When I think of the topic of building a personal brand, I picture a slimy salesman selling snake oil. It all seems so cheesy and fake.
That’s not the type of personal branding I want to cover here. The personal branding I am referring to has more to do with online reputation management and positioning yourself online as someone knowledgeable about a particular industry.
When I speak of reputation management and personal branding, I am referring to the extension of your business thoughts and behavior into the online world. It’s an extension of what you are already doing through networking events and communication to provide opportunities of connecting in additional ways.
Why is online reputation management and personal branding important? One reason is that job security is something not available anymore. The other day, I heard someone say that we are all self-employed. Try skipping a week or two of work and see if your boss keeps you around. But if you work for someone, you are at more risk than someone working for themselves who has a number of clients. As an employee, you have one client, your employer. Someone self-employed with 10 clients has 10 employers. If they lose one, they have 9 others.
Combine this with decreasing tenures for workers in jobs across America. My dad has had two employers in his life. Most people have had two employers by the time they are 24. If you are not actively sharing your skill set and expertise on online platforms, how will people know what skills you have when it comes time to look for a new position?
If you are not in the situation of being downsized in the near future (or being made redundant as my British friends say), you will increase the value you have within a company by personally branding yourself online and connecting to other people in your industry. You will have more to offer your current company.
Where do I start?
There is a great story about an Atlanta company whose leadership refused to get involved with social media. They were adamant that as a company, they would not join any social media platforms. During a meeting between this company and an online marketing company, the online marketing company told the anti-social media company that they were already on social media. The leadership was incensed and said they were absolutely not on social media. The online marketing company shot back and said, yes you are. Here is a Facebook page called “Atlanta Company Sucks.” Here is another one called “Bad Customer Services Stories by Company.” You are definitely on social media but you don’t control it.
Wouldn’t you like to have a level of control over your online reputation?
Platforms such as Google have been collecting whatever information they can find about you online. This could come from information that you have shared or that others have shared. This information is what Google then presents to anywhere searching information about you.
The best place to start with online reputation management & personal branding is to do a simple Google search.
Type in your name or your company name and see what comes up in Google. It is good? Is it bad? Who is offering this information?
Once you see what currently exists, you can work from there. Most of online reputation management is basic platform development to push some of the nastier items down that show up in Google. For instance, if you create a LinkedIn page, that will usually show up in the first or second spot for a Google search for your name. Likewise, if you create a Twitter profile, that will push down some of the search results that may contain negative information about you. You may not be able to remove the negative information, but you can push it down on the search results page.
From here, it’s time to brand. For personal branding, I am referring to the ideas, topics, industry that are what you currently do. You want to show yourself to be someone who cares about that thing and show yourself to be someone who is constantly thinking about a particular idea, topic, or industry. This doesn’t need to be the current industry in which you currently work. It could also be an aspirational industry. Here’s an example.
After completing my graduate work, I had a desire to combine my love of music and international business by helping USA bands do concerts overseas. I wanted to position myself as someone knowledgeable in this space. I was fortunate to arrange a meeting with a music industry executive and talk to him about my idea. He had one piece of advice. Start a blog. This was 2008 and that was pretty impressive advice at that time.
He didn’t give me the names of other industry executives. He didn’t tell me how to start. He told me to start a blog. And I did. I began blogging about the music industry and about trends in international music. This exercise had benefits I never even considered. For one, I was deeply embedded in the daily news about this industry. Second, I was connecting to other people writing and thinking about these topics. And third, it provided me a tool I could share with a potential employer. I was no longer someone fresh out of school with a desire to work but no experience. I still lacked working experience, but I had spent a lot of time reading, thinking, and writing about the industry. And I had a product of sorts (my blog) that I could show to potential employers.
Likewise, you may be in an industry that you love or may be considering entering a new industry or focus. Starting a blog or a Twitter account may be the first step for you in learning about the industry and then becoming a voice in the industry. Each of us has a unique background and skill set that provides a unique set of eyes to a given set of ideas or news.
Once you have determined a specific idea, topic, or industry, find out which platform is the best place to further your online presence for that item. Again, you can do a simple Google search to find out how people are communicating around the idea, topic, or industry. Whatever platform you begin to use, they usually have some place for a description. For the blog, Twitter account, or other platform, tell the world what you are going to do with that platform and then do it. That statement will effectively become your mission statement. If you plan to write about the international music industry, then make sure you stay focused and have each piece of information be about the international music industry.
Also, for your LinkedIn account (if you don’t have a LinkedIn page, check here for LinkedIn tips), add this idea, topic, or industry as one of your specialties on your LinkedIn page. This will also help you to connect to other people writing or thinking about the item.
As you begin to produce content, you’ll begin to join an online world also thinking about these items. You’ll connect to people around the world. This will not replace networking events or conferences, it will simply enhance the experience and allow you to connect to others around a specific idea, topic, or industry. By doing so, you will improve your chances of obtaining future jobs by targeting a specific industry.
The content above is from a presentation given at the Metro Atlanta Chamber on Monday, March 25, 2013 by @ErikRostad