The Definitive Guide to Personal Branding
Personal Branding is the whole style and content of your brand.
In this document, you will learn:
What personal branding is and why it matters
Top 10 reasons everyone needs personal branding
FAQs about personal branding
Terms to know
Pros and cons of personal branding
Example of personal brand success
How to hire a professional
Tips and Reminders
Analyzing your results
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Learning marketing mojo is never easy. Here are some terms that'll make the rest of this document easier:
AUDIENCE PERSONA: This is a fictional character that contains all the ideal traits of your perfect customer. This allows you to really wrap your head around the real humans behind your viewers. See my Resources section for an awesome template and interview sheet!
BUYER'S JOURNEY: The buyer’s journey is a marketing term that describes the steps in a customer’s relationship with a brand, from first learning about a company to completing a purchase. There are three steps in the Buyer’s Journey:
Awareness: The customer does not yet know your brand or that they need you. Your job is to marketing to your audience persona’s pain points, not your brand.
Research: Your customer will do a general Google search for their pain point, and want to see your brand. Your job here is to share testimonials and research, and establish your credibility and awesomeness.
Decision: Your customer understands what they need to solve their pain point, and are ready to make a purchase. They’re going to start narrowing down their prospects, and you need to show how you differ from everyone else.
PERSONAL BRAND CONSULTANT: A personal brand consultant refers to any individual or marketing office that you hire to help you organize, refine, and plan your personal brand. This does not include photography services.
PERSONAL BRAND PHOTOGRAPHER: A personal brand photographer is one who has specific experience and training in capturing your brand in imagery. Not only do they have technical photography skills, but understand exactly how to shoot photos that speak to your audience persona. Some of them can also act as your Personal Brand Consultant. Real ones do not do coffee shop photos.
STORIES: The term ‘stories’ refers to the messaging you create with your Personal Brand Consultant and Photographer. The should speak directly to your audience persona and within each stage of the buyer’s journey.
COLOR PSYCHOLOGY: The study of how the use of color affects thoughts, emotions, and actions. Your Personal Brand Consultant will understand how to use this psychology to your brand’s best advantage.
UTM: UTM stands for ‘Urchin Tracking Mode,’ and is the way in which Google tracks visitors to your website pages. It’s the content that is placed after the '.com/' in a website URL.
FACEBOOK PIXELS: Pixels are Facebook-assigned codes that you place on your website content. It will track visitors and allow you to use this information to later create customized audiences and ads for your needs.
Forbes isn't joking. Personal branding is one of the most important pieces of your business in the modern world. It is the new modern-day scorecard. It communicates your career reputation and is currently the "great differentiator."
It's part of a package that includes your brand statement (your vision or mission), identifying your core values and what makes you unique, identifying your accomplishments and career goals, and creating your brand vision. This brand vision is what people see first. Before they read anything about you, your blog, or business, or otherwise, they see. This is where personal branding photography comes in. It's not a fad anymore, although still far from mainstream. If you’re an entrepreneur, blogger, small business owner, or modern job applicant, let's get ahead.
In this post, we’ll provide an all-encompassing rundown of personal brand photography, including an explanation of why personal brand photos are important, how to design branding photography that attracts your ideal customers, and 8 suggestions if you’re new to personal branding.
What is Personal Brand Photography (and Why Does it Matter)?
Personal branding is a style of photography used to attract your ideal audience (customers, clients, hiring managers, etc.) and communicate your brand very specifically and intentionally to them. You think of working on this year round. It isn't a head shot; rather, It consists of the whole of your brand, perhaps facets you’ve never thought about before, including:
Your Branding Statement
Your branding statement is the foundation of your personal brand. It is similar to an elevator pitch or a mission statement, in that you’re talking all about yourself, but it is unique in that you want to hit your customers in the feels…connecting emotionally is everything in digital marketing. Think about your company’s attitude and why you do what you do. Are you trendy or are you cozy and warm, for example? Multiply that by a statement on what you do and how you make your customer’s lives better. Who is your ideal customer and how can you speak to their pain points? Add on a statement on how you are different (and better!) from all of your competitors, and you have a rockin’ foundation to your personal brand house.
Your Audience Personas
Your audience persona is your dream customer, written down so every post, image, and other marketing piece speaks to them. Think of your ideal customer’s job, demographics, interests, challenges, and favorite media. Make up a name for them and speak to them…always.
Your ideal customer goes through three phases as you sell anything to them, called the buyer’s journey. Make sure you create content that speaks to each stage of the buyer’s journey!
-Awareness stage- they’re just learning about your brand and your value. Give them sympathy.
-Consideration stage- they’re familiar with your brand and starting to learn more about solving their issue.
-Decision stage- they’ve decided what and when to purchase!
Have you ever thought about your logo’s colors and what they tell your customers? What about the colors in your marketing materials (including your photos)? Take your audience persona and discover what colors communicate well to them. Make sure these are complementary to each other and common in your personal style. You’ll be shooting for a goal of at least two in every photo you shoot! It is proven that colors have definite psychological effects on people’s emotions, so learn your color psychology…it’s your friend in personal branding!
Personal branding photography is an all-important tool to tell your brand’s story. Storytelling is the single most vital tool you have to connect emotionally with your customers. Be sure to create stories that communicate why you do something. Move on to how, and then tell your customers what you do. Don’t mix up this order; this is a proven marketing strategy called the Golden Circle and will give you optimal results for your goals.
Your personal branding photos don’t always have to be at your office. In connecting emotionally with your audience (and selling to each phase of the buyer’s journey), you want to make sure you show them you identify with them. In showing your customers your brand’s style, tone, and mission, use your locations strategically to enhance these aspects and tell your unique brand stories. Indoors or out, stand one step ahead of your competition (wait, what competition!?). Don’t even think about a coffee shop, unless you’re a barista!
Your accessories, tools, products, and vehicles are your number one tool in storytelling. Stretch beyond the daily grind and find unique objects (in your brand’s colors!) that give everyone even more visual feedback about who you and your brand are.
Show your storefront, but also show you! Customers notice faces more than anything else, so don’t be shy. This is your chance to show everyone what drives you, what you look like in your element, what gives you joy, your style, attitude towards life, and a general sense of what sets you apart in your industry.
Top 10 Reasons Why Everyone Needs Personal Branding
It is increasingly important as more and more customers are doing their shopping online. Here are my top 10 reasons why everyone needs personal branding photography:
1. Your customers, clients, funders, and partners want to get to know you and trust you; let's channel your passion and energy into images that personalize your brand to communicate exactly who and what your brand is.
2. People process photos of faces before anything else, and people process photos before words by a magnitude of 60,000 times. You saw this image on the left first, right? What impact could it have showing off your face and brand?
3. Even if your business is product-based, you will benefit greatly from personal brand photography. People don't interact with objects; they become attached to a brand through the people involved.
4. You'll have professional-grade images of yourself for conferences, marketing materials, and networking events. Webinars, guest spots, and videos? Personal branding covers all the bases.
5. When you see how far you've come with your business documented in images, you'll gain a new sense of confidence to move forward! Let's dress up your website! Improve your business cards! The sky is the limit!
6. You will save over 8 hours a week in marketing tasks. You will never again have to worry where and how you will shoot your new product line, what image you'll use when you make an announcement, how to resize images for Instagram, or how to take a selfie that looks respectable! (Do you need help brainstorming social media?)
7. Not every photographer can take personal brand photography. Does your sister-in-law have a fancy camera? Yep, lots of people do. And there are even more photographers out there on Google and Yelp in your area. You need someone who specializes to build your brand, who can understand your brand stories and connect with your audience. If you choose someone without this understanding, your images will blend in with the rest and you won't strengthen your brand.
8. If you intend to sell anything- an idea, product, or service- you need photos on your sales and landing pages. How about press releases? Funding proposals? Yes.
9. An appointment for personal brand photography can actually help you slow down and get more clarity on where you want to go and who you want to be. When was the last time you sat down with someone and fleshed out the memories, expectations, stories, attitudes, values, and relationships that define you?
10. Maintain authenticity. I get the professional face you must hold sometimes, and how you must carry yourself sometimes in networking. I am behind the camera to help you protect and maintain your authenticity and integrity. No selfies, old head shots from college, or doctored snapshots needed.
If you employ personal branding photography to work for your brand, you’ll find significantly more customers completing the full buyer’s journey (Purchasing! Hiring! Money!) than before because your message will be honed to their sensibilities. They'll trust you because they'll know you. Likewise, you will attract more ideal customers versus general looky loos who won’t buy. There will also be more of them coming because your ideal customers will be ideally delighted with their purchases, so engagement and growth will follow. Learn more about the 9 Steps to Personal Brand Photography.
It all comes down to this: if you’re not your own advocate, no one else will be. Someone else will speak to your customers instead.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Personal Brand Photography
1. What is personal brand photography?
Personal brand photography is a set of images taken that highlight a brand style, feeling, culture, values, color, products, and services. It is helpful for entrepreneurs, small businesses, social media influencers, and bloggers to solidify your brand, increase reputation, and grow an online presence and increase value in marketing materials. Showing off a brand's genuine style is imperative to growing trust and loyalty in today's customer base.
2. How can I get personal brand photography for my brand?
I recommend hiring a photographer that specializes in personal brand photography; they will understand the need for unique and striking images that convey a story within your personal brand that will create emotion in the ideal customers. Personal brand photographers specialize in pulling this information from a client and bringing it to light in visual media. They will also be able to provide you with formatted images that can be used directly for your individual customized needs. To hire a personal photographer, you can Google search "personal brand photographer near me."
3. What is a personal branding statement?
A personal branding statement is similar to a mission statement; in it, a brand will outline their core values, emotions, and style. It is you wrapped up in a small paragraph. From it, images, logos, marketing materials, and a business can grow organically.
4. How can I start personal branding?
To start, outline three feelings that encompass you or your business. Identify the economic, social, and geographic details around your dream client or customer. From there, tie these feelings into a brand statement that will give you an outline of style and form to follow with every marketing material that follows, whether it be social media, a resume, or a blog. Stay consistent to your brand and it will grow loyal followers! There are lots of free ways you can market your personal brand!
5. How can personal branding help me?
Personal branding can help a brand identify their style, identify the right customers, maintain a genuine reputation that culls trust, and grow your client base tremendously. Be the face in front of your brand! Humans respond to faces, not boxes or words.
The Pros and Cons of Personal Branding
Pro: You will often find yourself with a deeper understanding of your brand than you did before you walked through the personal branding door. You’ll really know who your customers are and how to best communicate with them, where they hang out, and how to reach them. On the flipside, they’ll benefit from your services because your visibility and reputation will see a jump! #winwin!
Con: Personal brand photography has a different set of commercial usage rights than regular family or wedding photography. This can be tough for the photographer’s side, and it’s an important conversation to have when hiring a personal brand photographer. Make sure you ask the right questions when interviewing a personal brand photographer.
Basically, personal brand photography comes with all commercial rights, and no attribution required. That means that your photographer cannot stop you from editing, putting filters on, or adding text to any image you purchase from them. It also means that you don’t ever have to tag them, credit them, or otherwise mention them (although they always appreciate it when you can). They are your secret agent working for your brand, not the other way around.
Pro: Having personal branding on your content will allow for your goals to be realized in a much more efficient way, because you will have both content and complementary imagery that works for you. You can show the client you’re just like them, you can solve their problems, you serve clients of all ages, you have a trendy office space, you’re open on holidays…whatever is important for your clients to know, personal brand photography will help you tell them in a meaningful way.
Pro: Personal brand photography will create a cohesive and styled look for your brand. Have you seen all those beautiful Instagram accounts where all the images look like they belong together? A personal brand photographer can help you achieve that! Open the door to a better reputation, a more professional look, and more sales for you.
Con: Personal branding takes considerable marketing mojo, experience, and education to implement correctly. Likewise, the photography aspect needs specializations as well. However, I always tell my clients that the investment is not only in your brand, but in yourself.
Con: Even when you hire help for personal branding, there will still be a significant effort needed on your part at the beginning of the relationship as you educate the branding agent on your style, brand, and what you need from them. Likewise, as your goals change when the branding effort starts working for you, you’ll need to revise your branding efforts with them! It’s a team effort.
Pro: Everyone is specialized! A personal brand consultant is not just anyone with a marketing degree; likewise a personal brand photographer is not just any photographer. They’ve both gone through extensive training to efficiently and successfully work your brand to its fullest, identify and reach your ideal customers, and create visuals that speak directly to them. Don’t just hire any photographer because they won’t be able to work for you in the most effective way. If you have a favorite photographer, you can also work with them through my program here: link
Example of Personal Brand Success
Proof is in the pudding. Let’s check out Instagram influencer @j.isabeldesigns. Her brand is on point with her audience, fun-loving beachy babes between the ages of 20-35 who have enough disposable income. (I didn’t even need to talk to her to know that; that is how well she is speaking to her audience!)
She’s checked in to her location, solidifying her fun-loving Cali lifestyle. She’s excited about what she’s presenting and doing, and understands that women need some genuine cheer, style, and positivity. She is being vulnerable with her audience by showing us that she's working toward a personal goal. She's also reminding us that life is full of challenges and adventures and we should try to be open to them. This sure hit me right in the feels. Likeable character, right? We buy from folks we trust and like.
If you continue in her content, you’ll see that her brand is always consistent, always on point, and always present, no matter the subjects in her photos. Also note that she is always there. Don’t be afraid to show up for your personal brand! People want to see you are a real person; they will always trust a face more than an object. How else can you get these professional looks for yourself without a personal brand agent by your side!?
It works for Miss Jess. She has over 5k followers, and because she’s paying attention to her personal brand and speaking directly to her ideal customers, most of those 5k followers are going to be interested in actually buying (converting) from her.
We understand that some of her brand colors are red and black, she creates gift boxes, embraces the Cali life, and that we just want to be her friend! We also know that she loves fashion, accessories, and really enjoys the fun in the sun culture. She’s using her color psychology, audience personas, and buyer's journey storytelling.
If you’re a fashion and sun-loving lady out there in Instagram-land, won’t you automatically gravitate towards her photos? Also note that these photos are taken by professionals, and the order of them in her feed is planned as well. Let’s take a look at her messaging:
How to Hire a Personal Brand Consultant or Photographer
Do a Google search on personal brand consultants. They don’t need to be local! These can be independent consultants or marketing agencies that have personal branding specializations. Read through their experience, qualifications, and see if their work is in your budget. Don’t forget that you might need to hire a photographer too, so leave some money on your table here.
Do a Google search on personal brand photographers in your area. They do need to be local, of course. Check their qualifications, their price, and if they also do the front-end work of a personal brand consultant or if this would be photography only. Will they help you nail down your brand? Create a shoot list? Will they also help you design your marketing materials, plan advertisements and campaigns, and do PR for you? (If so, you’ve got a gem- you can go with a one-stop shop!)
Work with your consultant (or consultant-photographer) to review and analyze your brand, audience, marketing channels, and goals. Don’t worry too much about this now; it’s their job to guide you. Most of the time clients walk away truly inspired and with new energy for their company.
Work with your photographer to create a shoot plan; this includes locations, stories, characters, props, and all. Your personal brand photographer should know all the legalities surrounding usage rights, property rights, and copyright infringement.
Use the content and strategy provided to increase the value, reputation, and sales in your company and reevaluate this again every year of growth! Your goals might change with a jump in sales!
Tips and Reminders for Personal Branding
Even veterinarians need personal brand love.
Don’t forget that personal brand success doesn’t come overnight. Work with your personal brand consultant to break through roadblocks, unknown information, and stumbles to arrive at your personal brand mission, branding statement, photo shoot list, and content plan. As your company evolves with greater success, your branding might need to evolve too. It’s best to meet with your personal brand coach every quarter or twice a year at the least so your content can stay consistent with your goals and identity.
Not all photographers are qualified to perform personal brand photography! You may have amazing family photos on your wall, but please stop before you call that photographer to shoot your brand. Personal brand photographers have specific qualifications and experience that will lead to more effective, consistent, and helpful photos that will speak directly to your ideal audience. If you’re going to pay for professional shots, do your research and make sure they have the marketing mojo to back their photo skills up. It’s in your best interest.
Don’t ever try to create a personal branding plan without understanding your audience persona.
Make your branding shoot unique to you. Your props, locations, and stories should all resonate with who you are as a person and the values of your company. If your photographer wants to shoot you in a coffee shop with a laptop, run away (unless you’re a barista or something).
5. Don’t fear this. It may all sound overwhelming, but that’s why we get help. No one can do everything. Personal branding is not going anywhere; in fact, it’s becoming more and more prevalent the more our culture depends on digital media. So jump in headfirst and be confident in your decision.
6. Make sure you do an internal audit of your current marketing so you can tell your Consultant and Photographer exactly how you want to use this new content. Photographers will need to format your new photo files to match current dimension and resolution standards for any social media channel, website use, and print file. If you’re not sure which social media channel to use, ask your experts!
Analyzing Your Personal Branding Campaign
You put a lot of effort into improving your personal brand, and no effort is complete with an analysis of what works and what doesn’t. This information is vital to bring to your next meeting with your Personal Brand Consultant so you can continue to grow! Here are some tools you can use to check your progress:
Google Alerts. Have you heard of Google Alerts? You can use this Google tool to set up notifications every time your brand and/or your name are mentioned on the internet. Track this over time, and you should see it growing!
Mention.com. This website tracks all mentions of your name, including those conversations happening on social media. Use it in tandem with Google Alerts to get the best idea of your growing reputation.
BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo is recommended by reputable marketing greats as HubSpot and LinkedIn as the ideal place to check mentions and stats from your Twitter accounts. You will get an idea of what social media content is performing best, and you can replicate those for your next quarter’s worth of content!
FollowerWonk. If you use Twitter in your personal branding initiatives, FollowerWonk has advanced features for analytics, engagement and following.
LinkedIn. If you use LinkedIn in your personal branding, you can carefully follow your views and statistics as your reputation flies!
UTM and Pixels. Set up UTM codes and Facebook Pixels in your website to track where and how your increasing traffic is coming. This will tell you what is working and what needs attention.
Resources for Personal Branding
Here are some more resources for folks who want to dig deeper!
Instagram Influencer j.isabeldesigns
Sinek, Simon. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Portfolio, 2009.
In closing, personal branding is more important than ever before for entrepreneurs and small businesses. The increase in digital marketing is making personal branding the “modern-day scorecard” that compares you to your competitors. It is a vital tool to have in your pocket to establish your reputation, refine your brand, increase customer engagement and sales, and grow your company to the next level.
Team up with a Personal Brand Consultant to create your audience persona, your buyer’s journey stories, and brand style. Your Personal Brand Photographer will use this information, along with their niche training in marketing and photography, to create beautiful branded images that speak emotionally to your customers, resulting in more engagement. Check out my blog for even more information and details regarding aspects of personal branding! Ever onward!
The ball is in your court now. Personal Branding is really buzz-worthy right now but is not yet mainstream. Now is the time to get ahead of your competitors and set yourself apart. If you don’t, they will eventually! Let’s do this.
Where to From Here?
I’m an award-winning Brand Anthropologist certified in Content Marketing. I consult for clients nationwide. I provide personal branding and family photography for Washtenaw and Wayne counties, Michigan.
For more information on how I can help you, or if you have any questions about this content, let me know. You can also purchase my ebook Personal Branding: The Painless and Total Guide for the Photographer Breaking In and/or book consulting hours.
Phone: (734) 210-1548