Almost the entire population has a digital footprint - that includes 92% of toddlers. No matter who you are, the world can Google a picture of you, read your tweets or see your educational accomplishments. Together, all of these things become your "personal brand."
Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, once said, "Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room."
So if you're wondering whether you need a personal brand, that decision has already been made for you: it's already out there. But what you can do is optimize it so that you're putting your best foot forward every time a client, customer or employer looks you up.
Let's take a look at how you can define, communicate and protect your own personal brand.
Defining Your Personal Brand
Who are you? It's a big question to start with, but you'll want to follow it up with another one: who do you want to be?
The thing about personal branding is that it doesn't have to be descriptive. It can be aspirational, focusing on where you're heading and how you plan to get there. But a word of warning - keep it authentic. It's okay to be a better you, as long as you're still you.
Like a corporate brand, a personal brand is built upon a few key factors: your values, mission, attributes, and personality.
Try asking yourself some of these:
- What words would you use to describe yourself?
- What words would others use to describe you?
- How do you want to be seen?
- Who would you like to be compared to?
- What's your passion?
- What is your standout skill or trait?
Use your answers to shape your personal brand. Perhaps you're on track already, or maybe you need to adjust how you put yourself out there so that how you want to be seen is how you're actually seen. You can do that by mindfully communicating your brand.
Communicating Your Personal Brand
Social media is the go-to for communicating a personal brand. It gives you the most control over your brand and allows you to promote it to the world. The more content you have out there that's controlled by you, the more likely it is to rise to the top.
Here's how to communicate your personal brand on social media:
- Choose your platform. LinkedIn is powerful for career connections, while Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram are more personal.
- Define a posting approach. If you want to be a thought leader, consider long-form pieces (especially on LinkedIn) or commentary on industry news. For "lifestyle" branding, more personal posts work. Don't just post to post. Pick topics that you are passionate about or that are relevant to you, and share your thoughts for a penny (or alike).
- Be mindful of your audience. Keep it "safe for work" and think carefully when sharing, using hashtags or promoting brands.
Other avenues for communicating your personal brand include a website, blog, newsletter or interviews with local press. You can launch a Twitter chat group or start a podcast.
Complement your online activities by putting yourself out there. Participate in community events, donate your time and expertise with talks or seminars, and network at conferences. Depending on your industry influence and reputation, you may also want to get professional input into how to best communicate your brand.
The bigger and more diversified your presence, the better - assuming that you stay on brand.
Protecting Your Personal Brand
We've all cringed at a coworker's Facebook post or those celebrity tweets that are invariably followed by a public apology. One misstep can do irreparable damage to an otherwise solid brand - especially on social media.
Here's how to protect your personal brand:
- Be true to yourself. It's harder to mess up when you're not playing a role.
- Don't over-promise. Don't claim expertise, skills or connections if you don't have them.
- Be respectful. Consider what you're putting out there - and how. Some things are best left unsaid (or un-tweeted).
- Own your mistakes. If you make a mistake, don't double down. Acknowledge it and do better.
- Associate mindfully. You are who you associate with. Vet your circles - that includes on social - carefully.
- Move quickly. If you experience negative press, act quickly to manage it before it snowballs.
Personal branding can fulfill your exact vision, but you'll need to carefully and effectively communicate your positioning with your professional colleagues, clients, and employers so your network will trust, respect and seek your resources and expertise.
Need help defining, developing or sharing your personal brand? Give us a ring!