Personal Branding Basics

Personal branding, and creative expression for that matter, aren’t just for what we consider the traditionally “artistic” fields or those in the public eye. Everybody to some degree or another must put themselves in the most positive light possible.

In order to best creatively express yourself for the purpose of your goals, it’s helpful to know the basics of what personal branding is, what business portraits (headshots) are in relation to this, and what this all means for you and your own personal and professional goals.

Personal Branding Model Sitting

What is a personal brand?

Whether you are proactively seeking employment or have a vested interest in promoting yourself publicly, people are still seeing, evaluating, and categorizing you all the time.

A personal brand is the same as a company brand, in the sense that it’s an attempt to constellate and create the image that you’re hoping to convey to the person receiving the image.

While your goals may vary, whether it’s a better job, better contacts and clients for your company, or industry recognition, one way or another you’ll want to take responsibility for the image you’re projecting.

What is the Importance of Story in Branding?

As one brand expert on headshots for comedians says, “It’s all about having a story behind your eyes. Whatever that story is, you need to have a story. Just like when you’re acting, something needs to be going on…”

It’s important to consider the message behind each element that people can see in your pictures. You’ll want to imagine yourself seeing the picture from an outsider’s perspective, and contemplate what it is likely to say to that person.

Ask yourself if your picture is going to appear on a bus stop bench, for example, if someone is more likely to take your name down as a future business opportunity, or draw a mustache on you?!

You want your story to walk the fine line of matching people’s expectations for the profession you’re in, while still expressing something unique about yourself and your story within those boundaries.

What is Brand Consistency?

If you’re trying to convey a story or connect yourself with a symbol that best represents that story, it will only be effective if you’re consistent in what you’re communicating.

You want to think of each picture as narrating one paragraph or making one illustration, of a part of a larger story. Be sure to match what the picture is saying with the written copy or language that might accompany it. Incongruent communication can leave people baffled about just what your story is, and leave them without a chance for your story to resonate with them.

Your personal brand portraits should also be consistent with the location and context of where people will see them. If your picture appears in a professional newsletter it may be on the more formal end of the scale, whereas if it is strictly for social media it will likely be on the more informal end.

This brings up the difference between a personal brand portrait and a professional one, or a headshot.

What is the Difference between a Personal Branding Portrait and a Professional Headshot?

The first thing to remember is to think of this difference on more of a spectrum, rather than as a hard and fast division.

The traditional headshot (or professional portrait) places the emphasis on the far side of the “professional” end of that spectrum. The goal in this instance is to adhere as closely as possible to a set of standards that spells out “Real Estate Agent,” or “Lawyer,” or whichever the profession is that you’re trying to represent, and puts your best foot forward within that given genre.

A personal brand portrait involves more of the personal expression and storytelling mentioned above and tends towards the more informal end of the spectrum. This is similar to the difference you’d expect in someone’s company social media page, versus their own personal social media profile. It gives you more of a chance to be creative, regardless of if you’re in a traditionally creative profession or not.

A good illustration when you think of the difference is to picture a headshot as what you would want to see on the wall of the surgeon about to operate on you. You’d likely want something that suggests professionalism and dignity and will instill trust that you’re in good hands.

A personal branding portrait of the same surgeon on a golf outing may be more appropriate, however, if this surgeon were to go on a speaking tour about a recent book they had published in their medical field.

Hopefully, these examples help you picture the importance of branding, and the differences under the branding umbrella. Whatever your goals might be, if you’d like a professional take on branding yourself and telling YOUR story in a fun, exciting way, contact me today!