Updated: Sep 12, 2020
A radical shift in the world of work is coming. In the near future, your ability to obtain and retain a role at a top company or attract investors to your entrepreneurial enterprise(s) will require a different approach.
And that approach is this: the ability to take charge of your personal brand.
Before you brush off my advice, creating a personal brand is not about vainly promoting yourself by building (fake or real) 20,000 Twitter or Instagram followers.
What I’m talking about is taking charge of your destiny. Being intentional in the way you design your public persona.
Definition of Personal Brand
Here is a Wiki definition of what constitutes personal branding:
Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands…the personal-branding concept suggests that success comes from self-packaging.
Personal branding is essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organization.
Marketers McNally and Speak define the personal brand in this way: "Your brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you."
The interesting thing about the McNally and Speak quote is they talk about personal branding as the perception of how others feel about you. This only reinforces my view that you need to take charge of how you package yourself. You can’t completely control how others see you, but you can certainly shape that perception.
If you’re still uncomfortable with personal branding as a thing, it’s no different to managing your reputation, which is what we used to call it in the past. No professional is naïve enough to believe that how others view their competency and likeability is based on fact, it isn’t. It’s based on perception.
Which is why you’re better off if you have a say in how people view you.
Your Job Is To Tell Your Story
If you don’t tell the story of your life and work experience, someone else will.
Most likely you’re not giving much thought to how you need to shape your personal story. Here are three reasons why you should be thinking about it right now and not tomorrow, next month or next year:
You’re seeking employment or you want to progress up the corporate ladder
You want to be seen as a thought leader in a particular field or area of specialisation.
You’re a full time or part time entrepreneur and need to attract clients and investors
Social Is Taking Over Traditional Approaches To Business Interactions
What makes reputation or personal brand management more important today, is that we are initially assessed and judged as worthy or not, according to our online and social footprint.
We all know that future employers, recruiters, business partners, prospects, customers and competitors, are checking us out on LinkedIn and Facebook. Many are also following us on social platforms like Instagram, YouTube and SnapChat.
If you’re aware of this, why are you approaching social channels in a casual, cavalier or unorganised way? You could be giving people the wrong impression or incomplete picture.
If you’re on social media, you need to think about managing that perception, so it tells a truer story of your life.
You might be someone that has a small social media footprint because of privacy and security views or you prefer real-world interactions with family and friends. You might have a limited LinkedIn presence showing your resume but not much else.
The problem is you could miss out on work opportunities, and if you’re an entrepreneur it will impact your ability to attract customers, partners and investors.
I’m a private person and I don’t have a Facebook account; however, I have a strong presence on LinkedIn, which I’m further building as part of a strategy to create a personal brand that I manage.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m in control of how others see me but I’m certainly creating my story in an intentional and deliberate way.
My view is, whether you choose to have a small or large presence on social platforms like LinkedIn, you still need to develop a personal brand strategy.
If You’re Building New Expertise, You Need To Let The Marketplace Know
While not urgent, you also need to start thinking about what is going to happen to your role or profession in 5 or 10 years time?
In B2B IT more than any other industry, we’re aware how rapid technology advancements are changing the nature of work. While still early days, organisations are now expecting you to possess a variety of soft skills (empathy) and hard skills (data visualisation) to be considered for specialised tech roles. Even sales and marketing jobs are starting to require a combination of technical and people skills not previously needed: from marketers as data analytics experts to salespeople as content developers.
How do you showcase that you’re investing in yourself by developing new skills now? And how do you prove your expertise with these unusual combinations of skills?
LinkedIn is a great place to start, and the next issue of this blog will cover how to get the most out of this platform to build a personal brand that profiles you in the best light and positions you for success.
Fakers And Pretenders Need Not Apply
While you want to highlight your multi-faceted talents, expertise and interests, your personal brand should be built on a foundation of integrity, honesty and transparency.
It’s also important to be yourself. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
How To Build A Personal Brand
You need to go beyond honing your physical and online resume or just updating your details on LinkedIn.
Here are other things you can do to build your personal brand:
Put your hand up for extra projects at work: Do you want to build a brand as a thought leader or go-getter at work? Then be prepared to do extra and participate in projects not part of your job description. Even better, pitch ideas to your boss – as long as you can prove value to your organisation, your ideas will be appreciated and your career and salary will grow.
Network: It’s important to get to know people in your company and industry. Network online and offline. When social events occur at your workplace, turn up and talk to people and turn up to industry events.
Write a business blog: If you enjoy writing, start a business blog. Regularly post long-form articles on LinkedIn or create engaging daily posts in your area of expertise. This takes some serious commitment and is not for everyone.
Start a podcast: Again this requires consistent effort and an editorial plan.
Create videos and post on LinkedIn and YouTube: Video is a popular way to connect with people and you can create and edit short videos cheaply these days. It’s a particularly great avenue to highlight your expertise via helpful topics to a large B2B audience, many who prefer video.
Social listening on LinkedIn and Twitter: Practice social listening and having conversations on LinkedIn or other online forums with experts and peers in your industry. This is not about selling yourself or products. It’s about having a two-way conversation and exchanging value. If you’re going to play on social channels, it’s important to go where your audience lives and you need to turn up consistently to build trust and likeability over time.
Speak at industry events: Put your hand up to speak at work and industry events.
Building a personal brand takes effort. It’s something you need to work on incrementally over time. So start today.
To help you, future articles will focus on on how to write your brand story and articulate your differentiators and personal values to the marketplace.
As part of building your professional brand, you need to also work on improving your communication skills especially if your expertise is showcased through the written word. Don’t let bad grammar and sloppy punctuation dilute your professional brand. Read this article for help with business writing.
To your career success!