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Yolanda M. Smith
Yolanda M. Smith is a professional development facilitator, career coach, and bestselling author. With more than 15 years of public speaking and personal branding expertise, she founded Branding 4 Success, where she currently serves as Chief Brandthrupist. As a certified brand analyst, she empowers individuals to develop a powerful Personal Brand for career advancement and business growth. She collaborates with organizations to engage and retain talent and assists teams in creating a strong brand identity to influence cross-functionality and deliver positive results.

You may have been hearing and seeing a lot about personal branding lately and wonder what all the buzz is about. Individuals and organizations are discovering there is power in a personal brand. A personal brand is the way others perceive you; it is the relationship and experience that others have with you. Yes, it is your reputation, image, and how you put yourself out to the world. Simply put, it is what people say about you when you leave the room. When they’re gossiping about you or your team, is it positive or negative?

The impression that you leave with others is generally based on your experience, expertise, competencies, actions, and/or achievements within a community, industry, or the marketplace at large. The key is that you develop your personal brand with strategy and intention.

In anything we strive to achieve, there are often barriers, pitfalls, and mistakes along the way. I want to share with you some common mistakes to avoid when developing and managing your personal brand. Some branding practices will happen through trial and error — it is only natural — yet common mistakes can be avoided if you are aware of the pitfalls. There are a lot of opinions when it comes to the most common mistakes, along with a plethora of commentaries on what to avoid including focusing too much on yourself, not sharing the right content, focusing on the career you have versus the one you want, and so on. Here are five key pitfalls to avoid as you develop your personal brand.

1. Thinking personal branding does not pertain to you.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a C-suite executive, or somewhere in between, personal branding has a place in helping you take your business or career to the next level. It is all about marketing your value and distinguishing yourself to take control of your story and turn your reputation into reward. Whatever path you’re on, your online and offline presence can either help you or hurt you along the way. Do not make the mistake of thinking personal branding doesn’t pertain to you. We are all a brand!

2. Pretending to be someone you’re not.

When we’re first dating someone new, we often try to show the best side of ourselves. Our apartments may look a little neater than usual or perhaps our jobs suddenly become more interesting and impressive than they were a week ago. In small amounts, this practice can help you gain someone’s attention and forge a deeper connection. However, if you take this too far, you risk becoming someone you are not for the sake of continuing a relationship. Remember, the joy of creating a positive personal brand is that you can be yourself — your true authentic self.

Don’t get caught up in trying to impress people and lose the essence of who you are and what you truly want to be known for. If you do, you risk having your strategy backfire. Nobody wants to date, hire, marry, or do business with a fraud. Authenticity is key, both for relationships and personal brands. Don’t make the mistake of pretending to be someone you are not.

3. Waiting until something bad happens.

Dentists recommend brushing your teeth twice a day, every day. Can you imagine what would happen if you only brushed your teeth once they started turning brown and rotting? You would probably get gum disease, have some brutal toothaches, and your smile would leave a lot to be desired. Once you get to this point, it’s usually too late to fix everything. At the very least, there would be a lot of ground to make up. Brushing your teeth on an ongoing basis is a far more effective way to maintain a winning smile and maintain oral hygiene.

Personal branding works in much the same way. It’s harder to take control of your online narrative once there is already something bad that you need to handle. Many people only realize how important their personal brand is once they have a problem. But that’s a classic mistake. Personal branding can be more effective, and less of a headache, when it’s done preventatively. A little work now can make things a lot easier later.

4. Ignoring others in the brand discovery process.

When creating a personal brand, you cannot overestimate the importance of external consulting from friends, family, coworkers, or a professional branding firm. You are not creating a brand to impress yourself; you are creating a brand to impress and attract others, not to mention that it is very difficult to see yourself from others’ perspectives. Talking your brand out with someone else can help you get a little distance from the narrative you already hold in your own head.

The consequences of making branding mistakes are scary and can cost you the reward and joy you are seeking. You can run with what you believe to be a “great idea,” only to find out afterward it didn’t resonate with a core group of your target audience. The lesson here is that a little outside perspective goes a long way.

5. Creating brand confusion.

A confused mind does not buy! I’ve heard this saying for years, and it is so true. As a buyer, if you are not sure of what you are getting, do not understand the outcome you will achieve, do not know what the product or service will offer, or do not have a clear understanding of the brand delivering it you are highly unlikely to make a purchase decision.

Therefore, you should avoid the pitfall of creating confusion with your personal brand. This often happens when the person you represent online does not match who you are offline, or when there is no clarity and consistency in your brand and messaging. Who you represent in action must mirror the personal brand you created with your words, your story, and your brand statement. Do not send mixed messages to your audience. Be clear, concise, strategic, and intentional and live your personal brand in a manner that allows you to confidently articulate your value, be authentic, and stand out. Clarity breeds connection and if you attract the right people with the right message at the right time, true engagement can take place, positioning you to earn more, lead more, and win more.

I hope you find these tips help to keep you from some of the common mistakes people make frequently. AOTMP® now offers professional development and personal branding packages. You can discover the power of a personal brand and learn the five essential steps to developing and mastering your Brand Signature with the AOTMP® Personal Branding online course.

In today’s environment, a personal brand is a requirement, not an option. Become the CEO of the brand called YOU and position yourself for visibility, recognition, and career advancement. Teams can build an influential brand identity to increase collaboration and effectively drive business results. Visit Personal Branding – AOTMP® to learn more.

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