by Pamela Webber, Chief Marketing Officer at 99designs
Maybe you hear the phrase “personal brand” and think it doesn’t apply to you; however, in today’s ever-connected, cached-forever world, your personal brand affects who hires you, who fires you, who follows you, and who trolls you, which is particularly important to remember as you enter the job market.
The good news is that there are some simple steps that can help you create a personal brand to be proud of that reflects who you are and where you’re going.
Understand the term ‘brand.’
Since we work with hundreds of thousands, we often refer to Jeff Bezos’ illustrative definition when we talk about it: “Brand is how people describe you when you are not in the room.” Truer words were never spoken and are a critical reminder for what to think about when it comes to your personal branding.
Get to know your brand.
You’ve likely been around 20-odd years so you already have a personal brand (what you might call your “identity”). But, what is it? Take the Jeff Bezos statement to heart and ask friends and family what adjectives they’d use to describe you. Suffices to say, these adjectives are likely your best personal traits. It is difficult to replicate the “not in the room” effect, but this is a start. Maybe you found you are described as “fun” and “fearless.” Or, maybe “introspective” and “helpful.” These traits serve as the foundation of your brand.
Determine your brand direction.
If you like the attributes you’ve identified and want these written on your tombstone (personal brands can last forever), great! If not, determine what other adjectives you’d like people to use when describing you. For example, if you are planning a career in investigative journalism, “fearless” likely works. But, fun? Not-so-much. You likely want to be building a personal brand around “serious.”
Build your brand and be consistent.
Now the fun begins! Having a personal brand does not mean getting a logo designed. But, it wouldn’t hurt to borrow some tactics from successful brand builders. What do they do? They build consistent interactions with their audience that support their brand attributes – and you should do the same. For example, if you’re a budding photographer building a personal brand in the luxury wedding market, Instagram photos of you at Burning Man are not supporting your brand. Keep those photos private amongst your friends and let your broader audience see your gorgeous shots of the Santa Barbara coastline. Use color to support your attributes. For example, blue generally elicits feelings of seriousness and trust, which work well for an investigative journalist. Display your name consistently (e.g. don’t switch between Amanda and Mandy) on business cards, social networks or online forums. Similarly, make your social media handles the same on all of the networks.
Get a website.
Nowadays, you can launch one in 24 hours with the likes of WordPress.com, Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace. Update your website on an ongoing basis by blogging or posting content that supports your personal brand.
Invest in your brand.
Social media sites are an inexpensive and effective way to invest in your brand. Choose the network that best represents your brand and focus there. For example, if you’re a “serious sales associate” for a software company, LinkedIn is likely your best choice. If you are an artist or maker, Instagram may be your network of choice to increase your followers. You’ll want to engage in like-minded groups on these networks consistently to further support your personal brand.
Choose your associations wisely.
Whether you like, post, comment, tweet, or pin, your engagement online is a reflection of your personal brand. Don’t be fooled into thinking anything is private on the internet. Avoid questionable online activities that might negatively affect your personal brand.
Learn from the masters.
There are so many women building personal brands today from whom you can learn. Tavi Gevinson began building her personal brand as an 11-year-old fashion blogger. She is now 21 and leveraged her personal brand to launch a online magazine for teens and an acting career. Socialite media vlogger Amanda Steele built a 2.3M following on Instagram in makeup and beauty. She supported her personal brand on the red carpet at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. For the super ambitious, take a lesson from the ultimate personal brand builder – Oprah Winfrey who knew at any early age she wanted a career that involved talking and talked her way into a $3B brand empire.
Remember, your personal brand can ultimately make or break opportunities for you in the workplace, so it behooves everyone at every age to take the time and energy to manage it.
Pamela Webber is Chief Marketing Officer at 99designs where heads up the global marketing team responsible for driving customer acquisition and increasing lifetime value of customers. She is passionate about using data to derive customer insights and to find “aha moments” that impact strategic direction.