Communications professionals work hard to promote their organizations’ brands. Many neglect their personal brands.
Although challenging to establish, a strong personal brand provides an invaluable career boost. It can be the deciding factor in winning a new job, a new client, a media placement or a professional consulting or speaking opportunity. A personal brand enables journalists to see the person behind the media pitch and enables clients to see the person behind the business presentation.
With so many people, including PR and marketing professionals, constantly posting images and comments on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, personal brands have become highly visible. Some may pose a risk, though. Recruiters and HR professionals consider online reputations a deciding factor in making hiring decisions. According to research from Cross-Tab Marketing Services, 70 percent of hiring executives say they have rejected candidates because of information they found online.
Following these recommendations can boost your personal brand to new heights:
Audit your brand. Communicators can review their personal brand just as they audit a company brand, although the task is likely much simpler. View analytics available on social media networks, and Google Analytics if possible, to decipher who reads your content and what types of posts gain the most views and interactions. Use that information to determine your strengths, weaknesses and competitive advantage.
Informal research with close colleagues and friends can also reveal perceptions of your personal brand and your strongest topics, says Karen Freberg, associate professor of Strategic Communication at the University of Louisville.
Be authentic. Although the term “authentic” has almost become a buzzword, authenticity remains central to a strong personal brand. Being authentic means being yourself, not trying to seem like someone you aren’t in an attempt to gain followers, shares and likes. While some people obsess over such vanity metrics, this superficial—and often fake—popularity may not tell the real story about their leadership or expertise.
Share and network. Share your accomplishments—without appearing boastful—and share news to show you’re staying abreast of industry topics. To stand out, talk about why you care about sharing content and why you believe it’s important to others. “Having the confidence to write, create content and share it with the community will help establish your point of view and place within the community,” Freberg says.
In addition, offer yourself as a resource by answering questions posted by peers on social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn Groups. Ideally, the community will recognize you as a subject matter expert and appreciate your willingness to help.
Remember the power of the positive. Fill your social media feed with upbeat images. If you view images of popular thought leaders and social media influencers, you’ll likely see plenty of smiles, notes Hayley Berry, branding expert and stylist at Her Brand. There’s a reason for that. Smiles and other positive facial expressions attract people. Moody, negative expressions as well as gloomy images in general repel them, Berry writes for PR Couture.
Voicing your beliefs and perspectives can boost your personal brand, but ranting will not. If something angers you, wait to calm down before posting anything online. “Reacting and shooting from the hip may be OK in your personal life, but it’s not going to win you that client or secure you that coverage in your professional life,” Berry adds.
Describe yourself—clearly. Just as organizations develop mission statements for their brands, savvy communicators write a clear, concise objective that explains their career intentions. Although it’s good to keep your options open, experts advise stating your specialty and your target audience.
If you’re targeting everyone, you’re targeting no one. “Much in the same way that you adjust your pitch based on the publication, adjust your personal branding to attract your intended audience,” Berry says.
Be consistent. Consistency enhances corporate brands. The same concept applies to personal brands. A consistent color palette, taglines, logo and hashtags across digital platforms signal your personal brand. “This concept extends beyond just visual appearance to include common themes and elements that track where your interests and talents lie,” writes Vanessa Restifo, a PR major at Westminster College and vice president of her PRSSA Chapter, for the PRSA.
Balance cautious with carefree. Of course, it’s essential to remember that anything you do on social media or post on a blog can damage your reputation. You might want to review previous posts and delete imprudent content. Young people just starting their careers should consider removing pictures with red plastic cups full of beer and any other photographs that show carousing. However, it’s always fine to reveal your personality. “The key is balance between your personal life and professional aspirations,” Restifo says.
Control your platform. While many communicators build a positive brand strictly on social media, some PR experts recommend also creating a platform that you control, such as a blog or website. “Social media accounts are important to have as part of your extension of your personal brand, but having a website or blog that you own helps in creating a hub for your personal brand,” Freberg says.
A version of this post first appeared on the Glean.info blog.