There’s a lot of fluffy content out there about how to craft a personal brand story. And I haven’t seen enough people use principles and frameworks from building startups to build personal brands.
So here’s a comprehensive post on how to think about and craft the best personal brand story that’ll make you forget how to send a cold email.
Alright, let’s get into it!
What’s a personal brand story?
It’s a way for you to describe why you do what you do to your target clients. But not in the context of you and your Instagram picture-perfect like. Rather, in the context of your target clients’ problems and challenges.
And what drives you to keep going despite feeling, at times, feeling like ripping your hair out.
Your personal brand story is a tool that helps you:
- Differentiate yourself — your personal story and the way you tell it are unique.
- Make yourself more relatable — your personal story makes you real.
The need to differentiate yourself should be obvious — to stand out, duh.
Being relatable is important because people buy from people who make them feel seen and heard. If you can make your target client feel seen and heard, they’ll trust that you truly understand their problem and have the right solution for it.
Your personal brand story isn’t a sales pitch, though. That comes much later.
Instead, it’s a way for you to invite your target clients into a conversation. If you can tell a really compelling story that resonates to their core, you may not even have to pitch your services at all!
This is what happened to me with my new coaching business. After creating content about LinkedIn marketing and entrepreneurship on my blog and social for over nine months, people ended up approaching me to help them with their personal brand.
All because they liked my personal story and my overall vibe. So it’s possible.
Once you’ve crafted your personal brand story, you can use it all over the place:
- Your website
- Your LinkedIn About section
- At a conference or networking event
- In podcast interviews
- In your bio for a speaking event
Now that we know what a personal brand story is, let’s take a look at the angle with which you should look at your personal brand story to get your creative juices flowing.
How to think about your personal brand story
I apply a lot of what I learned working in startups in seven years (mostly as a product manager) to building a personal brand. It’s a lot like starting a startup.
Consider this awfully long sentence that doesn’t feel all that awfully long once you read it that perfectly describes the mission of a startup:
“The companies that have grown profitably to scale, while maintaining the internal traits that got them there in the first place, often consider themselves insurgents, waging war on their industry and its standards on behalf of an underserved customer, or creating an entirely new industry altogether.” — Chris Zook, The Founder's Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth
The mission of a personal brand shouldn’t be much different. You should be waging a war on some status quo that needs to change for the sake of an unsatisfied and frustrated client.
And all is not fair in love, war (and personal brands.) The bigger the war you’re waging, the greater the pull you’ll get from your target clients.
So, how can you wage the biggest war ever? By asking yourself questions that get you riled up about your mission.
Teasing out your personal brand story
Want in on the secret behind the best personal brand stories out there?
They elicit an emotional response from the listener. And not just any emotional response — a strong one. Anger, fear, regret, joy, embarrassment, envy, shame, worry, shock.
Chances are, the emotions your target clients will feel once they hear your personal brand story are the very emotions you felt when you first realized the weight of the problem you’re solving.
The best way to stir up the right types of emotions inside you is to ask yourself some inflammatory questions about the problem you’ve decided to solve:
- What makes you angry?
- What kills you to hear or see?
- What feels unfair?
- What’s greatly misunderstood?
- What are people not talking about enough?
- What can you not believe people are still talking about?
If you can feel your blood pressure rising a little as you think about these questions, good. If you can feel your blood pressure rising A LOT as you think about these questions, seek medical advice.
Still with me? Alright, let’s keep going.
Remember how I said ‘you should be waging a war on some status quo that needs to change’ earlier? You need to focus on what that change is you’re trying to make.
Often times it’s the very transformation you went through when you solved the problem for yourself. If that’s the case, the point of this exercise is to get to the root of the exact shift in mindset you went through.
Otherwise, the change is the transformation you promise your target client. Again, these questions should bring up why you’re passionate about solving this particular problem.
You should now have a good idea of how to talk about what you do in a personal and compelling way. But when you talk about yourself, you need to position yourself in a very specific way.
No thunder can be stolen from the client in the story (I’m looking at you, Hercules.)
Positioning yourself in your personal brand story
Hopefully, I’m not the one breaking this to you.
You are not the hero in your personal brand story. Your target client is.
You’re simply the guide that helps them conquer their challenges and achieve success. This is a concept from the book Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller.
When your target client is assessing your product or service, they’re trying to see whether it will help them be a better version of themselves.
Miller says there are two attributes of a guide: empathy and authority.
You display empathy when you tell your story in the context of your target client’s challenges and goals. And a deep knowledge of not only their problem as well as their motivation for solving that problem.
Exuding an air of authority requires providing evidence that you know what you’re doing. You need to convince them you’re credible. That means you need credibility assets like the following:
- Proven results
- Content demonstrating expertise
- Media mentions or awards
Pepper these into your story as supporting evidence for what you’re trying to say. Don’t just list them without a purpose.
Structuring your personal brand story
Some people like to recommend the StoryBrand framework for crafting your personal brand story but I think it’s too complicated.
I like to use the simplest structure of:
Start with the problem and agitate it. Focus on the emotional experience of dealing with the problem and exactly what it prevents the target client from doing.
Then introduce the solution and show how it helps your client overcome their obstacle and solve the problem.
Finally, describe what success looks like — specifically the transformation that will happen to your target client. Clearly articulate what they’ll be able to do and the exact outcomes. Social proof comes in really handy here.
Ending your personal brand story with a bang
Where most personal brand stories go wrong is they don’t have a call to action at the end.
Or the call to action is weak or confusing. It’s a huge missed opportunity because the whole point of telling a story is to inspire action.
A call to action is weak when it doesn’t use strong language.
“Message me to book a call” — strong call to action.
“If you want to work with me, you can send me an email” — weak call to action.
A call to action is confusing when the desired action to be taken is not clear.
“To work with me, get in touch.” — not clear how to get in touch.
“Enter your email below and click I’m In!” — specific instructions on what to do.
As you tell your personal brand story, you gain momentum. You need to then use all that momentum you’ve built up to spur your target client into action. And you need a strong and clear call to action for that.
Otherwise, you’re squandering the opportunity to get clients and just letting them bleed out of your funnel.
To wrap up, I want to share an interesting fact about storytelling and why it’s so powerful in starting conversations.
How a personal brand story helps you start conversations
When we engage in storytelling, we release a chemical called oxytocin in our brain. Oxytocin is associated with empathy, trust and relationship-building — exactly what’s needed for starting conversations.
So when you tell your personal brand story, you’re speeding up the process of bonding with your target clients and starting conversations with them.
And again, if you’re about to tell a really compelling personal brand story, you could find yourself with a pipeline full of clients without doing any cold outreach.