In part I of this article [see last issue] we discussed how to take inventory of what your values are and what you have to offer in order to establish your personal brand. In part II we’ll look at the three elements of your personal brand that together support your online presence and relationships effectively.

1. Be Authentic

Authenticity in your personal brand creates transparency and establishes a connection between you and your audience. This also helps you develop authority, which keeps your audience coming back for more.

An authentic marketer admits they are marketing, talks in a “real” and conversational way, and usually has a sense of humor. The opposite of an authentic marketer is someone who hides their attempts at marketing and tries to sneak it up on you. Their communication is flat and formal, sounding more like a White House Press Secretary on the hot seat than a trusted advisor. Some corporate brands take this approach, with poor results: the desire to be “in control” of the brand comes off with all the poise and charm of the emperor from Star Wars.

Your backstory helps build an authentic brand by showing your audience that you’re a real person. Who are you? What led you to having an interest in your topic? Where do you come from and how does that affect the way you see things? Why are you sharing your experience with others? Sure, you want to make money with what you do, but what other motives do you have? As you build this information into your marketing and communication efforts, your position of authority with your audience will increase.

For example, consider a marketer who teaches others how to improve their credit rating. The primary audience for such information is made up of people who have financial problems and poor credit, which is creating stress in their lives. If the marketer himself has also experienced financial hardship, requiring him to learn what he is teaching today, sharing this experience is more likely to create a connection with those in the target market. Compare this to someone who projects a cool and flawless veneer of perfection. Even if you haven’t had the same level of problems as those in your primary audience, it’s important to show how you relate to them. This connection is essential to your personal brand.

2. Be Relevant

Being relevant means you show your audience, viewer, listener and reader that you’re interested in them. You understand where they are coming from and how you may be qualified to help them.

Can you imagine a basketball coach who knows nothing about the game? The coach doesn’t need to be a better athlete than the players, but he does need to understand what the players’ experience in order to relate to them. The ability to relate makes it possible to provide advice and coaching in a manner relevant to the players. The same goes for you: think of yourself as a coach and put yourself in the players’ shoes in order to deliver messages that are relevant.

Take some time to think of what people are going through: if they are losing their jobs right and left and you write a blog post about the purchase of your latest expensive gadget, there’s a good chance you’re going to loose them. As people become more immune to traditional forms of marketing, they’re also developing resistance to any bravado in your comments. Instead, enter their world and establish a connection. The goal of your message may be the same but by making that connection first (also called pacing), the rest of your message will have more impact.

Matching the feelings of your audience is a great way to establish relevance. If they’re disappointed, commiserate. If they’re celebrating, rejoice with them. Once you’ve jumped into their circle, lead them to the topic you want to talk about.

Being relevant to your audience is about recognizing and meeting their needs. If you’re not sure what your audience needs, find ways to ask: pick up the phone and call; solicit specific comments from a blog post; invite people to email you; create a topic in a discussion forum.

Soliciting online feedback from others is also a great way to establish your authority, as it shows you’re paying attention to what’s going on in the world instead of speaking from an ivory tower.

3. Be Consistent

Consistency in a personal brand is where many people get into trouble. If you want to brand yourself as a laid-back, wise mentor, how do you expect people will view you when you start name-calling on Twitter or on the phone? Poor self-awareness can lead to impulsive reactions that can get you into hot water by showing inconsistency in your personal brand.

Being aware of your values and considering the wants and dreams of your target audience is like the needle on a compass. Whether you post online, write a blog, create a sales letter or speak in public, check which way your compass is pointing. Are your actions about to reflect your nature and your brand or lead you off the path? Take the time to notice and readjust as needed.

When you mess up, be the first to admit it, and then move on. If someone else notices first, don’t try to hide what happened. Step up, fix what needs to be fixed, and move on.

Now that you have the foundation for your personal brand, apply it to what you love to do and what you’re all about. Online, you have numerous ways to share your insight and information about your field—from answering questions on Answers.Yahoo.com or LinkedIn.com, writing blog posts, creating videos on YouTube with an easy-to-use Flip Video camera, to interviewing other experts in your field and creating your own podcast or live show on blogtalkradio.com.

Every little step builds your presence and strengthens your personal brand. The world is waiting to meet you. Take a step today.

DAVE SAUNDERS is a social media and personal branding
expert who enjoys showing professional networkers how
to stand out and attract business online by harnessing the raw
power of social media. He’s the creator of YourSocialBrand.com
where he teaches the best practices for social media marketing and
personal branding. Dave is also a faculty member of Networking University
www.networkingtimes.com/link/saunders