There are many reasons to invest time in your personal brand: to obtain/change a work role in a similar or different field, start or grow a business, or simply because you want to put some conscious effort into how you are “putting yourself out there” as a person and a professional.
In Part 1 of this discussion on personal branding, I focused on helping you answer foundational questions about your core self – how you see yourself, what’s important to you, and how you want to be seen. In Part 2, I provide a few recommendations that may help to consider as you define your approach and methods for expressing your personal brand.
Ultimately, you want to communicate who you are in such a way that it is authentic and creates a foundation of trust. You want to be true to you, while you are establishing credibility, reliability, and intimacy (pieces of “The Trust Equation”). What you create on- and off-line are a representation of who you are (and say you are) and impact how you are perceived. Therefore, you will want to be thoughtful (and often strategic) in what you say, do, and what your “artifacts” say and do for you.
“Artifacts” are the various external pieces you create that serve as your expression and how people come to know you. Examples range from work products, to “marketing pieces” (website, resume, social networking profiles, collateral materials), to your social media and thought leadership (blogs, Tweets, and posts), to your contributions on discussion boards. This even extends to conversations people have about you in the press, testimonials, or through “word of mouth.”
While the way you physically present yourself through your appearance, actions and interactions all impact others’ perceptions, your artifacts are an additional (and important) method for helping others to understand who/what you are about. In this “online world,” artifacts show up when people do a web search on you – so you want to be smart about what’s associated with your name and business.
When “putting yourself out there,” consider these best practices:
Be strategic. It is important to be clear and intentional about why you are doing what you’re doing. What are you known for – or want to be known for on a deeper level? What are you attempting to create or achieve? These questions (and the foundational work you did in Part 1) will help you zero in on your specific intentions and will continually act as your guide in determining which methods and story will serve you best.
Be consistent. Take the time to consider your communication plan: messaging, method, and frequency. Identify your point of view, foundational beliefs/tenets, and key messages so you are clear and focused in what you put out there. Don’t try to be everything to everyone – keep your focus tight. You may center around a niche, area of expertise, or content you believe will help establish you as an expert or “go to person” on specific topics. Consider the best methods and avenues for delivering those messages, and create a schedule for when/how often you will get in front of people (regular intervals like monthly near the 1st, every Monday, 3 times a week, etc.).
Be impeccable. Do your research, and ensure quality and accuracy in your output (including spelling!). If you intend to craft multiple artifacts, don’t overextend or dilute by trying to do too much too soon – especially if you don’t have adequate time and energy to give it the attention. Choose consciously, intentionally, and wisely. It’s better to do a couple of things really well than to be mediocre at a variety of things.
Be yourself. Be sure to show your personality, passion, unique point of view. Yes, you need to be strategic and tactical...and it is equally important to be you. Help people get a sense of who you are and what you care about. You are more likely to create connection and trust if what you put out there resonates and feels authentic.
Be courageous (fear + action). Don’t be afraid to try things out so that you can tweak, iterate, and evolve to better hone your approach and thought capital. This post is not meant to scare you into not pulling the trigger or taking a risk. Rather it is meant to encourage you to invest time and thought before diving in.
So, go ahead and start that blog, but carefully plan your messaging and frequency of posting. Create your website, resume, and social/professional networking profiles, but consider the story you want to convey and what you are hoping to achieve. When you Tweet, post, or comment on discussion boards, remember that people will be reading them and forming opinions about who you are… so you’ll want to be conscientious about what your “shares” are doing for (or against) you.
Your personal brand is a huge component of your relationship with others – in other words, it is your means for interacting, creating impressions, and having intended and unintended impacts on those around you. We have always heard from parents and the like that it’s what’s on the inside that really matters. This is absolutely true. However, it is equally important to consider the perceptions others have of you.
Your brand is already out in the world, and it is up to you to consider whether it is meshing up with your inner reality such that it serves as the most authentic representation of you as possible. Therefore, it’s crucial to be conscious of BOTH who you are and how you’re being seen – for success in both the personal and professional spheres.