The 3 Laws of Online Personal Branding

We’ve written about creating your personal brand and an online persona before, but given the importance of that branding in the world of today’s web worker, it’s important that you understand the underlying laws of branding.

It’s not enough to write prolifically, to have a great Facebook or LinkedIn page, to comment everywhere or be everywhere.

Those things are important, of course, but what’s just as important is knowing what works and why it works. To understand that, you need to understand the timeless laws of branding — stuff that has worked from the time of Henry Ford onward. Heck, even Shakespeare and Da Vinci and Socrates seemed to understand branding.

The Three Laws of Branding all revolve around a message: when you create a brand, you are sending a message to anyone who sees or hears that brand. You aren’t just creating a name that has no meaning. For example, Pepsi doesn’t just put its name and logo everywhere without thinking about what message it is sending. Sure, it puts its name and logo everywhere, but it is also careful to create ads that reinforce the message that Pepsi is not only delicious and refreshing, it is also the hip choice of the younger generation.

It’s that message that you need to pay attention to when branding.

Law 1: Create a valuable message. To do this, offer people something of value. Show them that your brand equals something that will help them somehow. To do this, it’s good to offer something of value wherever you repeat your brand, whether that’s offering valuable advice or giving away information or resources or services.

Also think about how you differentiate your message from others offering similar services or products. If you offer the same exact thing, then how is your message valuable? It’s only valuable if you’re different in a way that’s valuable to people. For example, if I offer advice on blogging, I would have to be different than the thousands of others doing the same. Perhaps I would show people how to monetize their blogs in a new way, or create a new kind of content, or create a simple but jazzy design. However you do it, it’s important that you offer value beyond the pack of others doing the same thing.

Law 2: Repeat the message often and widely. The art of branding is famous for its repetition. You can’t just tell people your brand once and expect them to remember it, or its message. And even if you repeat your brand 10 times, if it’s to the same 10 people, then your message isn’t reaching the other million people out there.

Of course, this repetition can be a challenge. You have to find multiple ways of repeating your brand. You can’t just do it on your blog — you have to repeat the message in forums, on other blogs, on Facebook or MySpace or Twitter or Yahoo Answers or LinkedIn, or all of the above. Participate actively in your niche, and then get outside your niche to find a wider audience. Neil Patel writes about some great methods of branding in different ways on his branding blog, QuickSprout, including The First 7 Days of Personal Branding.

Law 3: Be consistent with your message. This is the law most often ignored. People might create a valuable message, and then repeat it far and wide, but the actions they take or the various things they write might be inconsistent with that message.

For example, if your message is that you are someone who can create positive life changes in people, in a positive and enthusiastic way, and then you participate in a forum where you attack someone, you can see how the message is inconsistent.

Everything you do online, everything you write and say, everything you present, sends a message — sometimes a message you aren’t aware you’re sending. It is vital to creating a valuable brand that you think about the message you’re sending — spoken and unspoken — whenever you do anything online. Whether you’re sending an email, writing a guest post on another blog, writing a comment, sending a Twitter message … think about not only the words you’re writing, but the tone, the manner and style. Is it consistent with your desired message?

If you ignore this law, you will create mixed signals, and confusion, and all your efforts at branding will go to waste. Because the message you’re actually sending might not be the one you designed, but the one that the public picks up on in your tone and in your attitude and in your actions.

Think carefully about these things, and the message you’re sending, when you’re creating your brand out there in the online world.

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