Personal Branding 101
By: Karen Sadler
Whether we realize it or not, we all have a personal brand. Our brand is communicated through every photo we post online, the language we use, the clothes we wear, and through the conversations we have with our colleagues and friends. While it can seem daunting, defining and maintaining your personal brand is crucial to your career success.
Recently, I was the moderator of a panel discussion for the CSAE Trillium Young Professionals Committee, on personal branding. I was joined on the panel by Kerri Romeo and Nicky Nasrallah, two young entrepreneurs/creatives, who have mastered their own personal brands.
The following information shares some off the tips and tricks that came out of our panel discussion that will help you stand out from the crowd and shine a light on your unique talents and abilities.
Take a Brand Inventory
What is your current personal brand? If you find your current personal brand is not the brand you want to be projecting, you need to determine what you want your personal brand to be?
Begin your personal brand inventory exercise by doing some of these things:
- In three words, what is your brand? These can be three words to describe your brand as it is currently, or three descriptors that you want to be associated with;
- If you are feeling brave, ask a few trusted people in your professional circle (colleagues, supervisors, mentors, volunteers you work with) what three words they would use to describe you. Do their responses match what you’re trying to project?
- Visualize where you want to be in ten years. Does your current personal brand align with that future lifestyle?
Building Your Brand Online
When building your personal brand online, it is important not to spread yourself too thin. Determine where the audience you want to reach is and focus your branding efforts there. For example, Instagram is an important space for Kerri and Nick, as they are creatives working in very visual industries. For me, as a 9-to-5er in the non-profit world, LinkedIn has been the most powerful platform for personal branding.
Fine-tuning the voice of your personal brand is crucial. The most important tip that came out of our discussion is that authenticity is key. Right now, people are craving authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability. Use that to your advantage. Speak about your successes and expertise, as well as, your challenges, learnings and downright failures.
As the internet becomes more and more image-rich, the photos and images you use to reflect your brand are important. Whether you are updating a profile picture, choosing a LinkedIn cover photo, or selecting an image to include with a blog post, you should be thinking about how each image conveys your brand. When deciding on imagery, some helpful questions you can ask yourself are:
- If your brand had a mood board, what would be on it?
- Who are you and what do you do? Are there certain images that could communicate those things? For example, I’m a writer who is passionate about diversity and inclusion. My LinkedIn cover photo is an image of pencil crayons in all the colours of the rainbow.
There are also some awesome (and free) resources you can use online to help you find or create images that reflect your personal brand:
- Pexels is a free stock photography site made with younger people in mind. You will find plenty of beautiful and stylish stock imagery to fit your every need. No 90’s business people high-fiving each other here!
- Canva is a free graphic design tool for those of us with no graphic design skills. It allows you to create appealing images for blog posts, LinkedIn articles, tweets, Instagram and more.
We live in the era of content. Whether it be inspirational blog posts, insightful tweets, or infographics highlighting the topics you are knowledgeable about, creating unique content is a powerful way to showcase your talents and draw the right audience in. During our conversation, a few nuggets of wisdom emerged:
- Share flat-out personal promotional content about twenty percent of the time. The rest of the time, tell stories, share inspirational or informational items, and highlight cool things being done by others in your field.
- Timing matters. Posting first thing in the morning can be successful, as people check their social media profiles before beginning their work day. Friday afternoons can also be good sharing times, as people begin to mentally check out for the weekend.
- If you are not creating content already, you need to start. If you are not sure you can write a full blog post, try starting with listicles. Listicles are short, punchy and quick to read. Share the five most interesting articles or podcasts you consumed in the past month, explaining in a quick sentence or two why others should check them out, or share a little story about a recent challenge you had to face and how you dealt with it.
Your Community Matters. Collaboration Matters.
Whether you are networking and chatting with others online or in-person, engagement is key. Relationship building is all about reciprocity. The communities you join or help build are crucial to the success of your brand:
- Make a point of reading, liking and commenting on the posts that others share;
- Share inspiring or interesting work by other people in your field;
- Share your expertise and talents by volunteering on committees and work groups;
- Collaborate with others in your field by putting on an event together, co-authoring an article, or bringing a cool, new initiative to your boss with a few other colleagues.
Doing any of the above tips and tricks will help you gain access to your collaborator’s audience while helping someone else gain access to your audience.
Branding Is a Journey, Not a Destination
People change. Our interests, passions, and life circumstances are always changing, and that means our personal brands will change over time too. Every few years, take inventory of your personal brand and make sure it still resonates with you and the communities you want to be a part of.
You’ve got this!
Karen is the Marketing & Communications Coordinator / Associate Editor for the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association (CCCA and as of late has been been carving out her own personal brand as a writer who is passionate about diversity and inclusion through a variety of articles in CCCA Magazine and on LinkedIn, as well as creating a small grassroots movement called Welcome to the Bresistance. She is a member of the CSAE Trillium Young Professionals Committee and a new member of the CSAE Trillium FORUM Committee.