Managing your personal brand

SimonGeneral0 Comments

A post today on Duct Tape Marketing reminded me of a conversation I had with a colleague a few days ago about personal branding. We were talking about why I had a website and why I took the time to create it and blog regularly on it.

I started my website back in 2001. To be honest at that stage I didn’t really have a clear idea what its purpose was, but it felt like the right thing to do at the early stage in my marketing career. It was primarily brochureware, or more accurately CV-ware.

Since then as my career has developed, I have continued to develop the site further. As the web has sped towards social media I’ve tried to evolve the site to reflect this trend and become an active participant in conversations about my professional interests.

Feedback from two companies who’ve recruited me indicated that they’d checked me out on Google and visited my website before my appointment. That was a pleasing validation of the time and effort of the time I’d put into the website and my personal brand.

It also made me very conscious that anything I post on my site, or indeed as comments on other peoples’ sites needs to reflect my values and the level of professional standards that I aspire to in my career. As Harry notes anything that you write on the web could be seen and interpreted by potential clients or employees, so you need to be ensure the right brand messages are communicated.

The concept of a personal brand is nothing new. Back in 1997 an article by marketing guru Tom Peters for Fast Company talked about the concept of brands for individuals, and what they meant (thanks to Zoe for finding that little gem). The conversation has been continued by various bloggers since, including Robert Scoble and Krista Bradford. Dave Lorenzo has some great tips for promoting your personal brand as well.
When considering any brand there are three main facets to what drives brand perception:

  • how the brand looks
  • how it sounds (written and verbal)
  • how it behaves

In my work with Enterprise IG these were the three basic things that made up brand delivery programmes. It sounds simple, and at that level it is, but the complex set of activities that underpin the three facets of brand isn’t!

So what does a basic personal brand management programme consist of?

For me it involves a fairly simple, yet powerful, bunch of things that you can do to influence your personal brand, its awareness and its values:

How your personal brand looks

I guess the starting point is your appearance. I’m not going to offer any glib rules about what to where, as what’s appropriate for one situation and one personal brand isn’t for another.

But it’s worth thinking about, as so many people don’t. I’ve interviewed people who have worn inappropriate clothing for the job (both too formal and too scruffy), and while I did try to look beyond their appearance it did make me question why they’d chosen to wear what they did.

Also think about your online appearance. How does your website look? Does its appearance reflect the brand values you aspire to for your personal brand. I’ve redesigned my site several times as I’ve become clearer about my brand values and how I want to be perceived.

Online everyone starts off equal. So it’s good to be able to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd. One thing I’ll be doing soon is putting a decent picture of myself onto my website, probably onto the header so it is on every page. It will give my site a bit more personality – at the moment without it I think the site can look a bit flat.

How your personal brand sounds

It’s simple – what you say, both in person and online. Make sure that what you say reflects the brand values you want. While this is fairly well practiced in the offline world, the transparency that the web and search gives means there’s nowhere to hide.

If you post a comment to a blog which is nothing to do with your professional interests and think people who are potential employers and clients won’t find it, you’re wrong. Anything you put on the web will be found by someone, and therefore should be consistent with your personal brand values.

If I’m researching someone online the starting point is search tools, both general web search engines and blog search engines. I also look at citations and mentions on other sites, as well as content produced by the person themselves.

Make sure what you say is consistent wherever you write or say it. If you’re inconsistent then it will show up – have your values and stick to them.

How you behave

It’s obvious really – how you act/behave will affect what people think about you. This works in your professional and personal lives. So when you’re online remember the way you are seen to behave will affect your personal brand. And as I’ve said before you never know who will see how you behave.

In reality this means adhering to the unspoken conventions of the online environment you’re working in. If you flame someone badly without a reasoned justification then a potential client may well see it and wonder if you’d say something similar about them.

That’s not to say you can’t disagree with anyone on the web – just you need to do it in a way that’s consistent with your personal brand values. Indeed if you want your behaviour to hold true to your personal brand values, then you need to be seen to disagree with something that you read and don’t agree with – doing anything less could be seen as inconsistent. Just like people who sit in presentations nodding and agreeing with the presenter, then criticise them and question everything once they’re out the door.

Personal branding is a really interesting area that’s been pushed to the fore by social media and the transparency that it brings. Yet mainstream marketing and PR hasn’t really addressed it to any significant degree. I find this surprising as your personal brand is probably the most important brand a marketer can manage.

Your personal brand can certainly be the most influential brand on your life and career path, so why don’t more people who specialise in marketing (and brands) take a more strategic approach to managing their own brand? I guess it’s the old quote from Robert Burton (Anatomy of Melancholy–Democritus to the Reader, 1887):

Him that makes shoes go barefoot himself.

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