Personal branding isn’t taught in schools.
Which is a good thing for me, because I would’ve failed.
Most people like talking about themselves. When it comes to job applications though… many of us fall miserably short – myself included. Most of us aren’t great at highlighting our strengths and literally selling ourselves on paper. Again, this is something I fall victim to. That’s despite being quite good at writing sales copy.
The good news is there’s plenty of information about it on the Internet. The even better news is that creating a personal brand for yourself isn’t difficult! The majority of us just want to find a job. Even a bit of quick, slightly-better-than-average personal branding can make you stand out from the pile of CVs sitting on your potential employer’s desk.
All marketers (digital or not) are familiar with branding. A brand is the mark of a product or service. It’s instantly recognizable. It has its own style and flow. Logos are the ultimate example: many of the most successful logos are simple and can be recognized even during sunset, against the skyline. Just take a look at McDonald’s…
Even if lights malfunctioned, the outline of Ronald’s Golden Arches would still be recognizable. There are very few people in the world nowadays who don’t know what McDonald’s is or where to find one. Pretty much anyone who has ever been anywhere know exactly what that giant M is pointing to.
So that’s just branding. Now it’s time to get personal…
What is Personal Branding?
With this type of branding, the product you’re advertising and selling is yourself. Or, more specifically, your experience and skill set. That’s what often gets a lot of people: it scares the shit out of most of us. It means we have to examine ourselves, recognize our weaknesses and really dig deep to find strengths that employers want to use.
The truth is, it’s not really that scary. You simply package what you’re good at then give it a bit of a “brush up”. Put it in front of the right buyers, and they’ll salivate all over it.
In my first blog post, I talked about shameless self-promotion and mentioned that I disliked it intensely. Many people are awful at marketing themselves (myself included), primarily because they feel it to be embarrassing/icky. What’s helped me in this situation is to create an emotional disconnect and view my brand as a product, a project.
Personal Branding Tips – Building the Foundation
I could give you stock personal branding tips like “Start with what you like most”, “Be honest but no too honest” or “Don’t brag but don’t hide your skills”. These have a lot of truth in them – but they tell us nothing about how to actually build your brand. Zilch.
You already know what you’re good at – if your job history is anything to go by. Since most personal brand builders are aiming to snag employers/clients, it shouldn’t be too difficult to list your skills. The trick is finding a starting point for “publishing” this list, making it look attractive and -ultimately- ensuring that the right people see it.
Your CV already does that. But it’s crap. Because all CVs are boring.
In most industries these days (outside of online-based ones), it’s still a very good idea to have a website. Failing that, a blog is better. Most tips regarding personal branding sometimes overemphasize the beauty of a blog/website. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. It has to be a showcase, something that clearly displays everything you can do – as well as your greatest achievements.
If you’re floundering and looking for a myriad of personal branding tips to get you going, stop. Gather your best work: bakers, get your cakes ready. Copywriters, compile your portfolio. Candle-makers… Get pictures of your lovely candles.
- Create a portfolio site. With the countless free website builders around, this is pretty easy. WordPress it up, Joomla the crap out of it (or try Wix… very slow, but useful if you’re scared of HTML).
- Do try to make it look nice. Like I said, it doesn’t have to be masterpiece. However, it shouldn’t be an eyesore (and no flashing/spinning/undulating images… this isn’t Geocities in the 90s).
- Blog about it! You don’t have to, but it helps. You also don’t have to blog often… Once a month should do.
- Promote it: Put the link to your portfolio in your CV. Link it to whatever social media accounts you have (personal branding definitely calls for the likes of a LinkedIn account!).
So, when getting your personal brand off the ground… That’s pretty much it. Personal branding tips will also dictate that you actively promote it. How much you do this, however, depends on you. Freelancers who are always on the lookout for new clients should dedicate a little time to getting their voice out there.
Personal Branding Tips – A Few Ideas
Once you have a solid basis, you can take a look at a few tips to bring your personal branding further. Sharing your knowledge is a great way to get interested parties reading your blog. Twitter it, Instagram it, Facebook it. If you’re a writer, use your own unique voice (and establish the “voice” of your own brand first). SEOs can optimize their sites and track the analytics.
When it comes to discussing professional topics, I’d actually recommend LinkedIn and Twitter. Sure, Twitter’s not as “serious”, however I’ve found it to be a valuable source of knowledge and insight… All while letting you have a little fun. While LinkedIn is more “stiff” – it is actually a brilliant place to craft your professional persona.