Personal branding is an important topic to most busy professionals. It is often discussed by image consultants. There are many articles about personal branding from the fashion perspective. Image, look and feel aside, we will review a marketing perspective of personal branding. For any professional (in marketing or not), there are five keys to personal branding, to consider. We will touch on each in this blog posts then will discuss each element in greater depth in future posts. The five critical steps are…
Personal Branding Strategy
Strategy is important. Yes even for personal branding it is important to take a structured approach. Start off with an audit of your current brand. What is the brand image that you are conveying to the professional world? Are you being consistent? Is it the right professional brand you want to convey, for the direction you are taking? Beyond all this, are people perceiving your brand, as you intended? If the answer is yes, stop reading. Congratulations, you don’t need any help. If not, then how do you adjust your personal branding to reflect the brand image you want to convey?
The first step in your strategy is the personal brand audit. Take inventory of your current brand. There are two levels to the audit. First is a look at all five steps of personal branding to identify gaps, and improvement opportunities. It’s as easy as finding out that you never thought about having a strategy for personal branding. Now you know and can start correcting. Second, is an in-depth audit of your brand. This includes doing a Google search on yourself, understanding your online image and offline image. Have you completed a 360 degree review for yourself? Never mind the artificial 360 review for your company performance plan. What are people saying about you, when asked candidly?
From the audit you can understand how the world sees your brand. It is then a matter of planning out how to maintain this view, adjust it or work on altering it altogether. Most professionals will just need to pivot slightly to adjust their personal branding. Should your audit show that people think you are mean or just plain evil – you will need a serious change of course.
The basics are varied. Do you have a professional photo on your bio and social profiles? Do your bio and CV convey the right professional image of you? Do you have a professional business card? Even if you feel you want to be environmentally friendly and NOT have one… get one anyway! A token reminder of your brand is your card. Not having one, means you are entirely forgettable. Remember, that we still don’t have a standard method for giving someone a digital card – yet. Use the technology, and have a printed professional card as your backup.
Your clothes, demeanor, public behaviour, and professional stature are all critical here too. For this series, these personal touches are very important… but left to an image consultant.
Here the question is, how are you showing up on a Google search? Have you polished up your LinkedIn profile to show a solid professional presence consistent to your brand strategy? How about all your other social media profiles? Are they showing your personal branding – consistently? Does the look and feel of each site show a similar you… or are they radically different? Worse yet, are they a hodge-podge of what looked good on a variety of different days? Is the background blue on LinkedIn, then a shocking orange artwork on your twitter accounts, all creating a sharply inconsistent image?
Part of your plan is to create a consistent look and feel throughout. It also means ensuring all your digital profiles are aligned. Are they speaking in the professional voice you outlined in your plan? Is it all in error free spelling, using well written grammar? Most importantly, does it convey a professional presence to a person you would like to get to know?
Consistency and professionalism are important across your profiles. No, you don’t have to be wearing business clothing across all profiles. However, it has to look consistent with the brand image you wish to portray. We have all heard the stories of people being disqualified due to photos or comments found on Facebook or Twitter. It is best to leave the revealing stag & doe photos for private viewing.
Beyond the look and feel, check your Klout, and Social Selling Index (LinkedIn) scores. Aside from a good looking and consistent personal brand – the scores speak to whether you are digitally engaged. Are you a follower or a leader in your field. Then make a decision – as to whether this is important to your personal branding or not. You may be at a comfortable level. Alternatively, you may feel that you need to strengthen it. Make a decision and make it happen.
Career and Job Profile
Personal branding often becomes a key focal area when you have lost a job. Downsizing, funding challenges, and general layoffs have become the norm since the Great Recession (arguably since 1980’s). In fact, long tenure with a single firm is becoming scarce. Average tenure for men in the US is 4.7 years, with US women at 4.5 years (BLS News Release, Sep 2014). With these shorter tenure expectations, your career, job profile and CV portfolio need to be a critical part every professional’s personal branding strategy.
As such, your CV has to be ready to go. You may want to update it every 6 months (if you are in a job). More frequent updates apply if you are looking for a job. Have it professionally polished, and ensure it reflects your brand plan.
Have you created a full portfolio for yourself? That would include a well crafted biography page. It would include two or three one page success cases of what you have accomplished in your career. Perhaps you should consider pulling together all the positive comments people have said about you, onto one or two pages. This is a welcome part of your job portfolio.
Make it all polished, and unique. Then make sure it all fits with your personal brand. It needs to be consistent with what will be found when a recruiter later looks you up, online.
Aside from the written words, and graphics imagery – network. Part of your personal branding efforts are your connections. Even if you are introverted, find a way to connect with people one on one. When someone reached out to you to share 20 minutes over a coffee – ACCEPT! Then meet with that person. Be as helpful as you can. Also use it as a moment to practice conveying your brand. Networking effectively, is an extremely important part of your success. It is your brand in action.
Admittedly this is not for everyone. Not all personal branding will include or even need to push thought leadership profiles. That is – unless you are an executive! If you are in management, you need to be a thought leader in what you do. Otherwise – you are simply IRRELEVANT!
What does thought leadership mean, exactly? It means you are the person that people come to ask about aspects of your expertise. Be engaging, online and in your profession. On LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and other media – comment on articles. Comment on posts, white papers, and infographics. Write a byline article for your association’s publication highlighting gaps or trends you perceive in your industry. You are part of a professional association – right? For the good of your professional profile, the answer must be YES. Offer to write a blog post for your favourite site, on a topic you know well.
The importance here is to have a presence, a voice, and an opinion about important topics to your profession. Nobody likes a David McEgo – who professes to know everything about Marketing simply because he is the VP and rants endlessly. Instead, be the executive who people actually respect. Be the executive who writes thoughtful, boundary expanding, and insightful articles. You know you have succeeded if you have helped others learn from it. From a personal branding perspective, make sure your thought leadership aligns to your brand plan.
Is it REALLY important?
Personal branding is important to all of us. It is our reputation. Our brand is what people perceive. It defines us. Whether you are a freelancer, consultant, in a job or seeking – it matters to you. Why is it part of a Marketing blog? Just like a company needs a branding plan, each career can improve with a personal branding plan, too. As highlighted earlier, the next few posts will focus on the five key steps in detail. I hope you will join me on this short journey….
About the Author:
Charles Dimov is Director of Strategy D, a Digital, Content & Product Marketing consultancy (www.StrategyD.org). He has 20 years of experience in High Technology, with 15+ years in Product Marketing functions – having successfully introduced over 80+ new product to global markets. Charles has a MASc.(MBA), BASc.(Eng), and a BA.(Econ), and loves Photography, Marketing Strategy, and rolling up his sleeves to drive market success. Reached Charles: Charles@DimovStrat.com