cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

There is an awful lot of conversation about personal branding these days — books, blogs, social media, webinars, conferences, etc. And a lot of what they all say is important.

I was talking with my friend Stephanie A. Lloyd about her 2010 plans the other day, and she was telling me some of her thinking about personal branding.

She helped boil down my thinking on personal branding to a mere three critical steps. And they aren't complicated, despite so many people making this process harder than it has to be. They are:

1. The need for FOCUS and CLARITY on your specialty. You cannot be all things to all people. You much be clear about the one thing you can do to serve and help people. You can't be known as a master of ten different things. A lot of people can't really tell you the one thing they do well, because they don't want to miss an opportunity by being too narrowly defined. Get over that fear. It will kill you.

2. The ability to clearly articulate what that is. You've heard people say that you should be able to describe your story in one sentence. As in, “FDR got us out of the Depression and helped win WWII.” If you cannot clearly articulate what your specialty or skill is, your personal brand will be muddled and confusing. You have to make it clear. You have to make it easy to understand. And if you have to explain in detail what you do, you've already lost.

3. Consistency delivering this well-articulated message both online and offline. Most people's problem? They aren't consistent in telling their story over and over. Or they say one thing on Twitter, and another thing at a Chamber mixer. Or explaining what you do in different ways, to different people. Or changing what you do again and again and again. I tell my political clients to stay on message. Same thing applies here.

The three concepts above aren't rocket science. So what's the hard part? Being disciplined enough to execute on these three points over time. If you can do that, you will be on the right path…and your personal brand will be one that resonates and helps you go-to-market with strength and clarity.

So ask yourself, “Am I really following these three key steps?” Be honest, and good luck. Got any other thoughts?