As seen in Fairfield County Business Journal
by Stacey Cohen
Personal branding isn’t just for celebrities like Lady Gaga or business moguls like Donald Trump – it’s key to any professional’s success. From the college-bound student to mid-level manager to CEO, crafting and communicating a winning personal brand is paramount. And with the surge of online search and social media platforms, it’s more important than ever to leverage an eye-catching brand.
Tom Peters puts it simply in his Fast Company article “The Brand Called You”: “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
But don’t fret: personal branding principles are strikingly similar to consumer product branding. In each case, the unique value proposition is identified and communicated consistently across a broad range of platforms.
For an example, look to the similarities between Apple – a corporation – and Martha Stewart, an individual. Both entities have cultivated strong brands to meet similar goals: establishing reputation, building credibility, enhancing recognition and ensuring longevity.
When honing and crystallizing your brand, here are a handful of recommendations:
- Ask important questions. What makes you unique? What are you passionate about? What differentiates you from your competitors? What makes you a good investment? What are your core competencies? What do you want to be remembered for?
- Pinpoint words that best describe the value you offer – like “technical” – or describe your personality, such as “enthusiastic.” It is also important to gauge how others perceive you, so make sure to ask friends and colleagues about your strengths.
- Consider short-term and long-term goals, and make them S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely). Develop an immediate action plan and a six to 12 month timeline.
- Define your target audiences. To whom should you communicate your brand? How do they like to be reached? What’s in it for them?
- Remember: always be authentic. Personal branding is not about creating a persona you are not.
Once you’ve crafted a compelling brand, it’s time to share it with your network. Whether reaching existing customers, potential clients or colleagues, properly communicating your strengths requires an understanding of what platforms work best.
LinkedIn: This professional networking site is the hub of your online identity, so build a stellar profile and make every word count. Recent feature enhancements allow users to bolster their pages with images and videos, and post content as well. Remember that many employers search LinkedIn profiles before meetings and use them to form impressions. Additionally, your LinkedIn profile typically appears first in a Google search.
Video: User-generated video that relies on simple, online applications is on the rise, and for good reason. Professionals now have the ability to tell their stories visually and directly.
Blogs: A blog is a great way to consistently demonstrate your personal brand. It also helps you position yourself as you want to be seen, on your terms. In penning relevant, thoughtful content, you can easily reach an audience beyond your direct work colleagues and showcase your expertise and communication skills. Leverage a blog to position yourself as a thought leader at your company and beyond.
So you’ve developed your brand and implemented it – you’re done, right? Not so. A personal brand requires routine maintenance and monitoring to ensure your message is being heard loud and clear. To build on success, consider these tips:
Check major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo): What are search engines saying about you? The first place to start with your personal brand – especially online – is to find out what is being said about you, and what information comes up first when you’re searched.
For easy online monitoring, set up free alerts through Google and/or Talkwalker. When you create the alerts, make sure to enter your name both with and without quotation marks. Additionally, remember that many of your social networks will show up in online searches. Whether you use a particular platform for business or pleasure, what’s set to ‘public’ can be viewed by colleagues, clients, competitors and prospective employers.
Feedback loop: Develop a trusted network of colleagues, friends, and family to regularly provide support perfecting your personal brand.
Stacey Cohen is President and CEO of Co-Communications Inc. in Mount Kisco with satellite offices in Connecticut and New York City. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (914) 666-0066.