“I am the go-to person for…” Can you finish the sentence? And what would others say if you asked them to finish it for you?
It’s no secret that personal branding is an important aspect of a person’s business or professional career – and if you haven’t done it already, is it time for you to establish a strong personal brand of your own? One that shows prospective employers and clients what you’re all about, how you differentiate yourself and most importantly, one that makes it as easy as possible for your target audience to connect with you.
To build an effective personal brand, you must be able to communicate your unique selling point in a way that is aligned with your ideal audience. You’ll need to figure both of those things out but even when you do, it’s not realistic to think your brand presence is going to explode overnight. This is a long-term commitment that could last a lifetime as you move from student to career to business owner to legacy project.
Personal branding doesn’t need a big financial investment – you can start small and DIY it with very effective results so here are six suggestions to get you moving towards establishing an influential personal brand that’ll get you recognised in your area of expertise.
1. Remember that we’re all human
Irrespective of your personality type, background or area of expertise, you can build a personal brand that will resonate with your ideal audience. Shared interests, personal stories or an interesting background can evoke emotion in others and build rapport – paving a very smooth way towards gaining trust. We may have been conditioned to be ‘professional’ but this doesn’t mean that we can’t be ourselves – a personal brand that exhibits authenticity and character has an advantage over one that showcases a ‘work character’ designed to survive office life.
The personal touch can be what makes the difference between closing a deal and the one that got away.
2. Play an active part in online communities
There are an abundance of groups and organisations out there that will be aligned with your area of focus and the topics that matter to you. Facebook groups are a great place to start but you’ll get out what you put in. Simply joining a group and expecting connections and opportunities to come your way isn’t realistic. Be visible and active, interact with other members posts and answer questions regularly. If the group organises offline gatherings, show up and meet people – it’s been tried, tested and it works!
Your goal is to get people to view you as the go-to person and the authority on your topic – and the more you contribute, the more serendipity you’ll get to enjoy!
3. Old-fashioned is still in fashion
Business cards, printed materials and good old-fashioned conversation are all still alive, well and effective! Get offline and meet people, ask questions and take a genuine interest in them – people are fascinating and the human connections you make offline have a much higher chance of developing into friendships, partnerships and opportunities than those in your online networks.
Physical marketing materials are there as a supplementary tool to help but ultimately, the best marketing piece you have is you!
4. Know your audience
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to marketing yourself, but you don’t need millions of followers to qualify for personal brand success. In some cases, a hundred of the right followers who are super-engaged and who buy-in to what you have to offer can make for a very successful outcome. The magic happens when your story and your audience intersect so let’s go back to the beginning: I am the go-to person for …xyz (finish the sentence) and if I am the go-to person for that; who and where are the people that need you? You don’t need to be active on every social platform as it’ll become ‘hard work’ very quickly so if your target audience is corporate women in the finance industry, you’ll know that quality engagement is far more likely to happen on LinkedIn than on Facebook or Instagram.
Identify the platform of choice for your audience, show up regularly and opt to do that one thing really well.
5. Maintain your shop window
Where are your audience going to land? Are you making it easy for your target audience to connect with you and to stay connected? Having your own website is a simple and easy way to keep all of your personal brand messaging and achievements in one place. Drag and drop site builders like Strikingly, Squarespace and Wix make light work of website creation so personal websites can happen very quickly and without a great deal of financial outlay. If you’re not ready for your own website, an up to date LinkedIn profile works just as well but like the online communities, you need to be active and if you’re on LinkedIn to be found (& to flourish!), are you aware that out of date profiles don’t rank well? Profiles that populate the top of LinkedIn’s search results are fresh and the user is active – in order to signal to LinkedIn that your profile is fresh and that you are active, go in and make some small edits every couple of weeks (simply change out a word or add a comma). Update your photo regularly and make larger edits/updates as you progress in your career or business.
Your website or LinkedIn profile should reflect who you are RIGHT NOW… not who you were three months ago.
6. Get featured
Whether it’s providing a quote and sharing your expert insight, writing a guest blog or being interviewed on a podcast, putting your name out there (within your target niche) is a great way to not only market your business, but to earn respect as a thought leader in the industry. The more people you can reach, the more chance you have of finding potential opportunities and exciting possibilities. If you haven’t yet had any media coverage, write articles that you can pitch to niche publications and blogs, approach people with relevant podcasts or ask your network. You can then start building a ‘featured in’ collection to showcase in your ‘shop window’. Run a Google search for contributor guidelines and ‘How to’ guides for bigger publications or join groups that share press opportunities – Charlotte Fall’s Lightbulb – Entrepreneur and Press Hangout on Facebook is one of my personal favourites! You can then share your coverage across your social feeds, in a press & media page on your website or in the accomplishments section on your LinkedIn profile.
Being featured goes a long way towards building your credibility as the go-to person and the authority on your topic.
We’re all different and none of us are at the same point in our personal brand journey so it’s important to not compare yourself to others and to do the things that work for you, at your own pace… but even if your pace is 100mph, know that it will take time and effort to implement your brand strategy, to get your name out there and to build trust with your audience. Patience is not only important but, in a lot of cases, it’s necessary because for most of us, putting ourselves out there can feel overwhelming, cringeworthy and even downright scary but as your brand presence grows, so will the edges of your comfort zone and your confidence levels.
It might feel safer not being seen or heard but new people and opportunities will pass you by and you’ll run the risk of everything staying the same. If you say it’s not for you, is that true or are you fearful of putting yourself out there? If it doesn’t feel necessary, is that only because you don’t know what you’re missing out on?
A personal brand can positively impact your life in so many exciting ways. It can have a positive effect on your confidence, your career and your company brand so what have you got to lose? The first step is deciding to commit to it, follow up with one step at a time and see where the journey takes you.
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