Posted on: October 7, 2021
During the Tokyo Olympics, the importance of personal branding was on full display. Think about it: The mainstream media now tells us constant stories about the upbringing, mission and values of athletes they feature on the news.
While we watched Katie Ledecky win gold in the inaugural 1500-meter freestyle, we can’t help but hear relatable anecdotes about her early life in the Washington, D.C., area or her years of training at Stanford University. When we heard about U.S. swimmer Chase Kalisz, who competed with Michael Phelps, we learned just how much Phelps inspired him as a youngster. We found out about Phelps’s childhood friends and past girlfriends. When you boil down the Olympics, it comes down to the stories that differentiate one athlete from another. They’re like campfire tales about parenting and perseverance, hard work and overcoming adversity.
Think about how that applies to you. What made you the way that you are is what differentiates you from the next person. Your career is different but no less special. Their career is unique but no less interesting.
Just like every swimmer or runner is a “brand,” the same can be said for that small business owner next to you or the C-suite executive over there. They carry with them a brand that conveys expertise of some kind. Their thought leadership may fall in the realm of public relations, advertising or something else entirely, but it’s important to take notice of other people’s brands and build your own in a way that conveys expertise.
Ask yourself: What do you master? In what ways are you a leader? What distinguishes you?
For the Olympics, athletes have to take and uphold an oath holding the Olympic brand higher than even their own. They need to carry themselves responsibly and demonstrate a level of maturity that speaks “Olympic athlete.” Of course, the best athletes can transcend even the Olympics, positioning their brand through success and differentiating themselves with charisma. They can support themselves through speaking engagements, endorsements and influencer deals long after Olympics events have run their course, but only because the story matters.
Athletes may take an oath to respect the tenets of the Olympic Charter, but we all know that a strong personal brand created before, during and after the Olympics can support the world’s best athletes for a lifetime. That’s why you see world-renowned gymnast Simone Biles partnering with Athleta. That’s why you hear about Michael Phelps selling Signature Swim Spas. That’s why celebrity-skier Lindsey Vonn’s daily attire matters to the masses. All of these athletes have cultivated a strong personal brand over many years, even when they’re no longer in the pool or on the slopes.
Why can’t that be you? You may not be a world-class skier or record-holding swimmer, but you too can tell a unique, interesting story about who you are and what you do. Your thought leadership — wherever it may be relevant — can matter to prospective clients and customers.
It comes down to how you position yourself. Perhaps you can launch a new website or self-publish a book. Maybe you can start a podcast, interviewing guests within your industry or outside it. I’ve put out a podcast for years now, and it has become one of my life’s great pleasures. Perhaps, if you have the time, you can update your email newsletter or refresh your social media presence. That LinkedIn profile may be getting stale. Don’t forget about that old Facebook page.
Whatever the case may be, it’s important to consider and re-consider how your personal branding can improve, just like you’re an Olympic athlete.
Tell your story. Tweak it. Stand out by branding yourself the right way.
This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in August 2021.