Is there someone in your industry who seems to be everywhere? Speaking at events, showing up in your LinkedIn and Twitter feeds, or even featured in the media? Chances are, that person is strategically building their personal brand.
Branding is most commonly associated with business, but it can also be used to build a career as well. Whether you are self-employed or working towards a dream job, a personal brand can fast track your success.
Take Richard Branson as an example. One of the world’s most successful (and charming) businessmen, he has built companies on the strength of his name and reputation. He, along with other successful entrepreneurs like Lorna Jane and Seth Godin, understands how a name can humanise a brand.
Your professional persona can play into your business story too, or even your value as an employee. Once your efforts start to gain traction, there are a number of opportunities that are likely to come your way, including:
- Job offers
- Greater trust from customers and colleagues
- A wider professional network
- New business opportunities
- Enhanced industry recognition
- Speaking opportunities
- Media exposure
Now, thanks to social media and platforms such as Squarespace, building a personal brand has never been easier. Here is a simple four-step formula, followed by some real-world advice based on our own experience of building brands.
Step one: Define your point of difference
Even without conscious effort, most of us already have a personal brand. Your reputation, online presence and manner with your peers all play into the way people perceive you. When starting to actively build your personal brand, examine this foundation and decide how you want to build on it.
To do this, you will need to understand your point of difference. Your strengths or personality are a natural starting point, but if you want to be strategic about future opportunities, think about aligning yourself with an emerging area in your industry. Being ahead of the curve means you will be the first person people think of when an innovation or trend takes hold.
Whatever your point of difference is, you should choose it with your career objectives in mind.
Step two: Set your objectives
An effective personal brand will position you as an expert on certain topics, so it makes sense to choose your area of thought leadership with your goals in mind. For example, if you want to become known as a disruptor in order to be head hunted for a new role, you could position yourself as an expert in industry-specific innovation. With a clear goal in mind, you can start planning how to get there.
Objectives to consider include:
- Become a thought leader in <insert your area of expertise>
- Create and maintain a social media presence
- Publish regular content
- Actively contribute to LinkedIn Groups
- Establish an online community
- Regularly attend networking events
- Create an online portfolio of work
- Make time for professional development
It is wise to start with small, measurable objectives that can be increased as your brand presence starts to grow.
Step three: Create an online presence
Once you have a brand strategy, it’s time to work on your online presence. And with more than 400 million members, LinkedIn is a great place to start. Update your profile and then begin using the platform regularly. Connect with other professionals, share interesting articles, publish content to Pulse or SlideShare, contribute to group discussions and ask colleagues to provide recommendations for you. All of these tactics are powerful ways to establish your credibility and position yourself as a thought leader amongst your peers.
If you are in an industry such as architecture, software development, design or journalism, it’s likely that you have a portfolio of work to share. As well as uploading projects to LinkedIn, you can also create your own online portfolio using platforms such as Squarespace or Behance. This will build your professional image and make you more discoverable in search engines.
Finally, to position yourself as a thought leader, consider creating your own content. This could be a podcast, blog or a series of videos. The type of content you create will depend not only upon your point of difference, but also upon the audience you are trying to reach. You will get the most traction from your content by maintaining a regular publishing schedule and distributing it across all your online platforms and social media channels.
Step four: Establish a real-world presence
Complement the work you are doing online by attending events, pitching to speak at conferences and requesting meetings with other professionals who you want to associate with. Always carry business cards with you and, following an event or meeting, send a follow-up email to the people you spoke with.
The reality of building a brand
Building a brand is like any new idea – it is exciting at first and then it eventually becomes work. Once the initial excitement wears off, commit to sticking to your strategy. This is the point where many people and businesses start to wane, and it’s where you can really set yourself apart. Momentum will build with time, leading to new opportunities.