What is Your Why?

There is no shortage of advice on how to build a personal brand. Many experts tout the importance of a communication platform and using it to build a community and nurture relationships. But, if your focus on branding begins there, you have made the same mistake many product brands commit. Great brands are just that because they know something about themselves that permeates everything they believe, feel, say, and do. They understand their purpose and are able to articulate it throughout their business operations. 

On a personal level, if you cannot state your purpose, how can you build a meaningful brand? It would be like taking a car trip from Florida to California without a map. You may get there eventually, but it would be a trip full of uncertainty and be less meaningful than if you had a clearly mapped journey.

The Purpose of Purpose
Purpose defines your core, the foundation of all that you believe, feel, and do. Values are the guiding force of your core. They serve as your belief system and operating principles that influence choices made, attitudes held, and actions taken. Widely admired corporate brands tend to have very distinct values that are not only communicated through mission statements and marketing campaigns, but they affect all business decisions made. An example of a brand heavily influenced by its values is Patagonia, known for its high quality outdoor clothing and gear. Patagonia’s mission statement leaves little doubt about the company’s values:

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

The company’s values reflect the personal values of the band of climbers who founded Patagonia. That reflection extends to seemingly routine business decisions about lighting systems for stores and dyes used in clothing, with concern about the environmental impact of these and other practices factoring into how the company is run.

Answer the Unasked Question
Your personal brand should be built on a core foundation of values just like Patagonia. Interestingly, many brands do not follow this guideline. Business and leadership expert Simon Sinek suggests that brands are comprised of the answers to three questions:
1.      Why – What is our purpose?
2.      How – What is our point of difference or capabilities that create value?
3.      What – Can you state the product category or industry in which you compete?

Sinek maintains that many brands can easily answer the “what” and “how” questions, but they are less clear on the answer to the “why” question. Thus, these brands are essentially working backwards; they go through the motions to compete but are unclear as to the purpose of their existence. 

Answer the “why” question first so that your values and beliefs can rightfully exert their influence on how your position yourself to add value in your chosen field as well as what you do to create value in an industry or category. And, it will bring clarity to how you should proceed to follow the abundant advice on how to communicate and promote your personal brand. 

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