Building your personal brand with Kathleen Casford and Rebecca Taylor

Creative problem solver Kathleen Casford, founder of brand agency By Ninja, and personal brand photographer Rebecca Taylor were recently joined by over 100 attendees at a virtual Brisbane Business Hub masterclass on building your personal brand.

The power duo provided attendees with the tools to develop and elevate their own personal brands. For those who couldn’t attend the event, you can watch the presentation on demand here – otherwise, keep reading for some of the key takeaways. 

What is personal branding?

In the words of Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” For Kathleen Casford, personal branding is about who knows you and what they know about you.

“Your brand is more than just how you look,” she says. “It’s telling your story. It’s what you have to say and how you say it. It’s your attitude, what you believe in, how you conduct yourself and how you make other people feel. More importantly, it’s what differentiates you from every other person.

“Your personal brand is the collective impression you leave on other people.”

Building a brand 

Phase 1: Strategy  

Step 1: Your story

The first thing you need to do is map out what Kathleen calls ‘your brand heart’. That consists of three main areas:

  1. Your Why. The truth that will form the centre of your story. Answer these questions:
  • Who are you?
  • Why are you here?
  • What do you care about?
  • What are your goals/aspirations?
  1. Your How. What makes you different and unique? Answer these questions:
  • What are you great at?
  • What do you do differently?
  • What makes you, you?
  • What are your values?
  1. Your What. This communicates precisely what you can do. Answer these questions:
  • What can you deliver?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What is your positioning?

Once you have mapped out your answers to the above, you can then use them to define your purpose, vision, mission and value statements. 

Step 2: Your audience

“You need to understand who your audience is, what they want and what they need from you,” Kathleen says. “This is the key to success in your personal brand. It helps you work out exactly how to connect with your audience by identifying the key people you need to influence to reach your goals.

“It is also really important to recognise that you are not going to be right for everybody, and not everybody is going to be right for you, either.”

Kathleen suggests doing this by developing personas that represent your audience. Aim to answer questions like:

  • Who should care about you?
  • Why should they care?
  • What are their attributes?
  • What motivates them?
  • What influences them?
  • How can you help them?
  • How should they feel?
  • What’s their daily schedule?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you should start seeing some patterns emerge. You’ll be able to group the answers by key trends and build your personas out. Each persona is a bit different and has slightly different concerns.

Step 3: Messaging 

In this step, you need to establish a messaging framework that will ensure you can communicate clearly and consistently across all of your touch points. It should include:

  • Personal brand slogan: Your tagline (3-5 words) should convey exactly what you do.
  • Personal brand statement: Your elevator pitch (30-60 seconds, 3-4 sentences) explains what you do and why. It sums up your experience, skills and passions.
  • Messaging pillars: These inform everything we write, say and do. These are the building blocks that help us to ensure all the content we put out is consistent and aligned. On average, you need three messaging pillars. 

Your messaging framework also determines your tone (i.e. your attitude and voice). 

Step 4: Establishing a visual style 

“How you portray yourself visually is a direct representation of your personal brand,” Kathleen says. “It must embody your heart, align with your messaging and also your ideal audience. While it’s important to be your authentic self, you’re also trying to connect with your audience, so establishing a style to let you do that is crucial.”

Kathleen suggests mapping out a visual style guide, which includes a brand palette that represents and aligns with your ethos, and a brand moodboard that captures your essence. 

Phase 2: Take Action

This is where your audience personas come into play. Everything you’ve captured in these personas should help you figure out your key touch points.

“Look for where these people are for you to reach them,” Kathleen says. “Are they active on LinkedIn? Do they regularly attend events? These touch points are how you will get your brand in front of your audience.” 

The power of branding photography 

“Without a visual element to your personal brand, you will find it extremely difficult to cut through the busy and noisy online world,” photographer Rebecca Taylor says.

Photographs of yourself can obviously be used on LinkedIn and other social platforms, but they can also be used for PR and media, on your website, alongside articles you author, with speaker profiles and on podcast tiles. 

How to reflect your core essence and build lasting, authentic and inspired brand photographs

Rebecca says brand photography is a very individual experience, and there is no ‘right’ way to do it – the only way to succeed is to stay true to who you are and exude what is driving and motivating you.

“Your images are what will attract the right people to you and repel those who aren’t a good fit. This is how you create a sustainable and profitable brand and business.”

Question to ask yourself to ensure you stay on track include:

  • What is the image?
  • What is the story I want to convey through these images?
  • What are my core values?
  • Who are some of the brands that inspire me?
  • How do I want my personal brand to make others feel?

“Lastly,” Rebecca says, “don’t be afraid to showcase the many sides of you.”

Top tips for creating compelling branding photographs

Taylor has five top tips for creating compelling personal branding photos.

  1. Background: As a general rule, you want to create backgrounds that are not distracting. You should be the focus of the image.
  2. Styling: Style yourself in a way that makes you instantly identifiable from your images. If you show up to a presentation or meeting, you need to be recognisable.
  3. Connection: The ultimate goal is to build connections. Allow yourself to feel comfortable in front of the camera, and it will translate into the tone of the final images.
  4. Essence: What is the personality that you want to exude? Bring that out in your photoshoot to let people see the authenticity behind your brand.
  5. Congruency: The images should reflect who your audience sees in person. Keeping up the consistency of your look helps to build trust and credibility in your personal brand.

With all this in mind, be consistent. Consistency is one of the biggest factors in brand recognition and awareness, across everything from your messaging to your photography.

Watch the entire presentation on demand here

Written By

Brisbane Economic Development Agency



BrandingBusiness in BrisbaneMarketing


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