Mapping Out the Journey to Your Personal Brand

As we prepare for events to come back in full force, the market—and the industry—we are reentering looks remarkably different from how we left it. Client objections have shifted, the economy remains precarious, and we’re anticipating an influx of new industry pros who have used their pandemic downtime to build event businesses.

To put it bluntly, it’s time for seasoned event pros to step up their game. Too many folks in the industry have years of experience under their belt but remain under the radar because they haven’t yet stepped into the light. More often than not, what’s holding them back is an inconsistent—if not nonexistent—personal brand.

It’s important to note that a personal brand is separate from a business brand. You may have a flourishing brand for your business that is well-recognized across the industry, but say you sold it — would anyone know who you are? Is your reputation strong enough that you can succeed based on your name alone? If you hesitated on that question, it’s a good sign that your personal brand needs some love and attention.

For the uninitiated, a personal brand is how you appear to the world and is typically tied into what you do for a living. In general, it’s made up of three elements that the public assesses: your personality, your expertise, and your value. Let’s consider each of these for a moment.

Your Personality

Personality is a big part of business, especially in the wedding and events industry. In fact, Splendid Insights found that personality is one of the top factors in a couple booking decision — second only to your expertise. But, your personality is made up of many different elements, so the big question becomes: Which parts do you present to the public? What corners of your personality can you leverage to enhance your personal brand?

Your Expertise

You’re an expert — of course you are! But, it’s likely that you’re an expert in many areas, so you need to determine which pieces of your expertise you want to flaunt. What are you passionate about sharing with others? How does that align with your goals? Will you have to compete with others who are experts in that area? I’m an expert in many fields of PR and marketing, but I choose to present myself as a media expert in particular. Get clear on where your niche falls.

Your Value

Branding is all about perception and, with your personal brand, you must consider how other perceive the value you bring to the table. Consider the areas in which others ask you for advice or tag you for input on Facebook. How does they tie into your expertise? In some cases, you may learn that other people see value in areas that you never even considered for yourself, so this exercise can help you to find clarity on what you truly have to offer the world.

Digging into these three elements and building your personal brand might feel like a lot right now, particularly with events coming back. But, let me be clear: A great personal brand is a business game-changer.

It will help you build a stronger network, attract more (and better) referrals, open up association leadership opportunities, and develop industry recognition as an expert. In a shaky economy, positioning yourself as a go-to person will make all the difference in future-proofing your business.

Hopefully, your next question is: How do I get started? Follow these steps to build a personal brand that will push your business and your life in the right direction.

Set SMART goals.

As with any major business move, your personal brand starts with your goals. If you already have personal goals for your life and career, start there. Ask yourself: What do I hope my personal brand will help me achieve? The pandemic has inspired us to become more reflective in how we want our lives and businesses to grow, so think about where you want to see yourself in one, two, and three years. Then, consider how your personal brand can help you get there.

Lean into the hard questions.

When you’re uncomfortable in life or in business, it’s usually a good sign that something is brewing. You know what they say: The magic happens outside of your comfort zone. Sit with yourself and mull on these questions to begin fleshing out how your personal brand will look:

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • How would you like to project yourself in public?
  • Who are you trying to reach with your personal brand?
  • What do you have to offer the world?

Your personal brand will look different if your goals lead you to prioritize new referral sources than if you were focusing on gaining media attention. Finding clarity on your direction is an essential step in creating your personal brand; otherwise, you’ll end up coming across as confused, inconsistent, and unreliable.

Create your action plan.

You know how your final result should look, so now you need to work backwards to develop a roadmap that will get you there. This is where you can get crystal clear on your messaging, your go-to communication channels, your timeline, and your key performance indicators (KPIs).

Consider how you will know your personal brand is successful. Will it be an increase in media pickups? More association opportunities? A higher referral rate? Your picture of success will help you to hand-select the tactics that will position you in the right places to achieve your goals.

Start showing up.

With your action plan in hand, it’s time to actually do the work. There are numerous ways to build our personal brand, but here are a few suggestions that keep in mind:

  • Be helpful. It makes such a difference when you’re the person who can find the right answer and help, even if it’s not beneficial to you. You will earn people’s respect and become a reliable go-to source.
  • Seek education. Accept that you are always growing and learning. Ask for feedback to implement in your business. Attend conferences, show up to webinars, and stay tuned into industry news. You will build your network and show like-minded peers that you are always on the hunt for growth opportunities.
  • Surprise and delight people. Demonstrate your gratitude for your connections by sending small gifts to vendors, clients, customers, and products. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, but it can make a major impact in your relationships.
  • Be thoughtful about your online presence. From LinkedIn to Instagram to Facebook Groups, there’s a lot of pressure to be everywhere. But, quality is greater than quantity — be intentional about your messaging. Social media is your prime real estate, so stay on brand when showing up.
  • Consider speaking. Speaking is one of the best ways to increase brand recognition and demonstrate your expertise. If you’re new to the circuit, consider starting out on panels with smaller associations and grow from there.
  • Be intentional about press. Start hand-picking the PR opportunities that make sense for promoting your personal brand. Stop responding to queries just for the feature; it needs to align with your goals.
  • Apply for awards. Earning an award, or even being a finalist, is one of the best ways to increase brand awareness and provide third-party credibility. It’s one thing to put yourself out there as an expert, but entirely different when someone else recognizes it.

That’s a long laundry list of to-dos for you to take and run, but I wanted to touch on one more thing before you get started. Just as your business is always evolving, so too should your personal brand. Nothing is ever set in stone, so remain flexible and adaptable to the times.

As you learn more about yourself, your passions, the market, and your role as an expert, you may find new pathways to success that are as fulfilling as the one you started on. Don’t be afraid of a detour — sometimes, they end up leading you to the hidden gems you weren’t even looking for.

Meghan Ely

Regarded as one of the leading wedding publicists in the US, Meghan Ely combines in-the-trenches event experience with a love of wedding PR. She has earned coverage for her clients with the New York Times, People, Brides, Bridal Guide, The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, CNN Money, and more. She is a WeddingPro Expert and long-time contributor to Catersource.com and SpecialEvents.com.