It’s no surprise that the greatest personal brands are the ones that resonate with their followers on a deeper level. Passion, determination and empathy are key ingredients in this branding formula. A pinch of authenticity goes a long way as well.

Creating and marketing a brand around a person who doesn’t exist is impossible to sustain. You simply won’t be able to live up to people’s expectations across every medium, which leads to brand disillusionment and loss of customers. This why becoming a thought leader can be extremely powerful for a business.

We live in a transparent age where any of your interactions or comments can end up going viral. If you’re not authentic in your brand, your followers will end up feeling like they’ve been left holding a fake Fendi.

If you don’t have a great personal story or believe in what you’re selling, your lack of enthusiasm will transmit to your brand. But if you’re passionate and stay true to yourself, you have the perfect basis to create a stellar personal brand.

1.   Establish Your Brand Identity

Offering a product that solves a problem, or a service that fills a need is vital for any business. But when it comes to establishing your brand identity, you’ll need to go further than your market offering.

Remember you’re not just selling a product – you’re selling yourself – and a strong brand identity is essential. Why? So that you can extend it across a variety of products or services as required. Just look at Richard Branson and the Virgin brand.

Branson has a very clear narrative and consistent brand that allows him to dabble in and market multiple passions – from entertainment to lifestyle, and even a successful airline company. It doesn’t really matter what you sell when it’s your personal brand identity people are buying.

2.   Know Your Competition

Whatever industry you want to position yourself in, one thing’s for sure; you won’t be the only one. Therefore, it’s essential to gain an in-depth panorama of the existing marketplace. What products and services are already available? What’s been done? What hasn’t been done? How can you improve on the services that are already available? Most importantly – what makes you different from the rest?

Once you’ve figured out how to separate yourself from the pack, be confident in your brand and unique selling points. Start writing thought-leadership articles in your niche and participating in interviews. This will help to establish yourself as an authority in your industry and give people a reason to choose you above the rest.

3.   Brand Your Authentic Self

Creator of Yes You Can!, Alejandro Chabán, learned that injecting authenticity into his brand was one of his greatest weapons. As an overweight teenager, Chabán was bullied at school. He also knew how it felt to be an immigrant in a foreign country, having moved to the US at the age of 20.

By being his authentic self and being honest about his past experiences, Chabán was able to connect with his customers on a personal level. Delivering a great product, infused with his personal brand of positivity – Yes You Can! “Brand yourself” enthuses Chabán, “create your image and keep a uniform look across every platform.”

4.   Learn From Your Audience

You can only achieve a stellar personal brand by truly listening and learning from your audience. What are their needs, desires and pain points? How can you connect with them emotionally and deliver a product that satisfies those needs? Many keynote speakers and celebrities master using emotions to connect with their public.

Sometimes that means displaying a little vulnerability. Showing your audience that you’re just like them – a real human being with problems, challenges and flaws. The more you interact with your audience, the more you’ll learn what triggers them emotionally and how to tailor your message to speak to them on an individual level.

Jaclyn Hill built an entire business on this. As a professional makeup artist, she used to post YouTube videos about how to accomplish certain “looks.” She’d be very upfront about the way she was looking that day – mentioning her blemishes and imperfections and telling the audience how she’d fix them. She garnered such a connection with her audience that BECCA Cosmetics eventually reached out to her to partner on a new line of makeup to be sold at Sephora.

5.   Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Achieving greatness in any area of life means that you’ll need to take risks. Don’t be afraid to fail or break the rules. Almost every successful brand, entrepreneur or household name has faced adversity on their way to the top. Even billionaire American sweetheart Oprah Winfrey, was fired from her first television job.

Making mistakes is how people learn and failure is an integral part of success. It also makes you more human. And the more human and approachable you are, the greater success you’ll achieve.

The strongest personal brands share a sense of passion and energy, with a true desire to change the lives of their consumers. When you can truly relate to your brand and connect with it, your enthusiasm with be contagious. Don’t be afraid to discuss your failures and show a sense of humanity in your brand. Forming a human connection with your consumer is what transforms a good brand into a great one.

Christina is a copywriter, MBA, marketer, columnist and general life enthusiast with a love/hate relationship with monkeys.

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