fond of how, in his book, Mel’s lays out the steps to identify your purpose. Likewise, Bo Eason has a great exercise to draw out your personal story. Bo’s approach is one that digs deeply into your past and the events that shaped you – it is fun to go through, and very involved. Mel has some useful backward-looking exercises characterized as “Past signposts define future path”.

In her TEDx talk Jenni shows you how telling stories can engage an audience from the get-go. She puts the audience at the center of the story, twice. Jenni does so very viscerally. Both in her opening “you wake up and can’t get back to sleep because of an interview” story and a personal story of her first presentation to a group of senior executives, it was tense! My palms were sweating as I watched.

How does story play into your personal brand? Let me be so bold as to put it this way: personal branding is nothing without your story. It is the redline that runs through all.

Knowing your personal story and being able to tell it is a non-negotiable first step in your personal branding efforts.

“Personal branding is nothing without your story”

Branding and beyond

Storytelling affects all branding. Any branding efforts that do not put authentic meaning at their center will not survive engagement with the real world.

“A brand is a promise. And if that promise breaks, you don’t have a brand.” - Hitesh Bhasin

Have you ever seen a bad comedy show? What seems like a long time ago, for my 30th birthday, a group of us celebrated in New York. Including my parents. We went to a comedy show. Now, the show wasn’t bad per say but it was very lewd. I sat next to my mother and became quite aware of her discomfort and embarrassment. She did not like it.

The comedian was not connecting with his audience, at least not some of it. I know, I know, many comedians are lewd and aggressive on purpose. My point still stands, if you do not resonate with your audience you will put them off. My mum was not impressed.

How do you want your audience to feel?

This also goes for determining product market fit. A great idea isn’t enough. It must solve an actual problem and you need to be able to communicate why that is. Furthermore, meaning it is essential for defining a value proposition and a positioning framework. All these things need to be created in a way that resonates with your intended customer.

At its heart a story conveys meaning, purpose and why. Use story to achieve resonance.

Matthew Woodget