Audit Your Personal Brand
You might consider personal branding to be a nebulous concept. Fair enough.
To demystify it, “personal branding” is what happens when you pull together messages about your experiences, perspectives, and talents and present them in a way that moves you toward what you want. It can happen online, on a resume, in person, and anywhere else you interact with the world.
Newsflash: Your reputation already exists.
But your personal brand requires intention.
And before you go there, good personal branding is so much more than just lacking negative results when someone searches for your name. On top of being squeaky-clean, your brand needs to compel others by showing that you’re both qualified and interesting enough to talk to.
You’ll want to do that with a balance of these four elements:
1. Your Promise
This can be guarantees like “I’m a knock ’em dead talented SaaS product manager,” or “I’m a marketing expert who shows acupunctural practices how to grow their customer bases fast.” It’s a value statement about what you can do for others.
Even commercial brands have promises; take Geico for example: “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.”
Think of the needs you can satisfy, types of problems you can solve, and for whom—that’s your promise!
2. Your Practice
Practice is all about how you operate. Are you analytical, creative, strategic, tactical? Independent? Team-oriented? Do you prefer the cutting-edge, or are you a little old-fashioned?
How exactly do you get things done, and how does that make you different from your competition?
It can be helpful to think of the type of environments or relationships you’ve worked best in as you try to define this.
3. Your Personality
Personality can be a bit trickier to understand. Beware of getting mired down in clinical definitions (this won’t be a Freudian lecture about the Id, Ego, and Superego).
Start simple when you’re defining your personality. Are you casual or formal when you speak? Are you reserved or outgoing? Sensitive or straightforward? Somewhere in between?
Looking to cues such as the reason people say they enjoy working with you or the words they use to describe you can be an excellent way to characterize this element of your brand.
4. Your Proof
We’re talking about the “stuff” or evidence that reinforces your promise. Because brand promises vary so much, your proof might be drastically different from other professionals you know.
Let’s say you’re in channel sales and your promise includes the fact that you have a Rolodex of top industry contacts—you’d want your web presence to include a vast network of connections and followers.
Interviews, podcasts, articles, testimonials, recommendations, and even blog comments are all terrific forms of proof. Your proof can be a simple as the results you’ve listed on your resume.
Proof is important, because it builds your credibility. It establishes trust before you’ve even shaken someone’s hand.
Define your Ps and review each of your branding platforms according to them. Weigh your Ps against everything from your resume, social profiles, or personal website to your business cards and even the way you answer the phone.
Are these channels clear in demonstrating what you can deliver? Do they reflect the energy you’re known for bringing to your work? Most importantly, what proof do they provide that you can execute and solve the problems that you promise you can?
As you refine your message, remember: keep it real. Nearly 90% of consumers will reward a brand for its authenticity—that’s according to a 2012 study by Cohn & Wolfe, a global communications and PR public agency—and you can bet the same logic applies when we’re sizing up each other’s brands. Maybe even more so because, well, it’s personal.
The smaller the gap between what you represent and who you actually are, the more your brand will resonate with others. You can put anything onto the web, but it’s your ability to live up to that reputation in the real world that drives you career into new places.
Next time, you’ll learn about how to effectively leverage your existing network to uncover new opportunities. Spoiler: Sending group emails is NOT the way to do it!
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