Building A Personal Brand That Lasts
What was once refered to as your professional reputation is now commonly known as your personal brand. Ironically, branding is a just a buzzword for building a reputation, and it can't be done as quickly and easily as some marketing gurus would have you believe. Branding a physical product is fairly straight forward, and once a product brand is developed it rarely ever changes. However, branding a person is a bit more difficult, because people change. They change jobs, they change their careers and they even change their professional interests. Consequently, a personal brand has to be flexible, and evolve with a person without losing its identity.
Does It Really Matter?Any seasoned brand manager or business owner knows that in order to ensure the long-term success of a product or corporation a strong brand must be developed and maintained. Branding is a long-term marketing strategy—it's a process of drawing attention to the ways in which your product (yourself in this case) is special and unique. The sum of these attributes and how they're perceived by the business community constitutes your personal brand. Your job is to make sure the message that defines the "professional" you is consistent and visible in all you say, do and write. Employers and clients want to work with—and employ—professionals with strong, consistent brands. Consistency equals realiability—and reliability removes the guesswork and risk from working with you. Professionals with strong brands beat out professionals with weak brands, or no brands—for jobs, for consulting work, for promotion opportunities.
In addition to letting others know who you are, in a way, a professional brand help you know who you are. It not only defines how you want to be seen by others but provides you professional direction, focus and motivation when developed as part of a career management strategy.
Below you'll find helpful hints, tools and recommendations for building and improving your personal brand.
1. Determine your core valuesBefore you can develop your personal brand, you have to decide how you want clients, customers and others within the business community to think of you. Sometimes a personal brand stems from your professional strengths and interests—as established by professional work history and expertise—but ultimately it's shaped by your core values and how you present these to the public. Consequently, you have control over how you're perceived—as long as you're consistent with the message you communicate. What are your values? If you don't know, you'll have a difficult time communicating them to the public, and you'll struggle to develop a strong personal brand. You need to determine your core values and effectively communicate them through your personal branding.
2. Stay away from bad publicityThe proverbial expression "bad publicity is good publicity" works for someone like Paris Hilton who seeks notoriety, but shareholds of British Petroleum and Toyota, which have both experienced drops in their market price due to bad publicity relating to the oil spill and worldwide recalls, probably feel quite differently. Bad publicity may make sense for a select few, but it doesn't make sense when you're trying to build a personal brand. In most cases bad publicity will end in a ruined reputation. Avoid any publicity that is not inline with your core values or that could taint your reputation. If and when you become the spotlight of negative publicity, work hard to remedy the situation and restore trust in your name and reputation.
3. Become who you want people to see you asIt may seem obvious that you need to be who you want people to see you as, but countless individuals struggle to portray themselves as the best in their field, simply because they're not. If you want to be seen as best, you need to strive to be the best. Every strong personal brand is associated with authority or expertise at some level. Dave Ramsey, author of the best selling "The Total Money Makeover", has created a strong personal brand (and small fortune) based on his expertise in personal financial management. Other well know professionals including Cesar Millan (aka "The Dog Whisperer") and Phil McGraw (aka "Dr. Phil") are examples of professionals who have developed strong personal brands by becoming the best of the best in their field of expertise. Even if you're not interested in going around touting yourself as the best, it's still important that you're known for being very good at what you do.
4. Seek out speaking opportunities> People not only need to see you, they need to hear you—otherwise, you're just another pretty face. One of the most effective ways to establish a strong personal brand is to give speeches or present your work in public forums and industry events. Speaking at industry events puts you front and center, and provides you a unique opportunity to stand out from the crowd. It also helps you make contact with important industry players that can enhance your image and increase your business' visibility. Speaking at industry events and conferences is also an effective way to position yourself as an expert in a certain topic or subject area. When speaking, try to pick topics that support your personal branding strategy.
5. Contribute articles or write a columnContributing articles or writing a column for an authoritative publication (e.g. Forbes, Time, Entrepreneur.com, etc.) on a topic in your field can be one of the most effective ways to boost your personal brand images and credibility because its raises you to the status of expert. It also provides several ancillary benefits, including excellent marketing for your company. When providing content for any publication, your objective, first and foremost, is to provide the highest quality content possible. This will ensure the publication is happy with your work and open up the door to other opportunities to write columns and contribute content to other publications.
When you're contributing articles, content, or guest posting don't neglect to make use of author bios. When possible, include your name, along with the name of your company. It get's your name out there and it helps establish you as an authority figure within your field or on a specific subject.
While writing columns or articles for authoritive publications provides you the opportunity to establish yourself as an authority figure to readers, it also provide you an opportunity to position yourself as an expert in the eyes of those who visit your blog, website or any other social media profiles. Make sure to make the most of any articles you write for any high-profile publications by including these articles in your blog, on your website and in all your social media marketing.
6. Give people a reason to careYou need to give people a compelling reason to follow you and pay attention to what you have to say and share. A strong personal brand must have something valuable to pair it with—a great skill, public speaking expertise, unique service, blog, or something comparable. Social media provides an excellent venue for posting compelling content, posts, videos, artwork, etc.
7. Use social media to build your brandSocial media is one of the most effective ways of developing and maintaining a strong personal brand—if you know how to use it.
Let people see you
It's important that people know who you are, especially if you conduct most of your business online. When setting up social neworking accounts (Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, etc.) use a professional quality headshot—not an image of your business, logo or other object. Studies indicate that social media accounts that feature a friendly face perform better than those featuring an inanimate object. While it's okay to have accounts for your businesses that employ other images, a professional quality headshot is best for developing a personal brand. Using a personal picture is also more effective for inviting yourself into people's personal space and networking.
Keep it fresh
No one pays attention to a one-hit-wonder for more than a few minutes. If you want to develop a brand that stands the test of time, you need to continually add new and compelling content, articles, posts and information to your social media profiles. You'll also want to change your themes from time to time. No matter how good your content is, if it gets stale, boring or repetitive your brand will take a hit. Keep it fresh.
Everyone should have a Facebook personal branding strategy. With over 200 million active users, Facebook is an effective social media platforms for building your personal brand. It's particular useful for interacting with and engaging people. In order to make your facebook profile come alive post daily updates that are diverse and provide value to your followers more than self-advertisement. Share succinct and informed opinions about topics relating to your field of expertise along with links to relevant resources and posts. Keep your facebook profile clean and provide regular and relevant updates.
In order to grow your facebook network, each month, you should import your contacts from your email accounts and your instant messenger screen name accounts. This will ensure that as you meet new people and make more contacts, these individuals become part of your facebook network.
In order to communicate with your network, you'll want to update your Facebook status on a regular basis. This will help keep people informed about what's going on in your life and pull them back to your Facebook page. If you have several social media profiles in addition to Facebook, you can update them all at once using a service like ping.fm.
If you're using Facebook to find a job, just keep your profile clean and up to date. Also, make sure that your activity is relevant to your career goals.
While not quite the momath like Facebook, Twitter allows you to build your brand and showcase yourself to a large and growing audience. To get started, you need to reserve your Twitter account name or "handle". Twitter handles are disappearing as fast as .com domain names. By not reserving your Twitter name now, your business or personal brand is at risk. Twitter handless are so valuable, companies such as Tweexchange have set up aftermarket exchanges for buying and selling Twitter user names.
One of the main objectives of having a Twitter account is to gain followers. And the first step to gaining followers is to set up an account that looks legitimate. Compose a Twitter bio that's honest, yet compelling, upload an attractive avatar and the make sure fill out your entire profile. As you draft your bio and complete your profile, make sure the information you include matches what's found in your other social media accounts (Facebook, Linkedin, etc.) Once you've complete your profile, spend a little time on your Twitter background. Websites as Twitpaper.com and Twitter-Images.com can help you develop a custom background that will create a better brand image yourself and a more cohesive experience for your Twitter followers.
Twitter is useful for branding your company or for branding yourself. If you goal is brand your company, the you should lead with your company. Alternatively, you can employ a mutual branding strategy where the account avatar has your picture as well as your corporate logo. If you're focused 100% on branding yourself, then focus your Twitter handle, avatar and bio information exclusively on you.
By constantly tweeting about your expertise on a specific subject, you'll begin to garner followers who are interested in that subject. However, don't brand yourself as an expert right out of the gate unless you really ar one. If you're not an expert and are just getting started you may need to develop a marketing plan just as you would for a new blog or website.
While not as large as Facebook or Twitter, Linkedin could quite possibly be the most effective social media platform for building your personal brand. Nearly all Linkedin members actively participate in Linkedin for business purposes. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, Linkedin provides members the opportunity to connect with other like-minded business professionals via a unique profile that acts like a virtual resume, reference document, cover letter and contacts database all roled up into one. Building a powerful brand on LinkedIn will position you for new job opportunities and help advance your career moving forward.
The most important aspect of developing a personal brand using Linkedin is your profile. Your profile must be honest and absolutely flawless. Pay as much attention to the detail of your profile as you would a resume you were developing for your dream job. You'll be judged by recruiters and other people within your industry by the content and presentation of your profile. An effective profile should include a custom URL (e.g. http://linkedin.com/in/yourfullname), a headline that includes the job you want, a brief summary of your relevant work experience and career aspirations, and target keywords throughout.
An important aspect of developing your personal brand using Linkedin is developing your professional network. To learn more about how to use Linkedin for networking read The 'Linkedin' Strategy to Networking Through Professional Associations. Developing a strong professional network will help you gain followers and quite possibly a new job.
Once you've developed a sizable network, you have the opportunity to position yourself as a leader. Two of the most effective ways to position yourself as a leader using Linkedin include (1) starting a group and (2) starting an event. Some people start groups around their company. This is an ineffective way to develop a personal brand. Instead, start a group around a topic that you want to "own". By starting a group, you're communicating that you're a leader in this space. You can promote your group on Facebook, Twitter and your other social media networks. Starting an event is useful for building your personal brand but is intented only for professional interests and industry conferences.
While Linkedin is a potent means of developing your personal plan, it's only one piece of the equation. Make sure to dedicate due attention and time to using both Facebook and Twitter, as outlined above.
8. Be in it for the long runBuilding a strong personal brand doesn't happen over night. It takes time, effort and dedication—but it will pay off. A strong personal brand will help you land new jobs, open up new career opportunities and add value to each new project you're involved in. Whether you're a CEO, car salesman, business consultant or entrepreneur, a strong personal brand can be your greatest asset.
by Becton Loveless
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