Without checking any notes you have in a drawer somewhere, tell me what your top 3 personal brand values are?
Are you humming and hawing right now, trying to remember what on earth you wrote down during that workshop you attended three years ago?
Coz if you’ve done any brand work at all, ever, you’ve probably defined your core values.
It’s another one of those things everyone has heard they should do, and has probably rattled off some values at some point, and then never looked at them again.
Let’s play a game.
Go and find where you put them, dust them off, and if you have two of these on your list, I win and coffees are on you (pourover, single origin, brazilian coffee with chocolatey notes only please). And if you have three of them on your list you not only owe me coffee, but lunch as well:
Did I win?.
I reckon the odds are in my favour, coz these are really commonly chosen values. But what do they really mean? How do they set you apart?
If everyone is choosing these values, how does it help your personal brand to be guided by them?
Doesn’t it make you just like everyone else, instead of setting you apart?
So why not just assume that the most common values are a given, and dig a little deeper to make your core values as unique to you as possible.
Or, if you really do want “passion” to be a core value, then get more specific about what you’re passionate about, or how that passion manifests itself. Maybe instead of “passion” it becomes “I do a little dance when a client realises just how creative they can be”.
The first rule of personal brand values is: there are no rules
Your values don’t have to follow any rules. Maybe you use phrases, or maybe you use words that mean nothing to anyone else, but make you feel a certain way.
Think of your values this way – if you could put your values in the header of your competitors website, and they wouldn’t seem out of place… you need to go deeper.
Here’s an example I love from one of our recent clients:
Why do I love this example? I literally couldn’t imagine these being the values of any other business.
My own values aren’t quite as unique, and I want to share them with you so that you know that you don’t have to totally reinvent the wheel here… but a little bit of what’s unique to you should be evident… here are mine:
I like to think of values as “I will” statements… so I think of them like this:
- I will help you feel untroubled in your business
- I will be creative
- I will get results
While overall they’re not the most unique, creative and results-driven are probably values held by several of my competitors… but untroubled? That puts my personal stamp on my values.
I didn’t know that “untroubled” was a value of mine off the top of my head. I had to do some work to find it.
I knew I wanted something around the fact that this is how I want to feel, and it’s how I want my client’s to feel. But I started with things like “stress-free” and “easy life”, but none of them were quite right.
So how did I get to the word “untroubled”? Well here’s the process we go through with our clients.
How do you actually find your values? A seven step guide…
Step 1 – make your own list
Start by just making a list of what you think your values are. We recommend doing this first, off the top of your head without referencing anything else. Just gut instinct – what’s important to you.
They don’t have to be words. Phrases, feelings, nonsense words that only make sense to you. Anything.
Step 2 – check other people’s lists
Then, after that you can look up a list of values and see if there’s anything you missed, or that resonates with you. James Clear has a good list of values you could use.
Step 3 – analyse what you value in other people
Next, to get out of your own head a little, and look at things from a fresh perspective, think about people you admire. Write down three people you admire and why you admire them. When you’re done, analyse what you wrote for any values you could add to your list.
Step 4 – ask other people what your values are
Ask other people what they think your values are, and add any that resonate to the list.
Step 5 – narrow down your list
Now you should have a pretty long list of values. It’s time to start narrowing down. The easiest way to do this is to put them all into a single column in a spreadsheet, and start moving them up or down depending on how important they are to you.
Start with broad strokes – this one feels like it should be down a bit, this one up a bit.. And keep going until you feel like you’re getting someway close to having them in some kind of order where the top third of the list is feeling like it’s getting more relevant to you.
Now work on the top third section of your list. Where you’ve moved the more important values to.
Get more specific. Start focusing on what needs to be at the top of that list.
Step 6 – find your top seven values and interrogate them
Try to get seven values that are highly relevant, in order of importance, at the top of the list.
Then, when you have them in order, make sure you’re using the right words in your values…
Google the words or phrases and see what else comes back.
Anything you can to discover other ways of saying the same thing, and make sure there isn’t a word that resonates with you more, or is more specific to what you were trying to convey.
Explore the words you’re using in the thesaurus. Try more than one thesaurus. The goal is to find the exact, right, most specific words that fit you perfectly. This is the part of the process that led me to “untroubled”.
Working on this level of specificity is what will get you to seven values that couldn’t possibly be used to describe your competitors.
Step 7 – there can only be three
Now, if you could only keep the top three, do those three describe you? Are they a good fit for you? And would they definitely not fit your competitors?
That’s when you know you have some pretty solid values.
Use them to guide you. Lean into them. Get more of those values into your content.
We hang onto all seven for reference, but those top three are your real guiding light.
Do an assessment of your content
Look back over the last ten pieces of content you put out into the world – whether it’s blog posts, emails, or social media posts – and look at them through the eyes of your dream client.
Now imagine you tell them what your values are. Would they scratch their head in puzzlement, or would they say “oh, yeah, ok, I can see that.”
There’s no point defining values and putting them in a drawer somewhere to be forgotten about. Like everything in your personal brand definition, they’re a beacon to guide you, a reminder of how you want to show up in the world – and as part of that, what your content should reflect.
Your personal brand values help you show up consistently and with purpose, so that you build your personal brand with your values baked in.
If this guide to defining your personal brand values helps you, I’d love to hear what your top three values are!