Greg Smith (pictured below) is an expert in career development, talent management and organisational leadership. The co-founder of HR consulting firm Deliberatepractice and author of Career Conversations: How to get the best from your talent pool. Here, Smith offers his tips on building your most important brand – you.
You have a personal brand whether you know it or not (and whether you like or not)! Branding is a marketing strategy that seeks to influence buying decisions by demonstrating value and building an emotional connection with prospective customers and fostering brand loyalty.
Your brand promise provides others with an expectation of what they’ll get from engaging with you. Personal branding is an essential element of career development and draws on your integrity and values. It reflects who you are as person and what you stand for. There are many aspects to how your brand promise can be delivered and it must be relied upon to deliver what is implicitly and explicitly promoted. Even minor hiccups can cause considerable damage to trust and brand reputation. A good place to get started is by imagining if your brand could talk and asking yourself and others, “what would it say?”. Does what you hear reflect your perceived reality or perhaps hold surprises? Either way it’s time to take ownership of your brand by starting some basic and practical steps to building, protecting and nurturing your personal brand.
When it comes to career development many struggle with finding the words to describe what they stand for and want. For some this can stem from a strong sense of humility which is a lovely human quality but not very helpful for building a personal brand. We need to understand our values which can be expressed motivation, career and culture fit along our strengths, skills and capabilities and career achievements. These form a metaphorical ruler which we can use to shape career direction and decisions. Importantly we need to be able to express this clearly and succinctly to others.
Does perception match reality?
Begin by researching what others perceive your personal brand to be. You can do this by talking to trusted contacts in your network and asking them for their perceptions and what shaped or influenced their views. Analyse reactions such as comments to your professional social media posts along with endorsements! This includes not just what comments are made but whether you are getting comments at all. There are many sources of insights into perceptions of your brand such as 360 degree surveys, performance reviews and public comments made at company award ceremonies. Remember all feedback is gold even if it holds some unpleasant surprises! This provides knowledge about what needs to be changed.
Know where you going and why
Your personal branding should support your career aspirations and connect seamlessly to your target audience.
Being clear about your career direction and goals is a must. Knowing where you’re going and why will help you to craft and fine tune your personal brand messaging. The ‘why’ will provide you with the meaning for your career decisions and articulate your intrinsic motivations. Once this is established you will find personal marketing messages will flow more easily.
Craft your social media profile and presence
Social media can be a powerful medium to promote your brand; they are all extensions of you! It can help you engage your brand with your target audience with a broad reach. This should start with your LinkedIn profile. Write your profile from scratch and in a way that readers can get to know you. LinkedIn also provides helpful information about how to build an effective profile. As much as social media can build your brand it can also damage it by posting comments, articles or other news inconsistent with your brand. Ill-considered posts can erode trust, confidence and your overall brand promise in only a few words. So be careful what you post on all social media platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Remember, once it’s in cyberspace it’s there for ever and can come back to haunt you years later.
Whether the medium is social media, networking, documentation or personal representations being consistent in all your messaging is critical. Every single interaction can reinforce and strengthen your brand but also has the capacity to damage it if your messaging is inconsistent and leaves the receiver uncertain about your brand promise or worst still appears to create doubt in your authenticity.
Making sure your brand is working for you
Crafting and implementing your personal brand strategy is an exciting and satisfying career development activity. However it takes research, some careful thought, targeted design and constant and deliberate feedback loops to make sure your personal branding is working for you in the way you intended. A mentor/trusted advisor can be helpful in crafting your messaging, staying on track and avoiding common pitfalls. It’s your brand, you own it and it goes to the core of who you are so make sure it says what you want!