With the rise of modern electronic communication, the need to develop, maintain and own your personal brand has never been more important. Search engines such as Google mean professional people have to create their brand, and look after it. If you do not take the time to do this, search engines will create a default brand with their search algorithms. This may well not suit your professional career, so it behoves you to take control of this task yourself.
The man that created the term, “personal brand”, Tom Peters, defined the term:
“Your personal brand is comprised of your character, competence, and charisma. It’s who you are, what you do and why you’re special. You have to create it, claim it and then make sure everyone in your network knows about it!”
As much of your personal brand is linked to your exposure to the internet, try Googling your name. What is the result? Are you happy with what comes up? Remember, what you see is what any prospective employer or business partner will see. Will it impress them? If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, you need to take control of your brand. Even if the answer is “yes”, and you feel your brand is good, it still needs to be managed.
To help you achieve this, here are some simple steps to follow.
Step 1: Planning
As with any project, you need a plan before you start. The first two steps will take the longest, and for many people will be the most difficult. You will need to look at yourself, be completely honest and answer two basic questions.
The first question is “why?”
Why do you want to build a brand for yourself? What is your goal in creating this brand? Your goals could be visibility, credibility, influence, perception, or engagement. These attributes are important to your professional life, and can influence business partners.
The second question is “who?”
Who is it that you wish to influence? Who are the key stakeholders that you need to influence? Who are your peers and how does your brand measure up? Who influences your brand? What is your current PR image?
Narrow down your choices to a niche, as this will simplify your project. Once you have established your brand, you can expand it to other areas.
Step 2: Assess - where you are now?
This is another brutal step as you take a good look at where your brand stands right now. What will people think if they Google you? Are you proud of what they will find? It will take determination and a fair amount of bravery for you to stare at your image, and determine where you are regarding your life, your achievements and the personality you display to others. Whether the view pleases you or not, think about how it can be improved.
The only way you can determine what other people think is to ask them. You’re testing subjective indicators. These indicators do not determine whether you can do the job or not. They will test how people see you, so try to remember that everyone will have a different perception - but it is their perception and you cannot discount it by saying it is wrong. It is not wrong, it is simply how they see you. It is important to understand this.
This can be very painful, but it is important. You need to ask your peers, your subordinates, your supervisors and your family and friends how they see you. Not all the feedback will be good, and you will have to face both bouquets and brickbats. Recognize that the brickbats are simply areas for improvement, while the bouquets are areas that you need to preserve and strengthen. A tool for undertaking this survey is a 360o Survey.
Now you can start to build your brand. Think along the lines of:
What do I stand for? What are my ethics? What would I like people to think of me? These are necessary questions about you as a person, and what you consider important.
“Have a cause, not a business.”
This is a well-known saying by Gary Hamel. You need to find that one thing inside of you that will drive the brand you want to create. What is the one burning platform you will use to drive your brand and define yourself?
Clarity, consistency, constancy
These are the three basic rules of branding. Clarity means you must be clear on what your brand is, and what it is not. Consistency means you are always the same, and constancy means you are always there and available to your niche.
Create your elevator pitch
Imagine you are getting into an elevator with someone you want to impress. You only have the length of an elevator ride - what would you say in that minute to impress the other person? What succinct message do you want to put across? This is your elevator pitch.
Get your brand onto the airwaves
Now you have determined what your brand is going to look like, you need to get it out to the places your niche audience will see it.
Most sites have an area for your profile. Remember your three C’s of branding, and ensure your message is consistent across all platforms. Have a good profile drafted and use that same profile across the platforms. Keep a document that details where you have set up a profile and make sure when you change your profile, you change it in all places.
Again, if you intend to put up a portfolio of work, make a note of where you have loaded your portfolios and ensure they are consistent.
In a similar manner to your profile, keep your biography consistent and keep note of where it is loaded.
Maintain your social media profiles at the same time as other professional profiles. Bear in mind that your social media forms part of your brand. Be aware of what is posted on social media by your friends that may affect your profile. It is pointless to have a brand that shows a quiet, contemplative person only to have photographs of wild parties plastered over Instagram and Facebook.
These can be a powerful arena to promote your brand. Be respectful, and never get dragged into an online argument.
E-mail signature and accounts
Your account name and signature are elements of your brand. Again, a quiet, contemplative brand persona will not have an e-mail address of firstname.lastname@example.org! Be aware of user identities and meld them into your brand. E-mail is a minefield of things that can go wrong. Spend time learning good e-mail etiquette, and put it into practice.
The same conditions must apply to any domain names that you register.
Your phone message request must also match your brand. The greeting and instructions you leave when you are unable to answer the phone are a powerful component, as many people will hear it during the day. Take time to get it right.
Branding at events and the office
Do not forget to carry your branding message into the events you plan, and the décor in your office.
Personal grooming and communication
This is your brand. Dress appropriately and speak well. Everything you do will contribute to the success of your brand.
Consistency, consistency, consistency. This must become your mantra. Nothing is worse than conflicting personal details spread all over the web. Keep track of wherever you have loaded profiles, biographies and other personal details and ensure that if you change something, it is changed everywhere.
Your brand is very important in all facets of your life, but none more so than your professional career. Take the time and trouble to design the brand you want to project and build it carefully. Maintain it, and remember that once destroyed it is extremely difficult to rebuild, so guard it jealously.
Let us know what you have done to create and promote your brand, and what benefits your brand has brought to you.