When you think about concepts such as brand awareness and brand management, you probably envision major enterprises spending millions of dollars to maintain their status as national or international household names. However, branding matters just as much for individual employees, job candidates, and entrepreneurs as it does for Fortune 500 companies, if not more so. You need to develop a personal brand, get that brand in front of the right buyers, and then optimise that brand’s reputation. Let’s examine how you can achieve these goals.
Personal branding involves the creation of brand identity for an individual. In some cases, that individual is a sole proprietor or the boss of a personality-driven business. In others, the individual may work (or aspire to work) for a company that cares about its employees’ online reputations and images. If you fall into any of these use cases, you want to create a brand for yourself just as a large organisation creates a brand that represents its desired image, vision, and values.
You may already have a personal brand of sorts, whether you realise it or not. Try Googling yourself, paying careful attention to the results that pop up. If you don’t like what you see or you don’t see much of anything, it’s time to take the reins and craft the personal brand you want your audience to experience. This control should extend to purchasing a domain that prominently features your name.
Search engine optimization can help customers or employers encounter your personal brand. For instance, the organic use of high-ranking keywords can help draw visitors to a website or landing page that tells the world exactly who you are, what you stand for, and how your products, services, or skills can benefit your target audience. Backlinks from your various brand outreach efforts and social media channels (see below) can help pull your entire online presence together into a compelling, highly visible personal brand.
Leading SEO and online reputation management company Status Labs reports that the majority of Americans maintain at least one social media profile among the many platform options out there, from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and YouTube, with this prevalence expected to increase as the years go by. Did an old social media profile of yours pop up in your self-search? If so, what did you think of it? Close any outdated or unflattering accounts, or at least retool them into your preferred image. If you don’t have any social media accounts yet, go ahead and create them so competitors can’t create fraudulent accounts in your name.
A personal brand should communicate who you are, from your background, work principles, and moral values to those individual motivational triggers that inspire you to do what you do. It should include a flattering photo to humanise your profile, as well as enough business information to demonstrate your expertise in your field. A blog offers the perfect opportunity to expand on these areas. When you post regular, relevant content infused with your personality, you give viewers the sense that they already know you while also giving them something of value that piques their interest in learning more.
Once you’ve established your personal brand, you need to protect and reinforce its reputation. Start by making sure you see each new comment posted to your blog or social media accounts. If you spot negative comments, don’t ignore them to try to delete them. Instead, respond in the most positive, level-headed tone you can muster, maintaining an air of transparency, honesty, and professionalism. At the same time, keep adding fresh, impactful content that grabs the focus and enhances your image.
Take your personal brand as seriously as you would a major corporate brand, from optimising your website to managing your social media. You might be pleasantly surprised by the resulting visibility and popularity of "Me, Incorporated."