There’s been a lot of talk about personal branding lately. I guess it’s the newest topic in this whole “How to Make it Big on the Internet” thing that we all seem to be chasing. And while I do believe there is no better time to focus your marketing attention on who you are and what you bring to the world, I hate to tell you, but you’re a little late to the party.

You see, personal branding has been around for a long time. A really long time. In fact, some might argue that Jesus had one of the first (and perhaps most influential) personal brands of any of us. Think about it. It’s been over two thousand years and we’re still talking about him!

(Insert uncomfortable silence here).

Now, before you skip the rest of my point and rush to the bottom of the page in order to condemn me to hell in the comments below, hear me out.

I’m not at all suggesting for a second that Jesus was focused on his personal brand back in the day. I mean, he didn’t even have a website.

But that’s my point.

Jesus was focused on solving a problem. And it wasn’t even his problem. He was focused on solving everyone else’s problem. And from what I hear, he was pretty committed to the outcome!

(Insert more uncomfortable silence here).

I think that’s where the wheels come off the bus for the rest of us.

We no longer see personal branding as the way in which we as individuals solve problems for someone else. Instead it’s just the latest buzzword we use to “stand out in the crowd.” But if your only purpose is to get attention, then light yourself on fire and walk down a busy street. People will notice you. I promise.

For the rest of us wanting to do something worth talking about for more than a few fleeting moments, you’ll need to take a page from Jesus’ book.

Not that book. I’m speaking figuratively.

The Three Questions

In order to succeed at this whole personal branding thing, you must stand for something that matters to someone other than yourself. That’s the foundation of all of this. And the way we’re going to do that is by answering these three questions:

1. Who is it that wants and needs to hear what you have to say?
It all starts with clarity on who it is that you are speaking to. This is often called your Ideal Client Profile or Target Market in the advertising world. I tend to stay away from those terms because they remove the human element from the process. Coming at this from the perspective of “who can I help” will get you a much different (and better) outcome than “who can I target.” None of us want to be considered “targets.” So, when answering this question, sprinkle a little human on it and be as specific as you can be (age, sex, occupation, location, likes, dislikes, goals, religion, etc.)

2. What problem do they have that you are able to solve?
Just having the ability to solve a problem is not enough. You need to make sure it is a problem that your audience has and that they are willing to pay to solve. For example, if one of the gutters on your house is leaking onto your lawn, you may not bother to fix it. It’s not really hurting anyone. However, if there was a hole in your roof and it was leaking onto your bed, you would most certainly pay to fix it. So, what is that itch that your people desperately need to have scratched?

3. How do you solve that problem in a way that is different from everyone else?
If your solution is the same as the rest of the world’s, you are the proud owner of a commoditized business. Plan for a lot of competition and an environment that makes it nearly impossible for you to stand out. Better than that is to look at the problem a little different from everyone else. What do you know that everybody else knows and what do you see that nobody else sees? Start there. That’s where your solution lives.

Your Message

What you’re left with when you answer those questions is your message. It’s how you will ultimately make a difference in someone else’s life. And when you are able to make a difference in someone else’s life, your message will spread. And when your message spreads, it will carry your personal brand along with it.

Because when you’re really that good at solving someone else’s problem, the public will pick you up on their proverbial shoulders and run.

And that’s how this whole personal branding thing is supposed to work.

Do good and good will be done unto you. (Note: I don’t think Jesus said that, but it sounds like something he might say. Who knows. Maybe he did say it and they forgot to write it down.)

So, What About that Other Stuff?

Now, as far as the rest of the stuff; your website, social media profiles, podcast, content, speeches, book, posts and whatever else comes next; they are all very valuable tools that you use to communicate your message. And we’ll talk a lot about that stuff too in future blog posts. But without a solid answer to the three questions above, you are little more than an empty shell jumping up and down yelling “look at me” until we just don’t hear or see you anymore.

So, that’s where you should start. Answer those three questions. And when you do, announce who you are to the world by posting your answers in the comments below