Different umbrella

Differentiate your personal brand

Differentiate to set yourself above the others

Gain a competitive advantage by highlighting your strengths as part of your personal branding.

Whether you’re looking for a long term job or a freelance gig, a personal brand will be crucial when finding opportunities. Differentiation is all about seeing what is different about you, something others can not offer in the same way.

I have worked for years in employed roles, freelance projects and voluntary or pro bono experiences. All these opportunities happened because other people agreed to benefit from my professional services. They only agreed after being convinced that I could offer something which won’t be gained from other competitors. Every brand needs a competitive advantage.

Here are some ways in which I developed differentiated points of difference. Anyone can do something similar when looking at their own unique attributes and benefits.

Social Connections

It really is about who you know. Go beyond your own industry and stay connected in the local/online communities. If you are an agency or freelancer, potential customers will be hanging out in other places beyond the industry itself. If you are offering services to other businesses, entrepreneurial groups will connect you with business owners or managers who could become customers. If your brand is focused on business-to-consumer targeting, try gatherings like local markets. Be available for your next potential customers.

Become a regular at industry events to become familiar with people you could collaborate with. I attended the Publish conference by Mumbrella in 2016. This event was my first experience at a communications industry event. I normally have to attend something once or twice to become familiar with it, before then feeling comfortable and confident at further events. Sign up to newsletters to stay informed about events. Plan dates such as early-bird special deadlines. You don’t have to be everywhere at every event that exists. Carefully select a few that fit your criteria such as ticket price, time and relevance. Then get ready to mingle.

Self-Taught Skills

Identify anything you learned to do, especially things you do differently. Then write the benefits that are gained from these techniques. Is something done faster, more precisely or effectively? That is something to emphasise whenever talking with potential clients or employers.

I enjoyed introducing some past employers to other programs and web sites for social media scheduling. Many companies might be aware of built-in functionality for future social posts, such as the Facebook Business Manager, but there are third-party sites that can publish to multiple social platforms. It avoids having to enter the same content repeatedly on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Time and effort are saved through eliminating steps in the process. Just type it once and it’s done. This was a skill that I could then bring to other stakeholders in later projects, as a technique I do differently.

Know what methods you can highlight, whether you learned them at a job or independently. Be sure to focus on what outcomes are gained from doing things your way. Prepare yourself for the possibility that no everyone will want to do things in a new way. Some organisations prefer the familiarity of established processes. It is always worth offering innovative options.

If you feel passionate about an innovation, establish trust and then reduce perceived risk. Offer to trial an innovation when still doing the old method. Then the two can be compared. And clients or employers can experience your newer ways without committing before they are ready.

Professional Experience

Work history is often listed in resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Another piece of vital information should be included with a work history – any skills and knowledge that are gained from that work experience, along with beneficial outcomes. Just like independently learned skills, work history only helps when it teaches something you didn’t know before.

As a marketing communications professional, I normally try to grow the online presence of brands I work with. That is the outcome I can expect to achieve. Find out what is gained from your work. Also identify what practical steps are taken to reach those goals. Those are the benefits people can expect from you because of your work history.

Academic Qualifications

It helps to mention any academic qualifications that are relevant to the services that are provided. Don’t dwell on these courses all the time. Brand positioning can be boosted by highlighting abilities that you developed more than others during those courses.

I had a phase of focusing on fashion journalism during my postgraduate degree. Not all journalists want to cover this topic. So I was able to find new angles on the fashion industry without as much competition. Of course I was not the only individual in the world who writes about fashion. But the point of difference was independent coverage of creativity and the craft.

It is all about finding a niche within a specialty. There are already plenty of fashion writers at mainstream organisations like Vogue. Then a generation of fashion bloggers who show off the latest ripped denim and street style. My niche was somewhere in the middle – discovering the technical processes, career journeys and cultural meaning behind the clothes we wear.

My specialty was definitely not shared with everyone else in my course. Whatever service you are looking to provide, try to remember something unique that you created when becoming qualified. It could have been research, a special interest or something that was done better than others. That is the best way to stand out. Many people might have the same piece of paper, for the same degree or certificate. Only you will have that particular experience in a specialty when completing that journey.

Anyone can find a point of difference

Every individual will have diverse qualities to emphasise in a personal brand. 

These benefits can change over time. Just like the evolution of our personalities, professional image will alter based on experiences and choices.

The top priority, when communicating a brand image, is to have a clear message about 1-3 aspects of your identity. We cannot be everything to everybody. People also cannot remember or understand a myriad of benefits all at once. Simplify a personal brand for maximum impact. 

I like to now use three keywords when summarising who I am as a professional: marketing, PR and journalism. Those words are about my skills and therefore most useful on LinkedIn. Another three words are used for my overall brand: communications, lifestyle, speaking. These are broad enough to include everything I offer.

Words for a personal brand should be general enough to cover all of your capabilities, kind of like a broad umbrella. I previously listed many keywords on my web site – e-commerce management, fashion retail marketing, strategic marketing, fashion blogging, general lifestyle blogging, fashion journalism, PR planning, PR writing, social media graphics, written content for web sites, marketing copy writing…. Are you exhausted from reading this list yet? That is what happens when we become lost in a sea of detail. Just pick three umbrella words and stick with them.

Here is a trio to help in remembering the rule: keep-it-simple.

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