Personal branding is all the rage right now. Everyone has a brand, but some of us are more skilled at realizing its potential than others.
Entrepreneurs and online gurus alike (think Richard Branson, Lewis Howes, Gary Vaynerchuk or Neil Patel), actors, writers and public figures work hard to build a personal brand that replaces their business card and reinforces their influence and popularity in the public eye.
But what exactly is a personal brand?
Essentially, everything we do and say has an impact on how others ‘see’ us. A personal brand is a reflection of our character, skills, talents and passions in life and how they are perceived by those around us.
The art of building a strong personal brand draws on the concepts of authenticity, excellence, and uniqueness. It celebrates and enhances the aspects of our image that make us who we want to be.
No matter whether we’re purposefully constructing the image that we project to the world, or let things take their own course, we all have a personal brand. If you’re being recommended for a job by someone you know, get a new client through a referral, or are invited to speak at an event, that’s a result of your brand. Someone has formed a positive mental image of your work or skills and is letting that image guide their decisions. Now, that’s the important bit.
A personal brand is something that we can shape but not entirely control. One small misstep could cause an avalanche of bad luck and destroy our chances of seizing new opportunities before they even emerge. That’s how big of a deal it is.
The power of visuals
When it comes to forming an effective personal brand, there are many elements at play. To lay a strong foundation for our personal brand we need to tap into the genuine qualities from which our character and personality stem, such as our values and passions. When we have a clear grasp of the image we want to project to the world, we can start outlining our personal branding strategy and taking advantage of the artillery of tools available to us.
The main elements of building a recognizable personal brand encompass creativity, credibility, professional visual representation (through photos, colors, design, email signature, etc.), a strong online presence, being memorable, and being consistent. It’s important to meticulously plan out how you’re going to implement each element and then connect all of them into a coherent ‘story’. For the sake of this article, we will only focus on the importance of visual communication and, in particular, the impact of professional photography.
The human brain is a visual instrument. From the 35,000 remotely conscious decisions that we make each day, hundreds of them are driven by visual cues – from the outfit we choose to wear in the morning, to what we eat for lunch and the flowers we purchase on special occasions. Some of these decisions have become habits, so we’re not even aware of them, others can be influenced by past experiences, personal taste, trends or various outside forces, such as marketing and advertising. Why do we choose Nike sneakers over Adidas? Or buy Jamie Oliver’s cookbook and not some collection of granny’s best recipes? Because we eat and shop with our eyes first and make a huge number of decisions based on first impressions. In fact, it takes us less than 30 seconds to form an impression of someone, so they do matter.
Why authentic photography is so important for your brand
Using photography to reinforce your personal brand is an excellent way to take advantage of the visual nature of the human brain. If you’re running an online business or building an online portfolio, high-quality, authentic photography will play a crucial role in delivering the personality of your brand. It’s one of the most effective ways to enhance your positioning as an expert and instantly connect with your readers or customers.
The same way brands obsess about logos, colors, and typography, a strong personal brand requires you to invest in professional headshots and appealing photography. Having a professional headshot is the only way to be taken seriously, no matter your line of work. You should always strive to use the same headshot across all of your social media channels, email and personal website to help people recognize you easier and add to your credibility. The style your photos are shot in, the clothes you wear and your facial expressions will also influence people’s perceptions of you, so make sure you put enough thought into it.
Great-looking photography will give your personal brand another layer of trust and appeal. We know that it takes the brain less than 30 seconds to process visual cues, so ensuring your blog or website is charged with bold, beautiful images will help you capture and keep people’s attention and establish a unique image. To squeeze all the benefits from professional photos, make sure you establish your brand’s visual style from the very beginning, so that all the images you use align with your overall value proposition. Think about adding a little something to differentiate your visuals from all the other content available online – your name, domain name, logo, special effect, or anything else that works with the content you produce.
With all the free, high-quality stock images available to download online, it’s becoming easier than ever to build professional-looking websites and blogs. Free image depositories are an ideal option for those who are just starting to learn the ropes of personal branding and want to avoid rookie mistakes, as it is much easier to build and shape a brand from scratch than to attempt to change people’s negative perception of you.
For those who don’t want to use free stock images that are frequently seen on a number of websites around the web, but can’t afford to spend a lot of money on unique images, something as flexible and low-commitment as Depositphotos can be worth exploring. Additionally, free tools like Canva or Snappa are also great when you need to turn your photos into branded visuals and optimize them for different social media channels.
The psychology of color
The color is another important element representing your personal brand. Since it has the power to stir up emotions, color can send a powerful message and stick in people’s memory. A study carried out by the University of Loyola found that color can increase brand recognition by 80 percent. A bit like your logo, your color selection should be chosen carefully, as it will likely stay the same for many years to come. Choosing your favorite color to be the core of your personal brand might be a good idea, just be sure you know the meaning and statement associated with it before weaving it into your communications. Here are the most common associations:
Red: energy, power, danger, determination, passion, desire, love, activity, vitality, motivation, playfulness, enthusiasm, courage.
Yellow: happiness, joy, intellect, warmth, energy, vision, caution, creativity, independence, self-motivation.
Orange: sunshine, tropics, joy, fascination, happiness, enthusiasm, creativity, attraction, determination, success, stimulation, optimism, energy, humor, productivity, endurance,
Green: nature, growth, harmony, safety, freshness, fertility, rebirth, spring, change, relaxation, youth, luck, healing, prosperity.
Blue: communication, wisdom, reliability, truth, loyalty, integrity, leadership, peace, truth, stability, depth, faith, heaven.
Purple: ambition, luxury, inspiration, royalty, magic, mysticism, wealth, personal power, spirituality, mystery.
Black: elegance, mystery, formality, evil, strength, luxury, power.
Brown: stability, earthiness, self-control.
White: purity, truth, cleanliness, refinement, innocence, goodness, light, spirituality, openness.
Pink: friendship, affection, femininity, softness, love, warmth.
How can you use color to reinforce your brand?
Harnessing the power of color is not that difficult once you make your choice. You simply need to apply it everywhere:
- Your website or blog
- Your social media accounts (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram)
- Your personal headshot and other visuals on the site
- Your email signature
- Your stationery and business accessories (laptop or iPad case, phone case, bag or backpack, etc.)
- Your business cards or CVs
- Your branded swag material (t-shirts, pens, mugs, folders, etc.)
Personal brand is an investment in your future
Personal branding is just another form of branding that focuses on enhancing the qualities of a person rather than a company. So, the most important part of this process is figuring out how you want to be seen by others and what associations you want to build around your name. Professional photography will make your communication more engaging and add a touch of authenticity to your brand as well as ensure that quality and style is something that comes to mind when people think about your brand.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.