Whether you want to establish yourself as an expert freelance professional, or your corporate heads have decided that you need to be the public voice of your division, you need to carefully craft a personal branding campaign. The online social world we live in requires that the way you market yourself is as important as the way you market your product, company, or service.
Before Matt Cutts became Google's liason between their company brand and webmasters, there was a more hostile connection between the two groups. While Cutts has his opponents among webmasters these days, the fact remains that he helped bridge a huge gap over the years. His personal brand is clear and consistent. In general, webmasters recognize that his knowledge and values closely mirror that of the Google brand as a whole.
So how can you craft your personal branding strategy in such a way that you represent your company, product, or service in a clear, consistent, positive way? You can't emulate the strategy of Matt Cutts or anyone else, because each person and each brand requires a custom strategy. You can, however, follow a basic blueprint that you'll customize for your own situation. The following seven steps will enable you to plan the route you'll need to take to develop your own personal brand.
Step 1: Write two short taglines that best represent you.
Your first tagline should be product oriented, with the product being whatever it is you offer, which could also be a service. Let's take a look at an example. Chris Brogan's tagline is: "helping (mostly larger) companies with customer acquisition and community nurturing by amplifying the human digital channel". Admittedly, I'm not really crazy about his tagline because it is too jargon-laden for my tastes. Nevertheless, it sums up his product-oriented essence well. Your goal, then, is to create a tagline that sums up your product or service in twenty words or less. (Bonus points if your tagline is 140 characters or less, making it tweetable).
Your second tagline should be focused on your personality or your philosophy. This tagline should describe the essence of you, personally. Leo Babauta's tagline seems to be "Simplicity and Minimalism" (although he doesn't specifically use that exact tagline). This tagline places an emphasis on his passions and personal ideologies. But an equally good personal tag line might have less "feel-good" qualities and more hard-hitting qualities. For instance, Tim Gunn's famous tagline, "Make it work!" gives us a peek into his personal work ethic. There's nothing flowery about it, but it hones in on his inner ideology. Some might take this even further. A consultant to CEOs might have a personal tagline such as "I kick ass because no one wants to hear my excuses". Your tagline will probably lie somewhere in between flowery and kicking ass, but the point is that it needs to reflect you and your own personal passions and ideologies.
Step 2: Analyze your current branding situation and prepare for future branding situations.
Once you've determined what your two taglines should be, you need to determine if your current personal branding matches them. Would friends and business acquaintances currently agree that your new taglines fit you? What about the search engines? If you "Google yourself", are the results reflective of your new tagline? If you're starting from ground zero in the search engines, that's almost better than having to remedy or reinvent a prior reputation. Either way, you should know what you're up against.
Now that you understand what the starting point is, you can prepare yourself for the ultimate goal of making your personal brand ubiquitous across all of your interactions. It's important to always keep your taglines in mind as you create products, social profiles, author bios, and even within presentations. Even if you don't put the taglines into a presentation or a profile word for word, the "essence" of the tagline needs to be reflected within everything you do. Everything you say, do, sell, and present, should in some way be reflective of those taglines. You want people to someday associate your name and/or product with the taglines you've chosen. That connection in people's minds IS your brand.
Step 3: Visualize your taglines
Taglines use text to convey your brand message. Likewise, the same brand connection needs to be made visually – through logos, profile pictures and color schemes. You may or may not need an actual logo, however, all of your standard imagery should reflect your taglines. In the CEO consultant example above, "I kick ass because no one wants to hear my excuses," you need your profile pictures, avatars, and color schemes to reflect a strong, take-no-prisoners stance. A profile picture of that consultant looking like a peace-loving, laid-back hippy, using a rainbow color scheme would not jive with his tagline. Likewise, a scowling tough-guy image using a stark red and black color scheme would be all wrong for person whose tagline was "Love, peace and happiness makes the world go round." Make sure your text and imagery all align to present a cohesive brand image.
Step 4: Craft your own story
Now that you have taglines and imagery down, you need to begin working on your bio. Your bio will be a longer, more fully fleshed-out version of your taglines. In addition, you should create several different "flavors" of your bio. Some will be more concise, while some will be lengthier. Some should be more hard-edged, business-like, and straight to the point, while others should be more emotional and told in a story-format. Over time, you'll end up creating each of these for various reasons, so be sure to save them all! Store them in a directory of their own, so you can either reuse them as needed, or recraft them when necessary. Analyze them occasionally to see if any adjustments need to be made – either to the pieces themselves – or to the path you've been taking. Sometimes, our stories help us to remember our own goals, and by re-reading them, we notice how much we've strayed off the chosen path. (Note: Straying off-path is sometimes great, but you should still evaluate the detour on occasion).
Step 5: Know where your main message centers will be
It's important to determine where you primarily present your message. This will, of course, include your own domains, but it will also include third-party areas such as social networks, forums, etc. These third-party message centers can be fluid, either by choice or not. However, you don't want your entire presence to rely on a third party. Just because Facebook is hot today doesn't mean it won't disappear tomorrow. Don't let your entire message stream disappear when a third party site disappears. Always make your own real estate – your own sites and blogs – your primary message source. Then supplement that source wherever your target audience hangs out. If you don't know where that is, it's time to start figuring that out.
Step 6: Manage your networks
More than likely, you already have some networks in place. You'll want to make note of your existing networks, and then determine from there how to grow them. In the broadest sense, you'll have two main networks.
Your first primary network is your industry partners network. You'll always need to have industry acquaintances that can help with things that are outside of your knowledge base. Maybe you'll need web designers, or videographers, or virtual assistants. Anyone you trust who can help you with a project (a book, a presentation, an app, a marketing project, etc) is someone who will be in your industry partners network. You'll end up with a few partners who you know will always have your back – and vice versa.
The second network will be your audience reach network. These are the people who make up your audience, and those who influence your audience. Obviously, the more people who know about you, the more success you can have. Find out where your audience hangs. Hang there too. Find out who your audience listens to. These people are their influencers. Know who those influencers are, and become their best friends. (Ok, not really, but you DO want to interact with the influencers if at all possible). In other words, do your best to influence the influencers. Also, don't spend all of your time trying to buddy up to the TOP DOG influencers. Concentrate on the middle tier as well. The up and comers can often be easier to get noticed by, and while they may not influence 50,000 people, they may influence 5,000. That can sometimes pay off just as well, and even more quickly.
Step 7: Pull it all together
At this point, it's time to pull all of this together into one cohesive plan of action.
- You've determined what your brand is, and what message you want to send — in text and visual form.
- You've determined who can help you accomplish the goals –your industry partner network.
- You know who wants to hear the message –your audience.
- You've determined who can help spread the message –the influencers of your audience.
Now it's time to put it all into play. This is the time to create content on your sites, create and share content on social networks (which will usually consist of a different type of content than what you create on your sites), and interact with people via social networks and blog commenting. Of course, this process is an ongoing one. You'll also need to monitor and track your progress throughout this process, but the main idea here is to put all of the planning into action.
Start creating…start sharing…start building your brand – making sure you keep all the above steps in mind as you do.
A Final Note:
This process of personal branding usually involves you establishing yourself as an authority in your field – an expert – someone that people would turn to as being a leader in the industry. You may or may not ever be one of the top-tier leaders, and that's ok if not. But that's where the path ultimately leads, and as long as you are doing the kinds of things that can establish your authority in the industry, you're doing well.
So what helps establish that authority? The best way to establish your authority is by sharing information that clearly shows that you' know your stuff'. Write informative articles and guest posts, and answer questions on Q&A sites or in topic-related forums. Give assistance and help people, both the little guys and the influencers. If you are presenting a consistent personal brand message in each of these interactions, you will be remembered. Your face, your tagline, your imagery, and your knowledge will become known and remembered. You will have built your personal brand.
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy Exposed: "I Don't Need a Personal Brand"
For the past twenty years Gabriella has held positions as a consultant, web developer and creative director until she decided it was time to open Level 343, an SEO and copywriting company. She fancies herself an Italian rocker, rebel and SEO geek. She loves singing in the shower and keeps a notepad next to her bed.