What is a brand? More often even marketing professionals find it difficult to provide an appropriate answer to this simple question. While some see a brand as a sign, name, or symbol used to identify items or services of the seller to set them apart from the rest, others define a brand as a pledge to deliver quality and satisfaction. A brand has equally been defined as a set of assets related to a symbol or name that adds value to the end-user. Confused? Indeed, the word “brand” means different things to different people.
We can best define a brand as “a collection of perceptions” that is intended to influence an end-user or a customer. As such, whether you are the owner of a small business, an executive at a Fortune 500 company, a recent college graduate or an electrician, developing a strong personal brand may be the difference between failure and success, between getting that job or not.
With the advent of social media, no matter where you are in your career journey, you not only have the ability but the necessity to manage your brand in real life and most importantly online. Remember, a brand is a psychological and emotional relationship that one has with employers, employees, customers, etc. Strong brands stimulate emotions, opinions, and physiological responses.
The major goal of creating a strong personal brand is to create positive perception linked with your name. Perceptions such as smart, inventive, honest, forward-looking, team player, eager, expert, etc. are all essential traits that employers seek in their employees. In building a personal brand, one has to think of his/her strengths and weaknesses, look at the qualities in which you not only succeed at but need to elaborate on to improve your brand.
In creating a personal brand, logos are as important as they are a depiction of the brand. They are the “shortcut” to the brand identity. Clearly, logos induce emotion, when we spot the Starbucks circle, what come to our is the freshly brewed coffee and looking at AFLAC reminds us of that crazy duck, and so on. Personal brand logos should be clear, simple and understated. Most people go for either a small geometric figure, their name in a particular font or just their initials as their personal brand logo. A logo makes your card, CV and emails stand out from the rest. Remember, your personal brand could be your name, and perhaps a tagline such as marketing expert, financial executive and so on.
Certain brands are not tangible but are the feelings, thoughts and psychological relationships between two or more parties, your brand is the basis of all your marketing undertakings, determining the strength and position of your entire marketing agenda. Just as a house foundation needs to be robust enough to hold up a building, your marketing base must be solid. In other words, your brand must be about you and must be the truth.
Personal branding produces both external and internal benefits. Externally, you develop an identity that resonates with potential employers and customers. Your brand needs to evolve emotional links with your prospects. This is vital because often people don’t hire individuals or buy products based on logic, they often act based on their perceptions and emotions.
Your personal brand should serve as an internal compass, navigating you in the right direction in all your endeavors. Everything you do could make or mar your personal brand. A clear personal brand will set a clear appreciation of what you are about.
Your personal brand is the totality of many factors such as your body language, the way you handle yourself in personal and business activities, the clothing that you wear, your personal style i.e. grooming, hairstyle, etc.
There are key steps on how to successfully create or develop your personal brand.
Step one- Research and reflection.
You must define your goals, core values, and mission from the onset. You need to assess your audience and competition and form your uniqueness, i.e. what makes you different from the pack. A solid brand will give you an advantage over the competition.
Your personal brand is established by all your actions, your style and the people you associate with. Bear in mind that your personal brand is more of the way you market and project yourself to the world.
In summary, the first step of building a personal brand is simply establishing who you are and what message do you want to pass across.
Step two- Establish your logo and tagline.
Once you define your personal brand, including your unique selling plan, then define your logo and tagline. Regardless of the kind of logo you settle for, once it is developed, it must be consistently used everywhere and anywhere. Use it in all your social media profiles, on your letterhead, business cards (yes, order good quality personal business cards), press releases, email signatures, etc. The goal is to get people recognize and identify with your logo, hence your brand and ultimately your name.
Please don’t get hung up looking for a perfect logo, a monogram or your name in a simple text may just be perfect. Indeed, the simpler, the better. Consistency is what matters. For instance, if you determine your name will be in a certain color and font, make sure this is the same in all your communications i.e. your digital signature, letterhead for your resume and cover letter and so on.
As stated earlier, a logo is a summary of your brand. Just think of logos, such as a swoosh, an apple, and good ole Col. Sanders, and think how quickly Apple, Nike, and KFC come to mind.
Your tagline should be a group of words that you believe describe you, professionally. Your tagline should be a summary or a short title. In my career, I use several taglines: global banking expert, global financial executive, an accomplished author, or a cost-saving specialist depending on the target audience. Warning: It is important to use this methodology with extreme caution, as you do not want to put your audience in confusion, which may weaken the power of your brand. Your personal brand statement is merely a more elaborate tagline, a sentence or two describing you and how you want the public to perceive you.
Step three -Develop your online repute.
Build a personal website linked to your first and last name. Use your branding and logo here. It is a must to have a personal internet site. This is much cheaper and easier than people think. As sure as the sun, your potential employers and customers will search your name to gather information on you, your career history, your personality, education and personal life, etc. After all, we all “Google” the people that we speak to or meet over the course of the day, especially those whom we want to know better or impress.
Build a robust brand name with online feeds that will uphold your personal mission, highlight your career accomplishments and demonstrate your goals for the future. Just as it is significant to build a real brand, is equally, if not more vital to protect yourself against any negatives factors affecting your brand.
Maintain a neat name. Start by reviewing the several social media sites in which you partake. Remember, you are no more that 16-year-old trying to impress your friends, enemies, and the “love of your life.” Make sure that these sites are devoid of anything that could negatively impact on your reputation. Look at pictures, tweets, postings, and any other activity that would be seen in the negative light. Remember, potential employers or customers may not look favorably at that picture of you and your pals guzzling beer out of a funnel at that frat party, wearing togas. My motto is hit delete when in doubt. But remember, once anything enters cyberspace, it really never leaves it. So going forward, do not post anything that you do not want to see on the pages of the Wall Street Journal.
After that task, search your name in different search engines and look to handle any negative items that you can identify. While I’m not advising you should present yourself as PollyAnn on social media, because people won’t rely on that either, it is, however, important that you highlight the positives and curtail the negatives.
Step four -Write a blog.
Find something that fascinates you and write about it. It must not be a work of art, another War, and Peace, but it should be a concise and short posting that informs the reader about something that you know, which they may not know. This is your chance to project some personality so that prospective employers can see the other side of the multidimensional you. A word of warning, always plays safe. Avoid controversial topics in your blog to limit the chance of irritating potential employers. Unless it is essential to your career, do not touch on hot topics such as religion, politics.
Writing a blog does numerous things, it is a source of info for your connections, it establishes you as an erudite well-rounded person, and it places you in the vanguard of people’s minds. Do not underrate the power of a one-page short article.
Apart from the external benefits, writing a blog keeps you involved in current events, improves your writing skills, and offers a level of discipline, assuming that you dedicated to writing your blog some days per week (which is highly recommended). Now that you have a blog post share it anywhere you can. Post it on your social media activity pages i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, your website, and post it to as many blogs as possible.
The fifth and last step discussed in this series is a contribution.
Now that you have created a brand, a vent for your brand i.e. your website and the blog, you need to get a lot of people to see you and your work. There are several means of achieving this, one of the commonest ways is commenting on other people’s blog posts, most likely they will reciprocate. Moreover, it is yet another means to get your name out in social media. It is essential however to keep your comments to the point, short and non-confrontational especially if you have a distinct perspective. While you may add supplementary facts to support your viewpoint, it is likely better not to comment on that specific post. There are always other opportunities.
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Now that you have defined your brand, developed your logo and personal statement with an active website you have concluded the first steps in building a brand. Going forward, think of everything you do as affecting your brand in either positive or negative ways.