Ahhhh, the life of an influencer. Hanging out at Coachella, sipping Moet & Chandon Rosé on a yacht off the Mediterranean coast, private jets, Gucci, #selfie. Being famous for nothing. Seems like a pretty cool gig, but one that the average person struggles to relate to. Most of us see it as a “them” vs. “us” scenario.
But oddly enough, we are all influencers – albeit Kendall Jenner may have a few more Instagram followers than you or me. She does have the advantage of being managed by one of the best personal branding personalities of all time, her mother.
There is a lot to be learned from the Kardashian clan when it comes to personal branding. And before you turn up your nose and think…oh, that’s not me. I don’t need to be “out there” like that in order to sell travel…please hear me out.
If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you’ll know I talk a lot about differentiating yourself from your competition – almost ad nauseam. Check out the article on Blue Ocean Strategy if you haven’t had the chance yet. I repeat myself only because I feel so strongly that this industry is about to make a colossal shift in how we do business and how our clients will purchase travel moving forward. It’s exciting times. I have my popcorn ready to go, and I’m at the edge of my seat, anxiously anticipating what lies ahead.
There is no room in this industry for a travel generalist. If we are all selling the same hotels, the same landmarks, the same airlines…it will be our personal branding that will set each of us apart from the rest.
What is personal branding?
Simply put, personal branding is the story we want others to believe about us. It’s our reputation. It’s the story of why we do what we do. And who we are.
We begin curating that story the day we are born. If you think you don’t already have a personal brand, you are short-sighted. No brand is still a brand. It’s far wiser to strategically control the narrative than to allow it to be constructed for us.
Even if you have zero desire to start your own travel business and prefer to continue your career working for a larger travel company, your personal brand still matters. According to a 2020 recruitment survey done by the Manifest, 90% of hiring managers will consult a potential job applicant’s social media profile to investigate their personal brand as part of the selection process. I know I always did.
Even when you are happy in your current position, it’s important to maintain your online LinkedIn profile. Often it’s only when one loses their job that they give their online presence a second thought. It’s a good practice to update your profile periodically to keep it fresh.
Why bother building a personal brand?
People do business with people, not the product. No one really has to talk anyone into buying travel. I used to have a saying that I would spew to my team…” Every call is a booking, and if we don’t get it…that’s on us. Somebody else did.” To travel, or not to travel, is never the question…it’s who the customer chooses to book their travel through that becomes the sticking point.
Enter the importance of personal branding.
How to build a personal brand that will support your travel business
Step One – Decide who you want your ideal client to be
Dale Carnegie wrote a legendary book called “How to Win Friends & Influence People.” In it, he subscribes to the point that people like people who are like themselves. He encourages a mirroring technique where we copy the actions of the people we want to gain favour with in order to influence them.
And because we all know that people buy from who they know, LIKE, and trust, then it follows that we should craft our personal brand to mirror those with whom we want to connect.
So with that in mind, it makes sense to decide who you want your ideal client to be and then to build your brand around attracting that client.
Step Two – Define who you are
The next step in building a personal brand is to define who you are and what you want your brand to exemplify. Start with writing all the characteristics that make you, you. Include your hobbies and your political and spiritual beliefs. What causes are important to you? What is your story? How do people describe you? How do you want to show up? What is your favourite colour?
Step Three – Map out your client vs. you to find commonalities.
Once you’ve made your lists, your personal brand will emerge from the two overlapping spheres. It makes sense to jot down four or five words that best encapsulate your brand and keep them visible and top of mind. This list of words will be helpful when you choose brand colours and fonts or even to refer to when you start doing speaking engagements. Do you want to be seen as fun and adventurous or conservative and serious?
You might even find that you have to rethink who your ideal client should be. Many travel advisors try to appeal to the affluent client, but they don’t have a boujee bone in their bodies. People can sniff a fake a mile away, so it’s better to focus on who you are authentically, than try to morph yourself into the person you think your ideal client wants you to become.
It’s time to market your personal brand.
Now that you’ve defined your personal brand, it’s time to infuse it throughout everything you do. And this includes putting yourself front and centre of your travel business. Again, people buy from people – especially in the travel industry. If all other elements are the same, YOU become the differentiating factor.
You should be the face of your travel business. Don’t just hide out on your “About Me” page on your website. Be sure that you are featured on the homepage as well. People are coming to you to buy travel, no question, but they want to get a feel for who you are and what you stand for too.
Consistency is essential when building your personal brand.
Take a look at your digital footprint to see how aligned you are to your personal brand. If not, you may need to make some adjustments. There is no shame in rebranding yourself if you feel it’s necessary. Big brands do it all the time.
You’ll want a consistent look and feel for your personal brand. Ask some friends to review your website, Instagram account, Facebook profile, LinkedIn bio, Search engine results and see if they can easily recognise the brand you are trying to create. Is your tone of voice consistent throughout? Are they able to identify and link your online presence across multiple platforms by the colours and styles you use?
If you know you have some skeletons in your closet that will appear in a Google search, resist the urge to click on those links. That will only alert Google’s algorithm that “someone” finds that info handy and will bump it back to the top. A better strategy would be to bury any negative press by pushing more current and positive reviews to the forefront. Thankfully, not too many people bother looking past the first few pages of any search result.
Create a content strategy around your personal brand.
Once you have a clear definition of your personal brand; you can begin creating a content strategy that supports the persona you want to promote. In the travel industry, if you want your brand to be up-market luxury, you’ll want to show elements of that in the content you create. You might come across an insanely funny meme, but if that contradicts your brand, then I wouldn’t share it.
It’s a great idea to build a content strategy around the pillars of your personal brand. Let’s say you want your brand to be fun, environmentally conscious, educational and high-end, you’ll want the stories and content you post to endorse those elements.
Who you are as a person should pop out from your storytelling. You want to be relatable.
How much is TMI (too much information)?
Straddling the balance beam of knowing how much we should share can be precarious. “Vulnerability is the risk we have to take if we want to experience connection,” spouts vulnerability expert Brene Brown in her pivotal TedTalk. It’s brilliant; watch it. Over 15 million have.
As a result, we scroll through social media posts where there is a tendency to over-share. I think a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, would you be willing to tell this story to someone sitting next to you on a plane? If the answer is yes…then go ahead and share it.
So embrace the fact that we are all influencers, in both our personal capacity and as a travel advisor.
Having trouble deciding your brand positioning? Why don’t you take the quiz “What your travel style says about you” offered below that might help you get started.