Discover, Develop, Publicize: 3 Keys to Maintaining Your Personal Brand

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

While the term was first brought into the mainstream by Tom Peters in 1997, the idea of the “personal brand” has gained more and more attention since social media came around. The advent of social media has made developing your brand more critical, and broadcasting it to a wide audience more achievable.

A personal brand is the sum total of everything a recruiter, employer, or co-worker feels about you when they think about hiring you, promoting you, or assigning you a project. When the term was first introduced, it mainly applied to your current employer or a close-knit circle of people who knew you  professionally. But now, with social media, you have many more opportunities than ever to better (or worsen) that brand when seeking a job or promotion.

To begin shaping your personal brand, it might help to think about yourself the way an advertising agency would think about their corporate client. A brand as the intangible sum of all your attributes isn’t something you create. It's something you already have. And, like any company, if you haven't thought about it, it's best to start with the basics:

Discovering your brand

A great way to understand your current personal brand is to use Google. If you've never typed your name into Google, you should, as many prospective employers, new business contacts, and work colleagues will do the same. Don't just look at the first page—click through several pages of results. Click the “Image” and “Videos” tab. As you do, think about new contacts or recruiters performing the same exercise.

Diligently research yourself online. Use the same amount of effort you would use for a large purchase, because for a prospective employer, you are a significant investment of both time and money. Keep tabs on any references to you online--pages, pictures, or videos. It's all relevant.

Developing your brand 

Did you find anything when you researched yourself online? If you did, were you happy with what you found? If the answer to either of those questions was “no,” you have some work to do developing your brand. Think about what you want people to know about you--skills, talents, education, professional wins--and develop the story of you. 

It’s useful to think about your personal brand online as a series of data points. Each data point may be small, but the bigger picture it paints culminates in what we’re calling your personal brand. They may be known for animated films, but Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling are an invaluable resource for thinking about what you might want that picture to look like. 

Publicizing your brand 

Once you have your brand story, there are plenty of tools to help you publicize your personal brand. If you haven't yet, sign up for LinkedIn and join some groups. In addition, a professional blog is a good way to establish yourself as a thought leader in your chosen field. Twitter is equally useful for publishing short snippets you’ve found online and showing others how you think. 

In all cases, work towards publicizing positive data points about yourself that will stand out when prospective employers search for you online. At a minimum, you should try posting to LinkedIn a couple of times a week, to a blog several times a month, and to Twitter a dozen or so times a week. Remember: the more positive data points that exist about you on the Internet, the better. It’s your story and brand, so make sure you’re dedicating time to publishing it.

Creating, managing, and maintaining a personal brand can be time consuming, but it will pay off when future employers, coworkers, and others can see tangible evidence of your efforts to handle your image, brand, and thoughts in a professional way.

You've already invested much time and effort making yourself more valuable to employers or clients. The next step is to sharpen your story and publicize your brand. It will make finding and getting that next job in your career path so much easier.

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photo credit: Michael Kappel via photopin cc

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