August 8, 2016
The way we present ourselves says something about us to the outside world. In a society where many of us will have 10 jobs during our professional careers, our personal brand follows us throughout our lives, both on the job and off. It affects the way we are perceived by employers, colleagues, friends, and more.
New digital technologies have allowed unprecedented access into each other’s personal lives. Everyone from a prospective client to current employees has likely run a search for you on Google or checked if you have mutual connections through Facebook or LinkedIn. The question is: How do you create a personal brand that is consistent across channels and effective in marketing your best self?
Here are 5 key tips:
1. Ditch the elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a 30-second summation of something, usually a business, product, service, new venture—or you. Having been on the receiving end of many a personal elevator pitch, it usually comes off as robotic and socially ungraceful. Instead of an elevator pitch, tell a story. People hate being doused with fact sheets, but they love stories. Who are you? What are you passionate about? The key is building a narrative around your career journey that draws people in.
2. Looks matter, but not how you think they do
Ask yourself, “When people look at me, what do they see?“ This includes communication style, attire, and grooming. You would be surprised by how many careers have been sidetracked by body odor or bad breath. Like it or not, your looks will be judged by others, including things as small as chipped nail polish. Consider all the things that are an extension of you and assess whether they are “on brand.” Build your personal brand and image in a way that reflects the best business version of you.
3. Be social media wise
The evolving digital landscape has opened up countless meaningful opportunities to develop and capitalize on your personal brand. Social media, once considered important only for personal reasons, now has broad professional applications. Be smart about what you are choosing to post and where; for example, maybe hold back on posting that vacation Speedo pic to Instagram unless you are an up-and-coming model. This means you also have to be vigilant about what people post about you. A well-meaning friend might put up a picture of a raucous Halloween party you attended in a skimpy catsuit. The power and risk of the Internet lies in how many people you can reach without having to interact with them directly.
Building a brand is about creating a relationship, not a one-way communication vehicle. The worst thing you can do is to engage intermittently on social media or your blog, if your intention is to have an active digital brand. Establish your digital presence with a strong plan and be committed to maintaining what you start. Make sure your messaging is consistent across all channels, and that the story you tell in your real life matches what you live online. Whether in person or online, it isn’t enough to consider the message and image you are putting out to the world; you must engage in two-way dialogue to build a relationship in person or to create an online following.
5. Putting It All Together
A well-considered personal brand is pivotal to growing your career. Authenticity and consistency are the keystones on which your brand will be built. Figure out what makes people want to follow you or listen to you, and use that as a guiding point for your personal brand. Inspire others by the story you are telling.
Adapted with permission from The Mentor Myth: How to Take Control of Your Own Success by Debby Carreau (Bibliomotion 2016).