Branding is nothing new. All of the world’s biggest businesses are based on a clear brand: from Apple to Starbucks, before you even step into their shops, you intuitively know what you’re getting.

These companies have a reputation and their reputation earns them billions.

The same is true of a personal brand. Get your personal brand right and you become a powerful influencer – people like Oprah and Richard Branson exemplify this.  Get it wrong, and you become redundant.

So what’s the value in a personal brand? A good personal brand creates opportunities that would not otherwise exist. This is vital for anyone hoping to stand out from the crowd and their competitors.

Here are three solid steps to get anyone started on the path to personal branding success:

Develop a content strategy

The key to developing an effective content strategy is a laser focus on your area of expertise. Then you write, tweet, update your status and cut videos that share that expertise with the world.

A great blog should be the foundation, followed by your other platforms.  From Pinterest and Instagram to Twitter, Facebook, and Google, each platform appeals to a certain type of person.  Find the platforms that suit you and an effective content strategy gets a whole lot easier.

Maximize author bios, head shots and bylines

It’s the little things that count.

Lets face it, people have short attention spans and if your profile picture, author bio or byline don’t catch a reader’s attention – and keep it – there is little chance they will stick around to find out more about you and your brand.

A profile picture, author bio or byline should reflect the image you want to project.  Remember, words and pictures are a powerful way to convey meaning.  Are you a bad ass? Then say it – it’s edgy and daring and if that’s the image you want to cultivate, don’t be shy about it.

Building a personal brand is all about attracting people to you. Use the words and images that will do this most effectively.

Have a sense of purpose

One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to build a personal brand is losing focus. A person with a powerful personal brand knows exactly what they want to achieve.  They have a clear vision of themselves and their “avatar” – their tribe or community, the people who will respond to their message.

In the simplest terms, prospective clients need to know what to expect when they engage with you. No one wants Alan Sugar to be touchy feely and to discuss spirituality. They want a tough as nails businessman who is going to tell it like it is.

Conversely, while Oprah can discuss hard core business strategy with the best of them, people love her for her warmth and personal touch. If she didn’t capitalise on her Everywoman brand, she wouldn’t have had half of her success.

The key is to have a clear message and to be consistent with it.

Tell an irresistible story

A great personal brand tells a story. Richard Branson dropped out of school, started out with a London market stall and went on to world domination. And he did with fun, flair, and audacity.

The risk, of course, in telling an irresistible story is falling into exaggeration, or worse, fiction. What if we found out that Richard Branson didn’t actually drop out of school but just failed at his exams? What if he’d never owned a market stall?  These may seem like small details given his extraordinary success, but getting branded a liar can rarely be fixed.

In essence, a personal brand is all about building relationships based on attraction and trust. It is about nailing your colors to the mast and drawing people to your cause.  A diluted, confused or fabricated message will result in mission failure.

But a strong, focused, purpose-driven brand is one of the new foundations of long-term success.