Intrigued, but also a little apprehensive about all things personal brand? You’re not alone. For many, personal branding feels exciting, but also somewhat esoteric. After all, #WTF is it all about? In its purest sense, managing your personal brand simply means taking control of, or being strategic about, the essence of YOU. Just is the case for branding at large, ‘owning’ your personal brand takes a consideration of multiple touch points; the perceived, the digital, the physical and verbal.
Why do you need to care?
In today’s digi-obsessed climate where things are noisier, more cluttered and changeable than ever, your personal brand exists whether you like it or not. Whether you’re in control of it, however, is up to you. A strategic personal brand is one you’re actively controlling, or curating, in accordance with your unique personal and professional goals—be they now or future based. As a case in point, let’s consider the DIGITAL you. A basic Google test will reveal plenty. Where do people find you? What visuals do they see? What content do they read relating to you? Were you the content author, or merely quoted in amongst someone else’s material? How much content (volume) are they offered? What kind of experience do they enjoy overall? What mood, tone, look and feel are you setting? For budding entrepreneurs and start-ups, a sparkling digital footprint is pivotal, but noting the importance of ‘delivering on promise’, an individual’s online persona must also align with all other touch points in their personal brand equation—the perceived, physical and verbal. As always, consistency is king.
Where to start with personal branding?
You: Who am I, what do I want to be known for, what makes me truly different?
Your audience: Who do I need to influence, why should they care about me, what value can I offer them?
Execution: What tools, platforms, channels should I use to reach and engage my audience?
Determine the platforms you need to be on, and the role they’re going to play for you personally, and/or you as the face of your start-up (i.e. some platforms might be strictly personal or ‘passion-project’ based, while others remain professional). Tweak privacy settings accordingly. Noting the semantics of both your industry and personal goals, are existing platforms okay (LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, listings on a relevant industry websites or networks), or do you need to create an entirely new website to covey your character and point of difference—i.e. a personal microsite? In terms of your content, or assets:
Will you simply be sharing, liking and engaging with existing content, or publishing entirely new perspectives of your own?
Will your strategy be fundamentally online, or in-person too?
Thinking about the platforms you’re on, the groups and events you’re involved with, the audiences you’re targeting, how much time you have, how much time they have…
How is best to broadcast your messages in a manner that’s likely to cut through?
When and how often will you share a perspective/piece of content?
Will you speak, or get involved in special industry events?
Could you take your expertise to organisations outside of your immediate professional circle?
Finally, never point, shoot and assume it’s going to work. Understand that strategic personal branding always involves a two-way ‘value’ exchange that needs to be watched, tweaked and refined along the way. Like the savviest of brand managers, you must be both your greatest fan, and your harshest critic. At regular intervals, measure and check the effectiveness of your strategy.
Are you cutting through/getting noticed?
Are people valuing your perspective/contribution?
Was it different?
Am I doing anything to support others/‘pay it forward’ along the way?
Are people engaging with my desired call-to-action?