You. The Brand.

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Taco Bell. Jeep. Walmart. Apple. Dell.

What do all of those names have in common? They are all brands (and well-known ones at that). Each of these companies have built a strong and unique brand image through their products, services, advertisements, social media presence, and other communications with the public.

Did you know that you are brand too? Whether you know it or not, the way that you interact with others is similar to how companies express themselves. Your statuses on Facebook, tweets on Twitter, videos on YouTube, and posts on your blog provide potential friends and employers a wealth of information about you, without them ever having to meet you. Once they do meet you, you can refer them to your personal sites so that they can learn more about you and your passions, skills, and abilities.

I had a friend who is a personal trainer ask me a few months ago: “How can I build my personal brand and find more clients?” Here are some tips to help him and you develop a personal brand:

  1. Know yourself
    If you do not know what your personal skills, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses are, then you will have a hard time developing a consistent message and image. Before you begin branding yourself, take time to reflect on what your core competency is. A core competency is a trait or skill that sets you apart from everyone else. It is hard for others to copy and can be used in a variety of situations. Your core competency is what you build your personal brand around.
  2. Be genuine
    When marketing yourself online or in person, you must, must, must be genuine. It is tempting, especially when job hunting, to slightly exaggerate some of your qualities or abilities in order to stand out from the crowd. This is not the wisest approach to take (just ask Food Network star Robert Irvine who got in some hot water over his resume) because someone will eventually find out that you misrepresented yourself. When you create a resume, LinkedIn profile, or are having a conversation with someone, be realistic. Your friends and employers will thank you for it.
  3. Communicate effectively
    Many times when we think of communication, the first thing that comes to mind is talking with someone. The truth is that whenever you talk, write, post, compose, text, or tweet something, you are communicating. What you choose to say or display tells others about who you are, what you value, and how you operate. This can be an enormous advantage to building your personal brand. Besides the traditional communication channels (in-person, phone, mail, etc), two ‘new’ avenues for communicating with the entire world are Twitter and blogs. Twitter, whether you like it or not, is a fantastic way to build your personal brand (as long as you don’t overdo it). Not only can you tweet about topics related to your occupation or that you are passionate about, you can also connect with and converse with users from all over the world that you may not have been able to otherwise. Blogs allow you to do something similar, but allow the writer to develop an idea more and communicate their thoughts in more detail. If you create a blog, then interact with other bloggers as well to promote your blog. The mistake a lot of bloggers make is keeping to themselves on the Internet rather than conversing with other bloggers. In addition to having good communication skills, it is essential to be consistent across all of your communication channels (that is one reason my WordPress, Twitter, and YouTube accounts all have a similar background). As David Meerman Scott puts it in his book The New Rules of Marketing & PR: “You are what you publish.” Since each channel has its own advantages and disadvantages, link them all together to reinforce your brand image. (For example, on my business cards, I put a line that says “Connect with me:” with the LinkedIn logo under it. From my LinkedIn page, they can access all of my other social media sites.)
  4. Go where “they” are
    I recently read about a man that, while he was in college, used to complain about being single from time to time. One of his friends got tired of hearing about it and told him, “If you want to meet girls, you have to go where the girls are.” The same is true for your personal brand. Want a certain person to be your friend? Go where they go. Looking for a new client for your company? Go where people that would be interested in your company go. In order to expand your personal brand, you need to connect with the people who might be interested in what you have to offer. Whether that is going to networking events put on by your local chamber of commerce, attending a job fair, or joining a social community online, it will be hard to increase your brand awareness without meeting the right people.
  5. Build the relationship
    Here’s an important thing for anyone building his or her personal brand to remember: Relationships drive action. When thinking about this topic, it is easy to begin viewing yourself as a product that you are trying to pitch. While there is an element of truth to that idea, it is only the tip of the personal branding iceberg. The bulk of said iceberg is composed of relationships. Marketing yourself goes beyond shaking someone’s hand, giving him/her your business card, and moving on, hoping they give you a call the next day. To really get your name out there, you must build relationships with people: not for the sake of getting something out of them or hoping they will hire you, but to get to know them. If the purpose for your pursuit of a relationship is genuine, the other person can tell. Once a true relationship is established, not only will you have a new friend, you have another person who can potentially be an advocate for you. Also, in the corporate world, people would prefer to do business with people they know than with a stranger. Get to know people within your company and at other companies and spend time with them outside of the office to build those relationships.  Think beyond the business card.

These are just a few tips on how to build your personal brand. Should you decide to take your brand to the next level, create a personal logo, design a custom background for your social media sites, or make a video resume. If you have any further suggestions, please add them in the comments. Take care of your brand because it can take a lifetime to build, but just one bad moment to tear down.

-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.

To see how I have tried to synchronize my personal brand across various social networks, click on the Connect tab and visit the different sites.

[image credit: CPOA on Flickr]

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About Lawson Hembree
Lawson is an entrepreneur, ministry leader, and outdoors enthusiast who also enjoys blogging about business, ideas, and theology. Want to continue the discussion or write a guest post? Let's Connect!

3 Responses to You. The Brand.

  1. Pingback: Is Social Media Making Us Less Social? « Lawson Hembree's Blog

  2. Pingback: How to Harness the Power of Social Media to Land Your Next Job [Guest Post] | Lawson Hembree's Blog

  3. Pingback: How to Develop a Personal Mission Statement | Lawson Hembree's Blog

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