You are a person, for sure, but are you also a brand?

With the internet, we all have the tools we need to build our personal brands. This means that you, too, can take measures to develop and strengthen your own personal brand.

But how?

Each and every personal brand revolves around five cornerstones:

  • Clarity
  • Consistency
  • Cause
  • Charge
  • Challenges

Here’s the framework for how to go about it:

1. Clarity

One of my favorite books is William Strunk Jr.’s Elements of Style. It’s a small handbook on style in English writing. Since English isn’t my first language, it has helped me a lot. Strunk’s recommended style of writing can be summed up in his advice:

“Omit needless words.”

Clarity, it seems, is the subtle art of removing superfluous information.

You might know everything there is to know about your subject matter, but disclosing too much information at once will probably not work.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
— Albert Einstein

The same thing is true for your personal brand. Human beings are complex creatures, and so are you, but your potential audience won’t be susceptible to the full range of your complexities all at once.

I recommend How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead, in which she includes an advantage assessment matrix with 49 Personality Archetypes to help you clarify your personal brand.

Think about it:

If you can’t explain who you are simply, you don’t understand yourself well enough.

Another way to go about it is to learn how to pitch yourself in 5, 10 and 20 seconds. This is a learned skill that most likely will serve you well.

2. Consistency

Not only should you focus your brand, you should also stay consistent.

People will only catch glimpses of who you are and what you do. And these glimpses might come far in between. For your audience to be able to categorize and label you, consistency is key. Once your name- and face recognition is at a certain level, you can mix things up, but not too soon.

To paraphrase a popular motivational quote:

“Hustle until you no longer have to introduce yourself.”

You strive to project a consistent persona to continuously increase your face recognition status.

But consistency is more than physical appearance. It could also be about your messaging. For example:

If people start following you on social media, it’s because of the follower contract. If your messaging is inconsistent, following you will be a more difficult decision. And if someone starts following you, they’ll be expecting more of that type of content that made them decide to follow you in the first place.

Commit to consistency.

3. Cause

You need a cause. Otherwise, you’re just a rebel without one.

In a guest post on Ryan Lee, Why Rebels get Rich, copywriter Kevin Rogers published this simple yet effective script, The Rebel Yell Statement, named after the legendary rock anthem by Billy Idol:

My name is _________, I love _________ but was fed up with _________. So I created _________ that _________.

Two examples:

My name is Steve, I love computers but was fed up with the snails pace of commercial technology. So I created a user-friendly computer that processes information faster than anything else out there today. (Steve Jobs)


My name is Richard, I love to travel but was fed up with lousy, expensive and unreliable airline service. So I created an airline with competitive fairs that arrive on time and treats every passenger with first-class service. (Richard Branson)

What it does, is that it helps you describe your cause (the change you seek) and why (what sparked you into action). In two short sentences!

Taking a stand further clarifies your personal brand and it will attract a following of people who supports your cause. And if your cause has powerful foes, it strengthens your brand position1.

Find your cause (and paint a target on your foes).

5. Charge

A student looking for his first PR job asked my advice on landing a job.

I asked him about his life, and I soon learned that he was a Starcraft gamer. So I suggested that he should design his application like a profile screenshot from the game. He got the job, not because they were impressed with his design skills or creativity, but because they liked the idea of hiring a great person with insights into online youth subcultures.

It’s easier for anyone to remember — and to talk about! — “the Starcraft guy.” A simple detail charged his personal brand in a way that sparked enough curiosity to land him an interview.

An “electrical charge” to your personal brand can be immensely powerful.

It can be a physical appearance, a name, or a passion, but also an accomplishment, a personality trait, or a backstory. It could be a small detail, a gimmick, but it could also be something more profound:

When you think of Elon Musk, you think of his massive accomplishments with Paypal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and Solar City, but what makes him distinguishable from other successful entrepreneurs is how he approaches everything, even his personal life, with always thinking like an engineer. Like how he as a kid overcame his fear of the dark by realizing that darkness is nothing but the absence of photons.

Find a charge to your personal brand.

5. Challenges

There seems to be only so many ways to tell a good story2:

Aristotle said that there are only two types of stories, comedies, and tragedies.

Jorge Luis Borges argued that there are only four stories; a love story between two people, a love story between three people, the struggle for power, and the journey.

Arthur Quiller-Couch stated that there are only seven (quite chauvinistic) plots; man vs. man, man vs. nature, man against god, man vs. society, man in the middle, man and woman, man vs. himself.

George Polti described thirty-six dramatic situations, including disaster, revolt, deliverance and so on.

William Wallace Cook, a “dime writer” known for having written 44 books in a year, outlined a staggering 1,462 plots in Plotto: the Master Book of All Plots.

Joseph Campbell went the other way by declaring the monomyth, the one plot on which all great stories are based.

No matter how many stories there are, they’re all stories of challenges.

From a brand-building perspective, the great thing about challenges is that they seem to be highly engaging before, during, and after. Before taking on a challenge, you invoke support, during sympathy, and after respect.

Take action — it speaks louder than words.


  1. See also my article A Recipe for PR Dynamite.
  2. See also my article Storytelling for Jedi Masters.