Define your Objective – Before you do anything, sit down and determine what you are trying to accomplish. People create a personal brand for many reasons, but in this case, let’s assume you are trying to create a professional brand that will establish you as a leader in your chosen field. This seems simple, but remember that people are successful if they have both the ability and the passion to succeed. Make sure that the brand you want to promote is both of these. Be as specific as possible (e.g., public relations manager for small to medium sized technology firms). Think about what defines you and separates you from the pack. How do you want people to see you?
Discover your Current Brand – Next you need to understand what brand you have today. Remember that everyone has a brand. If you ask your colleagues to describe you, what would they say? I firmly believe that none of us “own” our own brand. The market owns the brand. The market determines what our brand is. I can say that my brand is that of a “Business Management, Marketing, Leadership and Social Media Expert”. The truth is that you, the reader of this blog will decide what my brand is after you read this (and hopefully other ) articles. All I can do is promote, and hopefully influence, your perception of my brand.
Define your Messaging – Once you know what your current brand is (e.g., mid-level marketing manager) and what you want it to be (e.g., social media expert), then you can begin to define your messaging. What will you do to change the market perception of you from your “current” to your “target” brand? What will you communicate to the marketplace to define your brand? Will you promote your skills in a specific area? Will you give examples of your knowledge? Will you position yourself as a resource to others?
Choose your Tools – There are an overwhelming number of tools at your disposal to begin to brand yourself. My advice is to choose carefully because each tool has a unique value. Talk to others who have used them and determine what value they provide and how much effort is necessary. Remember that some of them can be a huge resource drain. In my opinion, some of the best tools for building a personal business brand are as follows:
- LinkedIn – This is the single best tool at your disposal to define your business brand. Fully build your profile and keep it current.
- Facebook – Determine quickly if you are going to separate your business brand from your personal brand. If you don’t want business associates seeing your college photos in Mexico, then secure your Facebook page or keep it professional.
- Twitter – The power of Twitter is only beginning to be defined. Create a Twitter feed and use it to define your brand and cross-link back to your other online sites.
- Blog – Your blog becomes your online profile. Make sure you cross-link between your blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online sites.
- VisualCV – This is a powerful tool to create an online resume, separate from your LinkedIn profile.
- Email Signature – This is often overlooked. Create an email signature with hyperlinks to your LinkedIn profile, Twitter feed, VisualCV, and blog.
- Resume, Biography, Transition document – These are all useful documents for different audiences. The transition document should be a single page targeted at people you will network with who may be able to help your career.
- Business Cards – Create a separate business card from your full-time job that defines your brand. Include all your social media contacts (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, Blog, etc.)
- Never forget the importance of face-to-face communications. We sell ourselves best in person, not online or on the phone. Make sure that you attend networking events, find opportunities to speak on panels, and simply meet with colleagues 1-on-1 from time to time.
Implement your Plan – Now that you have defined your objective, messaging and tools, it is time to implement. My advice is to set realistic goals for yourself. It is easy to get overwhelmed. Start simple and build from there. Once you begin, listen to the feedback. Is your LinkedIn profile getting traffic? Are your blog postings resonating and getting comments? Learn from the feedback – both positive and negative. Create a two-way dialog with your target audience. Make sure you respond to people who take the time to comment on your blog. Always be sincere and helpful. You will make mistakes, but if you are sincere and helpful to your network, you should be fine. Finally, be consistent. The effort you put into building a brand will fade quickly if you do not continue the effort. By setting realistic goals, you should be able to continue your branding effort regardless of your workload. It simply becomes a part of your normal career.