6 steps to polishing your personal brand

Cubist Cowboy by H. Michael Karshis

This post was inspired by an article in the March 2011 edition of the Harvard Business Review by Dorie Clark.

Whether we like it or not, we all have a personal brand. We are not defined by who we think we are, but by how others perceive us. And with the increasing power of search engines and social media sites, it’s also becoming more and more important to consider how Google, Facebook and LinkedIn see us, too.

So what can we do to ensure we’re maintaining our personal brand and showing the world the person we want to be seen as?

1. Plot your course

By defining where you want to go and the direction you’ll need to take will allow you to determine where best to invest your energy. When I decided to specialise in digital marketing, I researched the area by immersing myself in social networks (particularly Twitter), connecting with others through blogs and attending conferences and workshops.

Ask yourself: “What do I need to know?”. Part-time or freelance work in particular disciplines will help build your skill set and may also provide you with the opportunity to shadow experts or even take on a mentor. Further education may be another option to build expertise and gain extra confidence.

2. Define your USP

What’s your unique selling point? Use your points of difference to your advantage to stand out from the crowd. If you’re looking to ‘re-brand’ by moving into a new discipline, work out how you can bring something different and add value to your new role.

Sir Clive Woodward applied business philosophy picked up from an earlier career at Xerox to rugby coaching. Clive Woodward’s professional and business-focused approach to sports management ensured the England team won both a Grand Slam and the World Cup in 2003 and became the most successful England rugby coach ever in the process.

3. Tell your story

Develop a narrative that explains how your past, your interests and your skills fit into your present. You may want to move from a professional career into the arts. But in order to avoid being thought of as a ‘dabbler’, you need to to effectively explain how your past skills and competences translates into your newly chosen field.

Wherever you can, turn your strengths into weaknesses. An English graduate who’s been waiting tables but looking to move into retail might be told they don’t have the necessary experience. But by telling the right story they can say they’ve gained valuable front-line customer service skills, a sense of initiative and the the ability to work under pressure.

But wherever you plan to go, your narrative must be consistent with your past . Don’t ever abandon your roots and core values.

4. Assert yourself

Making contacts with people you know is easy. But to others who are not already acquainted with you it will be a lot tougher – especially if you’re reinventing yourself in a new field of work

As you begin to build your personal brand, ensure all contact points are up-to-date and strategically educate friends and contacts through online channels such as email, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. These are the people who will act as recommenders or leads for you and your work.

When you begin reaching out to others, do so personally. Call them on the phone or email directly. Use LinkedIn to network and to connect with other specialists in your field. It’s OK to ask people you don’t know to join your network as long as you do so tactfully and make your intentions clear.

5. Showcase your skills

Whilst your building your network, start showcasing your skills. Use blogs, podcasts, videocasts and social networks to demonstrate and establish your expertise whilst adding value to the networks your participating in.

Secure your own internet domain and start a website to illustrate your unique intellectual property. Share content in a blog as a taster to what you can really deliver once somebody commits to a project/ contract with you.

Having your own online presence will increase your chances of getting published in industry-leading publications and websites as well as speaking opportunities at industry conferences and trade associations. All of this will help you to increase your visibility, connections and credibility.

6. Be committed

Be consistent and committed as you move forward. The key to success is long-term effort and determination. So stay focused, remain professional and make the effort to learn the specific dialects, nuances and trade secrets in your field of expertise.

 

All in all, be strategic about identifying how you wish to be perceived. Develop a narrative, build your network and showcase your expertise.

Think of the process as ‘search engine optimisation’ for your life! The more connections, value and content you add, the more likely you’ll be known, recognised and sought out.