Personal Branding Starts With Brand Clarity With Rachel Pesso

Personal Branding Starts With Brand Clarity With Rachel Pesso

MP chatted with Rachel Pesso, brand storyteller, expert designer, and art director. Pesso’s mission is to help entrepreneurs create personal brands that truly embody their mission and purpose through branding and website design. With over ten years of experience, she has worked with top influencers, including Laverne Cox, Lori Harder, and Jen Gottlieb, to build a brand that irresistibly impacts their audiences. 

Personal Branding

What is a personal brand, and how does it evolve? 

I believe that a personal brand is how you want people to see you. 

When you create an utterly intentional brand that is built around your why, your values, and the impact you would like to create, you can truly accomplish anything. 

A personal brand is all about positioning. 

How do you want people to see you? 

How do you want them to feel? 

What do you want them to know about you? 

What actions do you want them to take? 

What’s the story you want to tell? 

Once you know the answers to these questions, you can create a personal brand. 

Your personal brand combines experiences, skills, and values that differentiate you from others. Focusing on what your differentiating factors are is key.

Your personal brand will evolve since humans are constantly changing. Your personal brand will change and grow as you do. 

It’s essential to focus on your vision, not just in the present moment, but I always tell my clients to focus on where they want to be in a few years. 

If we create a brand from that place, we are including parts not only who they are now but who they are growing into. We are building the brand around a vision of how they want to be seen. 

Developing a Personal Brand

Why should someone consider developing a personal brand, and why do personal brands matter?

Personal brands can be highly impactful. 

They can help you stand out in your field. 

Another amazing benefit of having a personal brand is that it helps you control the experience you want people to have when interacting with your brand. For example, when someone lands on your website, you get to share who you are (your story), your mission, how you can help your ideal audience, and more! 

This is incredibly valuable. 

Personal brands can create a ton of trust and credibility this way. 

When you connect with your ideal audience in your brand, and there are clear and intentional actions for them to take on your website, this truly is a recipe for success.

I believe that personal brands matter more than ever today. Since most brands are trying to stand out from others, it's never been more important to be able to communicate your mission to your ideal audience.

People don't want what you make. They want how it will make them feel, and there aren't many feelings to choose from.

Seth Godin

The brands we talk about are the ones that made us FEEL something, they were the personal brands that shared who they are, and we connected with their mission. 

How can someone begin to develop a personal brand from the ground up, and what steps should be taken from the beginning? 

If you want to develop a personal brand from the ground up, here is what I suggest and the steps I believe will help the most. 

Rachel Pesso
Rachel Pesso / Photo courtesy of Rachel Pesso

Start with Brand Clarity

Building a personal brand will be difficult if you are not clear on who you are, what you stand for, and what you want to accomplish. 

Start by answering these questions: 

  1. What is the WHY behind my brand? What drives you? What excites you? Why did you go into the field you are in?
  2. How do you help people? What’s the problem you are solving for others? Why do they come to you? What kind of benefits do people get by working with you? What results do you help people see?
  3. What impact do I want to have? What am I trying to achieve? 
  4. Who is your ideal reader or customer? Explain their background, who they are, and why they might seek your help.
  5. What products, packages, or content do you offer? How do these solve your ideal clients’ problems?
  6. What are some of your key messaging phrases?
  7. What makes you stand out from others in your field?
  8. How do you want your brand to FEEL?

If you aren’t sure how to answer these questions, you can always ask co-workers, friends, and family for their input. However, since your brand is about YOU, I always think the best results come from within.

Once you know these differentiating parts of yourself and your brand, you can create your visual brand. 

A lot goes into building the visual part of your brand, and I recommend hiring an expert to support you with this. 

We all have blind spots when it comes to creating our brands since we are so close to it, and a professional can help you think through the questions above along with keeping your audience and positioning in mind.

What a Personal Brand Should Incorporate

Tell a story

If your brand isn’t telling a story, you’ve already lost half of your potential audience. 

This will also make you relatable, which is what your ideal audience is searching for. Telling a story helps your ideal audience connect with you.

Be Consistent

You want to have cohesiveness in your brand as that builds trust. 

This is how your audience will start to feel comfortable and familiar with your brand experience. It’s not just the visual consistency but also the story you're telling, photos, and content! 

You can lose people's trust and attention when there is too much going on, and inconsistencies are showing up in your brand experience.

Be Yourself

There is nothing that makes you stand out more than being YOU.

Many of my clients get caught up in what others are doing. It’s great to do research, but diving deep into who you are is the KEY to standing out. 

Share the different parts of yourself with your audience, and lean into the parts you don’t think others are interested in regarding your brand. You will be pleasantly surprised by the response

How can someone develop their personal brand’s story, what should be included in the story, and why should they take the time to do so?

The best and most simple way to create a brand story is by diving deep into who you are. 

Determine how your brand differs from your competitors and focus on how your brand helps your ideal audience. Your brand story should focus on relating to your ideal audience and supporting them. 

This part is crucial.

You want to make sure that you include your brand values in the story that you create. 

For example, suppose your brand is all about collaboration. In that case, you will want to ensure that conceptually that is infused into the brand story both from a content and visual perspective. 

Another thing to consider is some experiences or stories you can share that will help connect your ideal audience to your brand. KEY is taking the time to flush this out and get brand clarity.

It’s essential to focus on brand clarity and flush this out. 

Creating your brand story is one of the top ways to get people interested in your brand so you can create an unforgettable impression. 

What role does passion play in one’s personal brand, and how should it be used?

I believe passion should live behind every personal brand.

When you create a brand in general, it needs to make people feel something. We make people feel something by sharing something unique to us. 

We share an experience, a story, a vision - all of this should be immersed into the vision and visual story of the brand. 

You can always tune into your passion to support you when creating something. That's why being clear on WHY you do what you do is important. 

Lastly, Passion can set you apart from your competitors as your ideal audience can generally FEEL it.

Passion should be used intentionally as a way to truly grow and create a business that is true to you. 

How true to one’s natural self does a personal brand need to be, and why?

A personal brand should be as aligned with YOU as possible. 

Your ideal audience is looking to connect with you. 

You are missing the mark if it’s not a true reflection of who you are. 

I suggest starting with brand clarity if you currently have a brand or website that doesn’t FEEL like you. Until you are clear on your why, values, and differentiating brand factors, something will always feel a bit disconnected to the user. 

This comes into play in ALL instances when your user interacts with your brand. If you speak on stage, your website, social media, and media kits should all be true to YOU.

How important is marketability in one’s personal brand, and why? 

Marketability is one of the most important aspects of a personal brand and should be the main focus. 

If people can’t find you or don’t understand what you do, how can you help them? 

Brands are created to educate, support, and impact others. 

Is it possible to create a personal brand that’s too niche? If yes, why? If not, why not?

Honestly, I don’t think so. 

There are always people out there waiting for whatever you are creating. When a brand is a super niche, you can fully hone into the storyline and the differentiating factors and create something that speaks to your ideal audience.

 On the flip side, I also believe you can do that without going super niche. 

As long as you keep your ideal audience in front of your mind and focus on what they know,  like, and trust you for, you are golden.

Rachel Pesso
Rachel Pesso / Photo courtesy of Rachel Pesso

How can someone tell if it is time to rebrand, and how should rebranding be approached?

The main way to tell if it’s time to rebrand is based on how you feel about your brand. 

If your brand no longer represents what you do, stand for, or is aligned with who you are, then I believe it’s time for a rebrand. 

Rebranding doesn't always mean tearing everything down and starting from scratch. Some rebrands are name related. They just need a photo or messaging refresh. 

Make sure to do an in-depth review of your current brand.

What is working? 

What is not working? 

In my experience, I have found that sometimes starting from scratch can be easier than simply refreshing a brand. It can be hard to let go of your brand's current misaligned parts while creating a new position. 

You also have to keep in mind the current user experience. 

Sometimes your users can be attached to your current brand, and making sure that you introduce the new brand and direction can be KEY in successfully repositioning yourself.

How can someone create an emotional experience in their personal brand that their audience will connect with, and why is this important?

People make decisions on how you make them feel. 

This is why I believe creating emotional experiences in your brand is a game changer. 

We do that by defining your ideal audience and getting to know them. 

Who are they? 

What are they struggling with? 

What do they do for fun? 

Where do they hang out? 

Once you define it, you can position your copy and your visual story in your brand based on how you want them to FEEL. 

Creating an emotional experience in your brand is one of the biggest ways to connect with your audience. Think about your favorite product or business; how they make you feel is something you will always remember when you think about them. Most likely, you remember that feeling more than the aesthetic. 

Personal Brands for Entrepreneurs

How can entrepreneurs develop a meaningful personal brand while putting almost all their time and attention into their businesses?

Entrepreneurs can develop a meaningful personal brand and spend most of their time and attention on their clients and businesses by hiring people to support them with the different parts of their business. 

The biggest mistake business owners make is trying to do it all alone. 

This can work for some time, but at some point, you will need to hire a professional to support you to take it to the next level.

If you are still in the early stages of your business and working to develop a meaningful personal brand, there are many DIY solutions to help support you that others have already created. Join free FB groups, connect with similar industry communities or join masterminds to receive still some support for where you are right now.

Personal Branding Mistakes

What are three personal branding mistakes people generally make, and how can such mistakes be avoided? 

The mistakes I commonly see when it comes to personal branding are the following, and I  believe that focusing on strategy, clarity and positioning is how to avoid making them:

1. Making Their Personal Brand and Experience in Their ALL About THEM

Yes, personal brands should be about YOU. 

Still, one of the biggest mistakes is that people forget that your brand needs to be created around your ideal audience and focus on intentional user experience (from social to website).

It should always offer solutions for the audience interacting with the brand.

2. Start With Strategy + Clarity

Many people start with logo design and visual identity but skip over the brand clarity part. 

As a personal brand understanding what differentiates you from the sea of sameness is everything. 

All personal brands are on a mission to stand out in their field and need first to understand what parts of their story and mission they can use to help tell their story uniquely.

3. You Didn’t Define a Goal

Understanding what you are creating for a personal brand is very important. 

What do you want to be recognized for? 

What actions do you want people to take? 

Understanding this will be KEY in creating a fantastic user experience for your brand.

Responses provided by Rachel Pesso, brand storyteller, expert designer, and art director.

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