If you are sports fans like us, you probably saw this week that ESPN reported that J.J. Watt created a personal logo to be used primarily in his Reebok sponsorship.  This might have seemed like a novel strategic move but he is not the only athlete that has done this in the last few years.  Notable athletes like Tom Brady, Cam Newton, and Lebron James all have personal logos that distinguish their personal brands from the brands of sports teams and sponsors.

So why do mega-athletes even have to create personal brands when they are already getting paid millions of dollars a year?  According to Watt, “I have always dreamed of being able to use my experience to create something truly great, something that I believed would legitimately improve people’s performance and training.  I wanted the ability to put my own personal stamp of approval on tools that I thought would help people perform better. And that is what this logo has allowed me to do. When you see this logo, you will know that I personally had my hand in the product’s creation and that it has my own personal stamp of approval.”

Athletes have caught on to a huge trend that is happening around the world.  That trend, created primarily by social media, is that people are hungry for content about and from “experts” and they now have a connected world to demand it.  So why should you care about your personal brand in business when you are not a celebrity or a sports star?  Simply put…your personal brand is how you appear to the world. Therefore, a strong brand is preferable to one that is unpolished and uninteresting.  Once people know who you are and begin to identify you with a specific area of expertise, you’ll start to become the go-to person in your niche.

The question is, how do you become more recognized? How do you build your authority and your following?

  1. Know your “why” and be authentic – Your brand should be a direct reflection of who you are.  People today want to connect with other people so remember that when you are communicating to the outside world.  If you don’t appear to be a real person, or if it just looks like you’re faking it, how likely do you think others are to trust you?  Building a personal brand is first and foremost developing an understanding of your true self, and then sharing that with the world. Take your masks off and don’t be afraid of being vulnerable.
  2. Always seek to learn – Odds are you already know how important it is to stay on top of your game, but a friendly reminder never hurt anyone.  Learn new things, develop new skills, and expand your knowledge. If you’re not growing, then you’re stagnating, and that’s the last thing you want to do as an entrepreneur.
  3. Build your online and social presence – Do you have a personal website?  Do you have social media accounts that highlight your skills?  If not, that needs to be your first step.  I assume most of us at least have social media accounts but are they appropriate for business?  Constantly monitoring and adjusting how you appear online is extremely important in building a personal brand.  After you have a good handle on that, you should be engaging other thought leaders in the niche you specialize with and also constantly create content (more on that next…).
  4. Consistently create content – Creating consistent content is the price of admission to being an “expert.”  The popular current content model is that you should be sharing free content across any social or digital platform that will connect you with your audience.  For someone that is a fitness personality that might be focusing on video and photo but alternatively a business strategy expert might be better suited to blog posts or teaching videos.  The granular details of your plan will be specific to your situation but the name of the game is to consistently be putting out engaging content to your audience.
  5. Seek outside PR or speaking engagements – This is the last step because it is generally the most difficult thing to attain when you are starting your personal brand.  PR and speaking engagements are opportunities to be seen and heard. Start small, and keep building.  Instead of going to major publications for outside PR, ask to do a guest blog on an industry website or ask to be shared on a company’s social media with your engaging Instagram post about their brand.  For speaking engagements, look at getting on a podcast or be invited to share your knowledge on a webinar.

Even if you believe there is no need to worry about your personal brand, you still have one in the world.  So why not choose to guide and cultivate this brand instead of letting it be defined on your behalf?