It used to be that branding was intended for businesses. You probably remember the logos, print ads and commercials of household brands you grew up with. In the workplace employees would pledge their allegiance and support their workplace’s brand. Well, times have changed and those days are in the past. In the digital age with online access, there has been a shift towards individuals and personal branding. Now it’s up to each of us as individuals to create and promote our own brands. You may be wondering, though, why do I need a personal brand?
Time to embrace personal branding
As Caroline Castrillion states in “Why Personal Branding is More Important Than Ever, “ (Forbes), “Whether you know it or not, you have a personal brand.” Google yourself. “With the proliferation of social media and the gig economy, it has become essential for everyone to embrace personal branding.” Your personal brand illustrates who you are, what you value and allows people to get to know you. It gives you credibility and may help you land opportunities.
Jeff Bezos has said “your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Effective personal branding will differentiate you from the competition and allow you to build trust with prospective clients and employers.”
Why is that important? According to a 2018 CareerBuilder Survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and 43% of employers use social media to check on current employees. So, as you can see, cultivating your personal brand helps you make a great first impression, come across with authenticity and protect your reputation and your career.
Nearly 25 years ago Tom Peters wrote a classic article for Fast Company, “The Brand Called You,” saying “it’s a brand world.” I would add, even more so in 2021. As Peters stated:
“It’s time for me – and you – to take a lesson from the big brands, a lesson that’s true for anyone who’s interested in what it takes to stand out and prosper in the new world of work.
“It’s this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else.”
Be an Ambassador for Yourself
As Michael Brenner relates on the Marketing Insider Group’s blog in “Personal Branding – Why Now is the Time to Build Your Personal Brand,” Steve Olenski, Content Strategist at Resonsys said it well: “Whether we work for a company or as an individual we all market ourselves via our actions and our words. I am always aware that when I am “out there” I am in fact representing and serving as a de facto ambassador of sorts for both my personal brand as well as my company’s brand.”
There are right ways – and wrong ways – to present yourself. On social media let your true self shine (be authentic); stay consistent (branding isn’t one and done – comment regularly and be seen); and add value to your audience (write about what you’re interested in and you’ll find people with similar interests following you). Visually you should select a photo of yourself and other images in keeping with the personal brand you are portraying. Wrong ways to present yourself are being inauthentic (mimicking others instead of using your own voice), inconsistent (posting sporadically on social media) and not adding value (merely repeating what someone else said). Realize that you are marketing yourself all of the time and you need to differentiate yourself and show what makes you unique. Why should an employer choose you for the position over another candidate? Are you a good candidate for promotion?
How to Develop Your Personal Brand
Here are some simple steps to develop your personal brand from Brenner’s post.
Define your audience and area of expertise.
Why are you doing what you do? What’s your unique knowledge base and point of view?
Define what your brand means.
You have a unique set of experiences and passions. Who are you talking to? What’s in it for them and you?
Build it every day like a habit.
Scan, filter, read, connect, write, respond on social media every day. For just minutes per day, you can share what you personally find interesting – and stay connected.
Build real relationships.
Share other people’s content, adding perspective. Build meaningful relationships with those you can help and those who can help you. Follow someone new every day. If you can’t find anyone, follow the social networks’ recommendations.
Create content on a regular basis.
Share, comment, like on the posts of others and create your own content (one LinkedIn or blog post per week). Write about trends in your industry. Answer your customers or commenters’ questions. Use storytelling to make it interesting. Don’t worry you’re giving away your “secret sauce.” No one is paying you for the level of insights you’re giving away in a short article, they’re paying you for the deep attention and results you can produce in their business.
Case Study: One Company, 10 Consultants and Millions in Sales
Brenner tells how he “worked with one company on building the personal brands of 10 consultants. We identified their areas of expertise, we cleaned up their LinkedIn profiles and added examples of their work (videos, articles, recommendations from clients they had worked with).
Most importantly, we built a daily, weekly and monthly plan for them that took no more than 2 hours per month: we asked them to share one article relevant to their industry or expertise every day. They spent a few minutes every week connecting with other experts in their industry. And they wrote and published one article every month.
The result at the end of 12 months was astonishing: millions of dollars of sales had closed directly from their social network (in this case it was on LinkedIn.) By the second year, the sales deals they were getting via this approach became the largest source of new business for the firm.
But this didn’t happen overnight. These people carefully built and developed their personal brand. They became known as experts. They shared the expertise of others. They built the size (and quality!) of their network. And they shared their own expertise. This combination, applied consistently, is what delivered the results.”
What Can Personal Branding Do for You?
- Benefits you, your business and your career
- Makes you memorable and gets you noticed
- Positions you to become a thought leader in your industry over time
- Provides more exposure – ranks you higher for keywords in your industry if you are using the keywords people search for in your content
- Assists you to land new opportunities and provide value to your company