I’d like to warn you that I’m not going to spew out the fluffy nonsense you see in most articles about personal branding. As digital marketing has exploded over the past decade, professionals have flocked to personal branding as a way to increase sales and build their professional credibility.
The problem is that shysters try to build a personal brand by stealing content from others or vomiting fluffy drivel that gets likes, yet has zero value for viewers. But when done well, your personal brand will reflect your values and convey your unique views.
What is a personal brand?
There are thousands of definitions of a personal brand on Google. But it’s best to think of personal branding as “intentional efforts to define and promote what you stand for as a person.” When viewed this way, personal branding becomes an honest exploration and expression of what you believe about yourself, your work, and your profession.
Step 1: Identify your audience
After starting, scaling, and selling an accounting firm in only 5 years, Ryan Lazanis took what he learned during his time as a firm owner and started Future Firm Accelerate, a program focused on helping firm owners scale quickly. Here are several key takeaways:
- He built on his existing community. Far too many people try to break into a niche rather than tapping into their existing communities. Instead, focus on the communities and groups with which you’re most familiar.
- He shared his journey, warts and all. So many gurus present themselves as flawless paragons of excellence. But doing this just leads to dissonance with your target audience because, in reality, nobody gets it perfect every time. Be honest about your experiences, challenges, and triumphs. Your audience will connect with those much more than your veiled brags.
- He focused on one mission. It’s a fantastic feeling to be inspired and have thousands of ideas floating around in your head. But you know what feeling is better? Seeing the results of your focused actions toward executing one idea. When you feel overwhelmed by your ideas, write them down and save them for later. Then, choose the one idea with the best blend of passion and profitability.
Step 2: Articulate your unique perspective
Most people get distracted by which platforms they should be on. But platforms are simply mediums, which aren’t as important as your ideas. Clarifying what you will say should be your first priority. Once you’ve nailed this, you can experiment with where and how you convey them. Here are some prompts to help you clarify how you see your industry differently:
- What can your profession do better?
- What pain points do clients tell you about their previous accountant?
- What challenges do you encounter while serving clients?
- How have your life experiences shaped your view of your profession?
All these prompts require self-reflection—and that’s the point. A good personal brand starts with looking inward, not outward. You may take inspiration from others, but drawing on your own experiences and beliefs is essential to shaping a brand that is uniquely you.
Step 3: Pick a theme to champion
What is the core theme driving your personal brand? A theme adds clarity and cohesion to your personal branding activities. For example, Jason Staats helps accountants be productive and profitable by using automation and low-code technologies. From his premium accountant community to the podcast he co-hosts with Chad Davis, Jason champions the idea that accountants should work smarter, not harder.
You can also start your personal brand around a business opportunity. Take Michael Meihaus. Michael is building a niche firm around the employee benefit plan experience. It’s worth noting that Michael’s social media content focuses not on benefit audit plans, but on his journey and thoughts on public accounting, firm operations, and efficiency. Michael’s personal brand may have started with a business opportunity, but it’s grown because he promotes his unique perspective.
Step 4: Spread your ideas, one channel at a time
Should you be on Twitter or LinkedIn? Questions like this can distract us from taking action. Here are several no-nonsense tips to keep you on track:
- Focus on one channel. Whether it’s LinkedIn or Twitter, focus on one channel. You can always add more later, but you must have discipline when you’re first building your brand. As James Clear has taught us, it’s best to start small and grow later.
- Commit to action. Having to report on your progress each week or month will motivate you to keep going, even when you don’t feel like it. Join a community such as Realize or Future Firm Accelerate to connect with other growth-minded accountants.
- Celebrate done, not perfect. Every great endeavor starts out with humble stumbles. The important thing is to remember these awkward moments when you’ve reached the pinnacle of your success—they’ll keep you thankful and empathetic with others who are struggling to get started.
- Comparisons can kill progress. We can’t judge a fish by how well it can climb trees. Similarly, you can’t judge your progress by what others around you are doing. Maybe they’ve been doing it longer, have certain circumstances, or have access to amazing resources. Comparing yourself to them is an apples-to-oranges comparison.
Start small, grow later
When building a personal brand, clarify your unique perspective and express it on one to two channels. Then, let engagement data show you what people love. As you do this, you’ll attract people who love your perspective and promote your content to others. More importantly, you’ll build a brand that reflects your genuine beliefs and personality.