What Makes A Great Personal Brand?

Do you know what makes a great personal brand? I’m sure as a smart woman you have some idea of what good looks like but I thought I would give you some steer on this in this post.

When I reflect on the women that I think have a standout personal brand there are 5 key attributes that they demonstrate. I believe these are critical. These attributes are as follows:

  • The brand should have clarity. I need to know what the brand stands for.
  • The brand should be compelling. I want a story. I want to know the Hero / Heroine is interesting.
  • The brand should be consistent. I want predictability. I want to know I can trust the brand.
  • The brand should be coherent. I want to know how it all hangs together and that it makes sense to me.
  • The brand should be controlled. I need to know that it isn’t changeable and that it suddenly doesn’t go off the rails.

To bring this to life, I have picked 5 women who I think typify those attributes and why I think they are a good example. I then look practically at what we can learn from these women when it comes to our own brand to help you on your journey.

Clarity…. Diana, Princess of Wales.  

Diana famously used her status as a popular figure to raise awareness for the causes she believed in. She also lived her beliefs in her actions. From her willingness to touch and hug AIDS sufferers when AIDS was considered taboo at the time, to her determination to speak out against landmines. Her message was clear and consistent across all of her causes and you knew what she stood for. This is what gave her brand clarity.

So, what can we learn from Diana when thinking about our own brand?

  1. You have to be crystal clear and laser focussed on what you are about.

Diana had several causes that she believed in but they were all about trying to prevent suffering. They were all about standing up for those who couldn’t always stand up for themselves. There was no ambiguity, mixed messaging, or randomness about that.   

  1. You have to be consistent.

Diana showed grace and compassion from the way she was with the public, to her sons, to those whom she met through her causes. Anyone who has met her describes her in the same way.

Credibility…. Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama is a great mix of humility, authenticity, good humour, kindness, passion, resilience and much more. She also tackles human suffering and the injustices in this world similar to Diana Princess of Wales but in a different way.  

Michelle Obama is considered a highly ‘relatable’ brand with many women seeing themselves in her. She is also grounded. How many first ladies can you say would do Carpool Karaoke with James Corden. You wouldn’t have seen Melania Trump doing it.  

Michelle Obama creates trust. You believe her. The key to this is the consistency between her words and her actions. She does what she says she will do. In her book ‘Becoming’ Michelle confesses to practising a lot before the Carpool Karaoke clip which doesn’t come as a surprise. You know she would have practised as much as possible to give it her best shot.

So, what can we learn from Michelle when thinking about our own brand?

  1. Your words and your actions must match.

If you say you’re going to do something. Do it and do it well. If you say your number 1 value is integrity, act with integrity. If you tell someone you are going to show up. Show up. The minute you don’t practise what you preach is the minute you lose your credibility.

  1. Be authentic

Lack of authenticity = low trust = low credibility. Many of my clients confess to being people pleasers. One of the habits of people pleasers is compromising on their opinions, values and beliefs to please others. People pleasers struggle to be authentic because they are afraid to show up as themselves and worry about what people might think. Be you and be confident standing up for that.

Compelling…. Malala Yousafzai.

Malala Yousafzai is a dedicated and outspoken human rights advocate especially for the education of women and children in Pakistan. She is an influencer, an activist, and a writer as well as the youngest Nobel prize Laureate. Malala has prevailed despite the challenges she has faced and she refuses to be silenced. She stands up for what she believes in even if this threatens her security.

So, what can we learn from Malala when thinking about our own brand?

  1. People with compelling personal brands have a story.

Everyone has a story including you so work out what it is and know how to articulate it. What have been the high points in your life and the low points and how have they made you the person you are today? This is what makes up your story.

  1. People with compelling personal brands have passions and interests.

If you have read any dating book written for the female market you will know that one of the common principles is that you should have interests and passions. The idea is that having outside interests makes you more interesting to a man and therefore his attraction for you increases. It shows your independence and the fact that your life doesn’t revolve around him.

Whilst I firmly believe that having a life filled with your passions and interests should be about you as opposed to what men think, the points in these books are well made and there is a crossover into your professional world.

Having interests makes you interesting. It shows you stand for something. If you stand for something it is easier for people to identify you. Think about the people you work with and those that you know who run marathons or who bake or who do hackathons in their spare time. It doesn’t matter what the content is, you remember that association.

From a personal perspective, it adds to your life. My mother is one of the single biggest advocates of having interests. She is a well-established author, has written 8 books worldwide and is currently on book no 9. She writes pretty much 24/7. Despite the amount of time and energy she invests in her writing, she has recently developed an interest in Italian Renaissance painting. This is one of many interests she has had over the years. Even in her 80’s, she strives to learn something new and broaden her thinking.

So, get an interest. Start small if you don’t have one but start something. It will enrich your life and your brand.

Coherent…. Coco Chanel.

Coco Chanel and the Chanel brand are synonymous. Coco Chanel believed in quality, usability and simplicity. She insisted on cohesion in all elements of the Chanel brand which continues as part of the company brand strategy today.  Chanel insisted on the black and white palette in her clothing and she personally created the eponymous back-to-back ‘C’ logo of Chanel in 1925. She lived her brand through Chanel.

So, what can we learn from Coco when thinking about our own brand?

  1. Your brand must be unified.

Your brand should be holistic and consistent. Your brand comes from who you are, what you are about, your story, values, qualities, skills, actions, communication and image. They have to be unified with the same theme running throughout.  A brand is more than just a concept, it’s rooted in everything you think, say and do.

  1. Your brand is your business.

When thinking about your brand, think of it as an asset. A commodity. Think of it as a business. When you run a business, you are very careful about every decision you make. Your reputation and your livelihood are on the line. Think of your brand with the same importance and apply the same exacting standards. Your brand is your business. It can make or break you.

Control…. Oprah Winfrey.

At the time of writing, The Oprah Winfrey show has been on the air since 1986 and has released 4,561 episodes. The show is live in 145 countries and has featured 28,000 guests[1]. Alongside the show, Oprah Winfrey is a philanthropist, a movie producer, owner of several companies and the list goes on. That’s a lot for one person to control.

Despite this, Oprah protects her brand ruthlessly. She is very selective about what gets published about her. She refuses to put her name to something she doesn’t believe in. She has full control of her brand and is at the centre of the majority of the decision making in her business empire.

So, what can we learn from Oprah when thinking about our own brand?

  • You cannot outsource your brand.

You have to take responsibility for it. Fully and completely. You are the CEO of you and with that role comes the requirement and ability to control who you are, what you stand for and how you come across.

  • If you don’t control your brand, someone else will.

If you don’t give people a story about you, they will make up their own. If you don’t give people descriptors of you, they will use their own words. Clearly, you cannot control what other people do and other people say but you can certainly give them the right steer and get their narrative about you as close to what you want it to be as possible.  


[1] Source