Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Define Your Image with Your Personal Brand

Learn how to stand out and eliminate your competition.

So, you’ve heard of branding and you know that defining a brand is essential for a company’s survival and for it to consistently produce new and successful products. Many notable brands have become household names such as Band-Aid, Xerox and Kleenex. However, what about personal branding? What is a personal brand, how do you create it and why is it important for you to have? In the simplest terms, your personal brand is you. It displays your personality and conveys what you stand for. In turn, it helps you to distinguish yourself from others and eliminate your competition.

Your personal brand is what others think about you. When you brand yourself properly, you determine how other people perceive you instead of the other way around. Your brand defines the image that your target audience associates with you and reveals what you have to offer. It is used to determine your total perceived value and how you measure up to your competitors.

Defining your personal brand can also help you to gain strategic positioning within your industry. In the August 2008 edition of Who’s News, we discussed a few of the steps you should take to become an expert in your field. Developing a strong personal brand is another way that you can establish yourself as a knowledgeable resource among your peers. Highlight the elements that make you unique from your competition and people will pay special attention to you. Your personal brand will assist you in building your reputation and attaining expert status.

There are several components that make up your personal brand. The first is your personal appearance. The way you dress, your etiquette and your overall attitude toward others all contribute to your personal brand. The last thing you want a potential client to think, when meeting you for the first time, is that you do not match the brand you have worked so hard to develop and portray. The next component is your personality. When others think of you, what comes immediately to their mind? What words do they use to describe you: knowledgeable, confident, dependable and dynamic? Is that who you are and the image you are trying to portray? The third factor is your core competency or your primary areas of expertise. You may be proficient in several areas but what are your strongest points? Some people are dynamic public speakers while others are talented writers. Some people are better at training versus managing. What are your strengths? The last major component is your uniqueness. Defining what sets you apart from your competition is essential to building your personal brand. Without doing this, others will not be able to differentiate you from your competition and you run the risk of letting your competition define you.

Once you have established your personal brand, begin sharing it with others immediately. A great measure of whether or not you are successfully promoting your brand is by typing your name into a major search engine such as Google or Yahoo. Do you retrieve positive, informative and consistent information about yourself? While branding is not all about your presence on the Internet, increasing your online visibility is an easy and cost effective way to share important information about yourself with colleagues, clients, recruiters, etc. Here are some tools that will help you to build your brand online:

  • VisualCV.com: This website lets you create an online CV and display it as a webpage, providing others with easy access to your portfolio. It also gives you the ability to upload pictures and videos of your work. Best of all, it is free to use! If you are a Cambridge Who’s Who member who does not have a website to link to from your Cambridge Who’s Who profile, you can always link to your VisualCV instead.

  • Personal Blog: Cambridge Who’s Who utilizes several blogging sites in order to provide useful information and resources to Cambridge Who’s Who members. Cambridge Who’s Who Charities is hosted on Wordpress.com and the Cambridge Who’s Who Resource Center, Learning Center and News blog are all hosted on Blogger.com. We even have our own Wiki on Wetpaint.com called Cambridge Who’s Who Notables. These sites provide our members with information about who we are, what our major products and services are and how we can assist them in develop their professional network and personal brand - all of which is part of our corporate brand. When you launch your own blog, write about the areas in which you hold the most knowledge and experience. Provide valuable information, and you will become a resource for others in your industry. You can also share your thoughts and expertise by commenting on other people’s blogs. Include a link back to your own blog when you leave a message!

  • Website: Creating a simple, professional website can also aid in the development of your brand. Your personal website should showcase your expertise, your skill set and your unique value that separates you from others in your line of work. You can also include your VisualCV as an integral part of the site. Be sure to share your website when you are seeking a new career opportunity, applying for an advanced degree program, requesting client referrals or are being considered for a special honor or award.

  • Cambridge Who’s Who Multi-Media Promotions Program: How do you maintain your personal brand so that it is remembered? The Multi-Media Program increases your visibility on major search engines through the distribution of one or more press releases about your endeavors. Your press release can also be used to announce something noteworthy such as a special event, achievement or promotion. Learn more about the Multi-Media Promotions Program at the Learning Center.

When using these tools keep in mind how you want to be perceived. Make sure that you develop an image and marketing materials that bring that message across and reinforce it. Highlight what distinguishes you from others. You want your brand to be recognizable and easy to remember. Most of all you must be consistent! Your resume, your blog, your website and all of your other promotional materials (including business cards, stationery, flyers, newsletters, etc.) must all convey the same message.

Your personal brand will help you to survive in your industry and stand out from the crowd. Remember to be receptive to feedback; it will let you know if the brand you are portraying is coming across properly or if you need to make any adjustments. Want to find an easy way to get started on developing your personal brand? Check out the Cambridge Who’s Who Contributing Author Program and see how other members are building their brands.

No comments: