A carefully cultivated personal brand is what separates you from everyone else in your field. It’s what makes your name synonymous with your industry. Think about it – when you hear anyone mention homemaking, your brain automatically brings up Martha Stewart. Cooking? Probably Rachel Ray or Bobby Flay. You think of them automatically because they’ve built their personal brands around these industries. They wanted to be the first names people thought of in their respective industries, and they purposely created brands to make that happen.
Personal branding doesn’t happen by accident. Even if you’re not conscious of it, every interaction you have, whether online or off, adds to your personal brand, either positively or negatively. With that in mind, there are ways to purposefully build your personal brand to be exactly what you want.
Ready to get started? Here are our tips on cultivating a successful personal brand.
Dig Deep: What Do You Stand For?
Before you can begin the process of developing your brand, you need to decide what it will be. Who are you and who do you want to be seen as? Sit down and free-write as many of your current traits as you can. What are your values? What your passions? What are the traits that come to you naturally? If you get stuck, ask family and friends for advice or suggestions. Be brutally honest with yourself-this isn’t a wish list for how you wish you were, it’s a look at who you are as a person and the image want to project. You may wish you were more organized, but if you know you aren’t, don’t include it on your list of traits. The number one rule of building your brand is authenticity. Nothing will tank your reputation faster than being fake.
Identify your Target Audience
Since you’re already sitting down and working on your list of values and traits, stay there and come up with your ideal audience. Who are they? Are you trying to reach men or women? Teenagers or middle-aged people? Executive coaches or fitness instructors? The answers to these questions will inform how you communicate with your audience, the stories you choose to share, even the language you use. All of those things will help inform your personal brand.
Claim Your Name
If you don’t already have profiles on the social media platforms you want to focus on, claim them immediately. Claim the same user name across the various platforms. Your audience wants to follow you, but if you use your first and last name on Facebook, your business name on Instagram, and a first initial and last name on Twitter, they won’t be able to find you.
Focus on Your Personal Image
First impressions are key. Have professional headshots taken and wear clothing and use a setting that feeds into the image you’re trying to build. If you want to attract corporate execs, wear business attire and have your pictures taken in an office. If you’re trying to connect with chefs, take the pictures in a kitchen. Present yourself as you want people to see you.
Stand out at Work
Focusing on your personal brand can be particularly challenging when you work for a large company. You need to find a way to stand out while not undermining your own corporation. It’s a tightrope you need to be aware of but can absolutely walk.
Be open with your bosses and co-workers about your interest in building your profile. Let them know that you’re open to speaking opportunities and teaching or training opportunities. Speaking at industry conferences is a perfect way to highlight your company while also raising your own profile. Tell your boss that you’re willing to be a company spokesperson for the topics and departments you’re working for, and frame it as taking some of those responsibilities off of their plate. Develop relationships with writers, bloggers, and anyone in the media who focuses on your industry and begin to position yourself as a source for them.
Put yourself out there! Focus on people in your local community and online. Go to networking events, join your local chamber of commerce.
Be sure to mix it up-some should be more social and casual, like after-work cocktails where you can mingle and chat with like-minded people. Other events should be more formal, like workshops or lectures.
Always be conscious of how you’re presenting yourself. Dress professionally, be prepared with a list of talking points, and have your elevator pitch ready to go. Take advantage of the opportunities these in-person events will give you to quickly establish a reputation with your local community.
Build connections online as well. Pay attention to what platforms the thought leaders in your industry use and focus your attention there. If all of the conversations in your field are happening on LinkedIn, it won’t do you any good to be posting your best stuff on Twitter. Once you’ve created your social media accounts and you’re following your industry leaders, start connecting with them. Share industry news, articles and blog posts, and especially, re-share anything those leaders share.
Set aside time, even just fifteen minutes a day, to get on your social media accounts and do some real time connecting. Share content, like posts, leave comments, and have actual conversations. This will bring you to the attention of those same thought leaders and establish you as someone they need to pay attention to. Once they notice you, they’ll be more likely to share your posts with their followers if you genuinely interact with them.
Building your personal brand takes time and concerted effort, but it’s essential to building your business and establishing yourself in your industry. What else have you done to build a brand? Do you have any further tips?