We live in a new modern age where a LinkedIn profile can often time be enough to tell a hiring manager everything they need to know about a prospective employee. A quick Google search can influence whether or not someone decides to contact you for services that you offer. Word-of-mouth is, of course, as important as ever, but there are so many more things to consider these days when reviews and personal history are always a few simple keystrokes away.
This is a reputation economy that we live in now, where your relationships and the things you are known for matter most. Now, more than ever, it is important to own your personal brand and control the message that it sends when (not if) people look you up online. That's where lifestyle branding comes in.
Who is lifestyle branding for?
Everyone has a personal brand, whether they want to or not. Put simply, a personal brand is what your friends and coworkers say about you to people who haven’t even met you yet. It’s what people associate with you every time your name is mentioned or comes up in conversation. The opposite can also be true; if the topic of conversation turns toward photography, for example, my name is often the first one that comes to mind for many of my friends.
Entire careers exist whose sole purpose is the management of a personal lifestyle brand. Take the modern phenomenon of Instagram influencers for example: These are people who have taken whatever interest or activity or vocation (aka. lifestyle) they are passionate about and made themselves synonymous with them. Through that powerful ownership of their personal image, they can cultivate audiences, fans, and followers to whom other brands choose to market their goods and services through. Oprah is a classic example of someone who has created an empire out of her personal lifestyle brand, which now spans everything from book clubs to TV shows to magazines and so much more.
A personal lifestyle brand can consist of almost anything. It can be a hobby or interest, or a place, or a kind of music, for example. In the professional realm, a personal lifestyle brand is everything your resume doesn’t say about you. It’s the face to the name, the “who” to the “what.” It's what makes you stand out amongst your peers. Businesses these days often look for a “culture fit” as much as they do someone who has all of the requisite experience, and a strong personal brand goes a long way toward showing them that you can mesh with their team in meaningful ways.
First Impressions Matter
Open a website or a social media page and what’s the first thing you see? Chances are, it’s the photograph displayed prominently at the top of the page. High-quality imagery can quickly and efficiently generate interest in ways that little else can. This is a highly visual world we live in these days, one inundated with an excess of content. Therefore, the first impression you have on a viewer can often be the determining factor with regards to whether they keep reading or move on to the next page.
A lot of thought ought to go into the creation and selection of the image you choose to represent yourself with. If a picture is worth a thousand words, you should seek images that show something interesting, unique, and unforgettable about yourself.
What kind of photograph should you choose to represent yourself? Running with the “thousand words” metaphor, a headshot can be likened to a dictionary definition of who you are. A portrait of you, displaying your unique expressions or style or hobbies can be likened to a novel. Thus, it is important to consider your audience when determining what kind of images you need to build your personal brand. A singer or artist looking to build their brand might have very different needs than a lawyer or real estate agent, for example. Consider your audience, and who you are trying to market yourself to, when determining the kinds of photographs you decide to include on whatever platform you are building your brand on.