Some people are learning a new language with their time at home. Others are baking bread. We’ve talked about the importance of this halftime before, and now we want to steer you toward a beneficial use of your quarantine time. No matter where you are in your career now is the perfect chance to refine your personal brand.
Thanks to social distancing and shelter in place orders, social media engagement continues to climb. In April, LinkedIn reported a 55% increase in conversational activity between existing connections.
This is your time to shine. We interviewed the experts that know personal branding inside and out to give you a guide. If you haven’t started developing your personal brand, it’s time to make your debut. And if you need a refresher on best practices, read on.
What is a personal brand?
The concept itself is simple. Personal branding is the practice of promoting yourself and your career. It is called a “personal” brand because the story is unique to your experiences and professional accomplishments.
“No one wants to do business with logos and companies anymore. They want to do business with people,” says Lauren Walsh, personal branding expert, and founder of LW Branding. “Personal branding is leveraging your story to connect with others and develop truly meaningful relationships.”
Why is it important to build a personal brand now?
You already know that LinkedIn activity is up. The professional networking site also reported record-breaking activity on its educational arm, “In the first week of April, people watched 1.7M hours of learning content on LinkedIn Learning vs. 560K hours in the first week of January – a 3X increase in time spent learning.”
Regardless of the increased activity on social, a personal brand is important at any point in your professional career. Job seekers stand out from the pack when they have an established identity. They become memorable and relatable. If you are willing to share your story, Lauren Walsh says, “you can establish a sense of trust with a future employer.“
“Trust and authenticity are at the heart of building relationships. Personal branding is a proven technique to help you accelerate these relationships,” says marketing expert and CEO of 26 Characters, Steve Goldhaber. “It shows who you are, and how you think. It sets you apart from others. It also allows you to build trust with people before they meet you.”
How do you get started?
Take a personal inventory. “Nearly anyone willing to put in the time, effort, and build their niche can become a ‘thought leader’ who gets all of the traffic (and customers) in their space,” Neil Patel remarked in a blog post.
Start by determining your lane. Walsh recommends defining your personal mission. Think about the legacy you want to leave behind and what you offer to the world right now. What is your expertise?
The purpose of this exercise is to determine what message you want to present to the world. Once you’ve determined what makes you YOU, it’s time to share.
“Some people confuse personal branding with self-promotion. Even though many people focus on themselves, your personal brand can be about anything. For example, do you want to focus on how you’ve helped others? Do you want to showcase an organization you volunteer for? All these areas are ripe for building out your personal brand,” says Goldhaber, the author of the B2B marketing guide, What’s Your Problem?
Don’t be afraid to be real, Goldhaber continues. “People expect you to be human. Don’t just pump out positive PR for yourself. Be vulnerable. Ask for advice. Tell people that you’re struggling with something. When you share these real moments, you’d be surprised how much they’re willing to help you out.”
Where should you focus brand efforts?
Decide how much time and effort you can focus on building a personal brand. Before you do anything, though, think about using your personality in whatever approach you take. The point of this entire process is to sell yourself – not anyone else.
If you want to seize this time to create a comprehensive plan, you’ll need a brand identity. That means a logo, website, and maybe a tagline. Your personal website should tell what you do best and share your story.
Another approach still requires internal reflection, but you can present your personal brand on a smaller scale. For example, stick to your favorite social media channels. Create a content schedule that showcases your talents and personality. No need for a full menu of marketing collateral.
“Know what medium works best for you,” says Goldhaber. “Some people love being on video. Others hate it. Some people love writing. Others struggle with it. Make sure you choose a medium that works well for you because building a personal brand takes a lot of content creation. And you want to be efficient in how you create content.”
Regardless of how you go about it, make sure you use one headshot across your social accounts and website. Use the same type of language to describe what you do. Consistency is key.
Who has a strong personal brand?
Some people excel at telling their own story. Look at Brene Brown, who has leveraged the global pandemic to rocket to the top of the Apple Podcast charts with her thoughtful and empowering message. She uses the same color scheme, font, and imagery across her social channels and site. When you see the multicolor image, your mind immediately goes to Brene.
Do you know Seth Godin? Pops of orange trickle across all of his digital footprints. For more than 25 years, Seth has built his reputation. Now his marketing and business blog is read by millions. He is considered an expert in the field and widely respected.
When should you get started?
Right now. Walsh says, “If you are not willing to tell your own story, then you are leaving room for others to do it for you.”
Final words of wisdom
Understand that you may get some critical feedback. “Not everyone is going to love your brand. And that’s ok! When someone says something negative, learn from it, and then move on. Don’t let negative feedback from a handful of people affect you. If you do, your brand will become watered down. And when that happens, people will tune you out because they won’t find you interesting,” says Goldhaber.
And one last piece of advice from this marketing guru: be yourself. The point of a personal brand is to get personal. Spend a little time thinking about who you are. That’s the person you want to share with the world and that’s how you will leave an enduring legacy.