Many people think that personal branding is just for so-called celebrities or stars – or even for those that have too high an opinion of themselves! Yet, each and every one of us has a “brand” and is a “brand.”
Personal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market or position ourselves to others. From the corporate brand to the product brand and down to the personal brand, branding is a critical component to a customer’s purchase decisions.
That customer may be someone looking to buy a new car, or, in the case of an organization, the Recruitment Manager, HR Director, or Recruitment Agency tasked to find a suitable person to fill a role.
You only need to ask someone’s colleagues to get a sense of their brand - how the person is perceived in the work-place (e.g. hard working, intelligent, a gossip, lazy, etc.). These “attributes” will then reflect that person’s “brand.” Fundamentally, your brand needs to reflect your credibility, your value proposition and what differentiates you from other people and candidates for a position. It needs to focus on the value or benefits of the brand, of you, as opposed to the features (previous roles, education, etc.).
As a brand then, we should be leveraging the same strategies that make well-known “gurus” or corporate brands appeal to others. We can build brand equity, just as they do, through both our actions and our words. This is true whether you are a mid-level manager wanting to take that next step up the ladder or a very experienced non-executive director looking to add more board roles to existing directorships – or even that elusive first, paid directorship.
However, the key difference between today and August 1997, when the concept of personal branding was first raised by Tom Peters, is the rise of social media. This has leveled the playing field and made branding not only more personal, but key to achieving one’s professional objectives.
- Make sure your digital footprint is fully integrated. For example, your Twitter and LinkedIn persona should reflect each other, and be consistent with your “physical” presence by being reflected in your resume and profile. While you may choose to use Facebook for personal connections, you still need to ensure there is nothing that could damage your professional brand on your profile that is publicly visible.
- Use sites like LinkedIn to stay in touch with colleagues, alumni, suppliers and other contacts, but avoid requesting or accepting contacts with people you don’t know. In such cases, a personal introduction from a shared contact (which you can find on LinkedIn) is better. You can also ask connections to provide a “recommendation” for you on your profile reflecting the experience they had working with you. Your connections can both reflect and support your brand.
- Include your career summary (something short and sweet) in all of your online bios.
- Keep your online profiles up-to-date. This includes job moves, but you can also share content, such as interesting articles and links, to keep your online profile fresh and dynamic. These “shared” pieces of content should reflect your fields of interest and expertise while helping build a picture of your brand.
- You may not be ready to start blogging yourself, but you can still add comments and feedback to other commentators in your field of interest. This is the first step in understanding and engaging with your (target) audience and exposing them to your brand.
- Blogs, posts and tweets should be professional, interesting and add value to the reader. Don’t use social media to simply advertise your business or yourself. For longer posts, ensure someone else proofs your work. Otherwise poor expression or choice of words could make it counterproductive.
- If you are employed by an organization, ensure you are familiar with its social media policy and follow it. If it doesn’t have one, it’s something you should suggest as a risk-management tool.
- Remember, once something is online it’s often there forever. So be sensible about your personal information. Monitor your privacy settings and use common sense about what you do and don’t post. If in doubt, don’t post it!
Engaging a professional career strategist who also understands social media will pay huge dividends in assisting you through the process of understanding your personal brand (who am I?), considering possible outcomes (where am I going?) and then devising an appropriate strategy to achieve those desired outcomes (how am I going to get there?).
Much of this post has been about the importance of brand, your personal brand, and how you can use social media to reflect and promote that brand. However, your brand, whether as an individual or an organization, is only part of the equation.
Are you doing enough to build both your personal reputation and that of your organization by ensuring the brand promise, the delivery performance and the audience’s expectations are all in positive alignment? Is it time to engage a professional career strategist? As a famous brand says – Just do it!