Most people don’t feel the need to do any marketing unless it’s their job to promote a brand. But the truth is, that’s everyone’s job — because we all have a personal brand to promote. Especially in the digital age, the way you present yourself and the messages you send alongside yourself can have a huge impact on your career.
This was a hard pill for me to swallow. I resisted building a personal brand for a long time because I hate inauthenticity. I just want to be myself, and I think it’s unfair that people — especially women — have to think about their image to get the credit they deserve for their work. But then I realized: If you’re not going to be self-promotional, someone else will. And even if they’re no better than you, they’ll get more opportunities because more people will know about them. And building a personal brand in accordance with your true identity can actually make you feel more like yourself.
“Having an online presence is becoming increasingly essential in a society that relies so heavily on the internet,” Jennifer Lee Magas, MA, JD, VP of Magas Media Consultants and Clinical Associate Professor of Public Relations at Pace University, tells Bustle. “In today's digital age, you are your brand. Therefore, it's important to maintain your internet brand management and do so in the most effective way for your career. A key element of your personal and professional brand is your digital footprint, which can help you obtain employment, allow you to contribute significantly to your employer's operation, and advance your career.”
Here are some ways to improve your personal brand and give yourself a competitive advantage.
1Figure Out What Makes You Stand Out
There’s probably no shortage of people in your profession on the internet, so you need to consider your unique strengths, abilities, and personality traits, Stacey Cohen, President and CEO of Co-Communication, tells Bustle. Ask yourself why someone would come to you instead of someone else in your industry. You could even look through the websites or social media profiles of people you consider your competitors and ask yourself what you do differently from them.
2Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Don’t just ask yourself who you are — ask yourself who you’ll become, Kari DePhillips, Owner of The Content Factory, tells Bustle. If you present yourself that way online, you’ll have a better chance of becoming that person. For example, I described myself as a “feminist writer” on Twitter when I could count the articles I’d published on one hand. But letting people know that’s what I was becoming helped me build an audience of people interested in feminist writing, which probably helped me succeed.
“Come up with the baddest ass version of yourself that you'd like to be seen as,” says DePhillips. “Map out the steps it will take for you to actually become that badass (I like to put each step on a Post It), and what kind of goals you should accomplish along the way. Then, start knocking out those Post Its.”
3Create A Signature Look
One easy way to distinguish yourself is to have a unique look, Gisele Bisson, a personal branding and internet marketing consultant at Visibility Shift Communications, tells Bustle. Think Marilyn Monroe's hair or filmmaker Tiffany Shalain’s red lipstick. “A consistent fashion statement will make you iconic and memorable,” says Bisson.
4Pick A Signature Color
Your brand’s signature color can carry over online and in real life, says Bisson. You might, for example, have a turquoise streak in your hair and make your Twitter theme turquoise. The more you can give people a visual that automatically makes them think of you, the more they’ll remember you.
5. Know Your Audience
When building your personal brand, it also helps to think about what the people you want to appeal to will be looking for. “Consider age, gender, personality and profession,” Cohen says. “Then, identify your clients’ pain points: how can you solve their needs better than your competitors? What is their preferred channel of communication?”
6Plaster Your Brand Everywhere
Come up with ways of describing yourself or even images that match your personal brand, and put them in as many places as possible, Cohen advises. Along with being active on social media, having your own website can go a long way, Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer of BeenVerified, tells Bustle. “It doesn’t have to be elaborate,” he says. “It can be a simple site with your resume, links to your social platforms, and a bio with a photo. Having your own site gives you a platform to build your brand from. It will also help rank your name on the search engines.”
Sometimes, the best way to figure out who you are is to see who you’re not, says Lavelle. Google yourself and notice if anything that comes up portrays you in a way you don’t want to be portrayed. Then, think about how you want to come off instead and how you can convey that. You can also sign up for Google Alerts to see when your name comes up online.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to have fun with it — because then, people will have fun interacting with your brand as well.