Becky Johns is a PR professional, blogger, and photographer.

American Idol fans were outraged the last two weeks as we watched some of our “favorite” contestants get eliminated from the show. How could this happen when the results are based on the popular vote?

The judges were shocked, the media played up the story as a huge upset and many people were confused why perhaps the most technically talented singer was the one to leave the stage. There was even discussion of changing the voting system to prevent this situation again.

Stop shaking your head. This isn’t really about American Idol.

It’s about branding.

There are many factors in play to determine  success, other than talent alone.

While American Idol calls itself a singing competition, it might be more clear that it’s really a popularity contest. That, or it’s the one place teenage girls across the country are exercising their right to vote. And in your professional life, it’s no different. It’s never just about talent.

The Five Key Elements of Your Personal Brand

Your personal brand is a package, made up of a combination of factors.

  1. Solid, relevant experience.
  2. A strong portfolio of work to show success in previous projects.
  3. Great writing samples.
  4. A digital footprint and a respectable social presence online.
  5. Confidence in your skills and ability to clearly present ideas.

But, these factors alone won’t amount to your influence or likeability. Your personal brand is your total package and includes things such as causes you’re associated with, hobbies you take up in your spare time, your physical appearance, your clothing style, your charisma, and just like American Idol, your ability to deliver a performance.

I’m not suggesting you be fake or that you  just show someone what you think they want to see. Your personal brand is about being entertaining, having a certain energy which draws people to you and helps reinforce your talents by highlighting your strengths. For products, a strong brand is not always about highest quality, rather, it’s about delivering a positive experience at the right price point. For PR campaigns, it’s not always about how great the plan looks on paper, it’s about how effectively your message works with human beings.

Life is marketing, especially for PR pros and people working in the social media world. Invest the time into developing your skills and talents—they will set the stage for your success. But, don’t underestimate that it factor. The world won’t always pick its favorite based on deserving talent. Become a frontrunner by having a compelling story to tell, a personality to compliment your skill set and an interesting personal brand to wrap it all up. Be the complete package.

Becky Johns is a PR professional, blogger, and photographer. Her blog about communications and social media, I’m Working On It, is a young professional’s viewpoint on the industry. By day, Becky is part of the agency communications team at Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago. In her free time she chases adventure.