Audit and Enhance Your Personal Brand in Six Easy Steps

Everyone has a personal brand, whether they are intentional about developing and managing it or not. Your personal brand is what makes you unique and memorable. It is who people believe you to be and what they think they can expect from you, whether they see you in the grocery store or at a Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Nancy (right) working with personal branding client Amber Lambke and farmer Justin Tessier at the Skowhegan Farmer's Market. Amber is founder of Maine Grains.

Nancy (right) working with personal branding client Amber Lambke and farmer Jason Tessier at the Skowhegan Farmer’s Market. Amber is founder of Maine Grains. Photo courtesy Megan Dichter.

Pro athlete, celebrity, business executive, entrepreneur, real estate agent, community activist, or salesperson: no matter what your line of work is, personal branding should be important to you. If you take proactive steps to manage your own personal brand, you can influence the way people see you. You want people to see you in the most positive light. You want them to recognize your best traits and you want them to associate you with the causes and issues you feel most passionate about. If you cultivate your brand well, it will help you build your network of professional and personal contacts. It can also make it easier for you to attract and retain new business. Here are six easy steps that will enable you to analyze your personal brand and then work to make it stronger.

1. Google yourself.
Start by searching for your name on Google and see what comes up. Any content that has been posted online and mentions your name will pop up in the search results. This can include articles you’ve written, news stories about you, online reviews you may have written, blog posts or social media posts about you, and content about you on your own company website. Lots of favorable content connected to your name is good. Negative content, such as litigation you were involved in or a scandal you were connected to, is obviously not good. There are things you can do to increase the good content and mitigate the effects of negative contact, pushing it farther down in the list of search results. For example, you want to take every opportunity to create content associated with your name. That includes writing articles, frequently adding content to your blog, commenting on blog posts of others, and taking part in newsworthy events to get the media to write about you. This is something we specialize in at NMC. To learn more, I invite you to contact us.

2. Develop a personal brand biography.
How do you introduce yourself? What is it about you that makes you different from all the other lawyers, accountants, doctors, CEOs, or (fill in your profession here) out there? Your personal brand bio is the story of you that highlights the aspects of your personality and your credentials that make you stand out. It should be memorable. Don’t be afraid to include some personal details so people can see you as a human being, not just another talking head.

I think the best personal brand bios start out with a story. Think of something that happened to you as a professional or growing up that really epitomizes your character and professional strengths. Start with that and the rest of your story should flow out naturally from there. You should also include examples of what makes you good at what you do. Don’t just say you are a great negotiator or a skilled collaborator. Describe achievements or actions you’ve taken in your life that show you possess these traits.

3. Get a good photograph of yourself.
Do you have a current, professionally taken head shot? A good head shot is needed to provide a visual identity on your LinkedIn account, Google account and website. You will also submit it to the membership directories of associations to which you belong and for publication in program booklets at seminars and conferences where you will be presenting. It should be taken by a photographer that specializes in head shots with proper lighting and a backdrop. It should not be cropped from a snapshot taken at a family barbecue.

The professionalism of your head shot reflects your professionalism. A photo that is well staged and features you at your best helps people see you literally in the best light. Head shots should also be kept current. If it’s been years since you’ve had a new one taken, people may do a double take when they meet you in person. You want them to be able to recognize you.

4. Maintain a LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn is a professional social networking site. Your LinkedIn page serves as an online resume and more. It’s where people you cross paths with in your professional life, most of whom you have not yet met, will go to check you out. A well-managed LinkedIn page will ensure they will get a positive first impression.

To start building your LinkedIn presence, add your personal brand manifesto and head shot to the “summary” section of your LinkedIn page. Then, regularly add new content, and keep your information up to date. Any time you receive an award, successfully complete a big project, get a promotion, or achieve anything notable in your professional life, add it to your LinkedIn page. You can also ask others whom you know and trust to write testimonials for you. Finally, join groups where you can network and trade ideas with others who have similar interests. College alumni groups, for one, offer valuable professional connections with potential referral sources and clients. Groups dedicated to a particular industry, like public relations, provide a forum for you to share advice and input, serving to elevate your status as an expert in your industry.

5. Tweet.
Twitter is a social network where media and influencers go to find news and information in real time. It’s an important place to be if you want to position yourself as an expert in your field and connect with other experts. The great thing about Twitter is that those who read your posts are not just limited to your followers. People can search tweets based on their interests. You use hashtags (#GraduationDay, #SummerBeautyTips, #WorldPeace, #PersonalBranding) to ensure they find you. Tweets also appear live time, as they are posted, on a general feed.

If you make an interesting point about a trending issue using a hashtag; retweet interesting links; communicate “hot” information to another individual, like a nationally-known CEO, that has loads of followers; include a strong call to action; or appeal to human emotion, your tweets could go viral and earn you many new followers.

A strong Twitter following adds to your personal brand because having lots of followers positions you as a thought leader and expert. Using Twitter effectively is a science, and it’s a topic I could devote several articles to.

6. Set up a Google News alert for yourself.
This is a free service offered by Google that enables you to see new content mentioning your name whenever and wherever it shows up online. To set one up, go to www.google.com/alerts. It’s a great way to maximize positive mentions (i.e., you can post links to the good information on your social media pages). You can also begin to run damage control immediately should any damaging or factually incorrect information appear.

The PR Maven specializes in developing personal brands for professionals ranging from community organizers and boat captains, to lawyers and C-level executives, authors, Olympic athletes and small business owners. These six steps I have offered provide an overview of what a basic personal branding strategy looks like. They will help you develop a public persona that will strengthen your reputation and help you grow your business. To find out more, please contact me at nancy@prmaven.com.

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