Many people think personal branding is just for so-called celebrities or stars – or even for those who have too high an opinion of themselves! Yet, each and every one of us has – 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 purchasing decision.
That customer may be someone looking to buy a new car, or, in the case of an organisation, the recruitment manager, HR director, or recruitment agency tasked to find a suitable person to fill a role.
And, you only need to ask the colleague of someone, to get a sense of their brand – or how the person is perceived in the workplace (eg hard working, intelligent, a gossip, lazy, etc) and these ‘attributes’ 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. It needs to focus on the value or benefits of the brand, 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 like them. 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 in a seminal article, is the rise of social media that has levelled the playing field and made branding not only more personal, but key to achieving one’s objectives.
As such, the individual needs to carefully consider the role that social media, in particular Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, might play in building and reflecting their personal brand.
Keep the following tips in mind when harnessing social media:
Make sure your digital footprint is integrated. For example, your Twitter and LinkedIn persona should reflect each other, and be consistent with your ‘physical’ presence, 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 profile.
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 them to provide a “recommendation” for you on your profile. Your connections can reflect your brand.
Include your career summary (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 ”shares” should reflect your fields of interest and expertise, and help build a picture of your brand.
You may not be ready to start blogging, 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.
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 could make it counter-productive.
If you are employed by an organisation, 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 one through the process of understanding one’s personal brand (who am I?), considering possible outcomes (where am I going?) and then devising an appropriate strategy to achieve the desired outcomes (how am I going to get there?).
Is it time to engage a professional career strategist? As a famous organisational brand tagline says – Just do it!