There's a certain type of brand that is more important than ever before: your personal brand. As more signals, technology and challenges compete for our attention, it’s important to be able to stand out from the noise.
Your personal brand extends to both the digital world and your career, so it’s important to manage it correctly. Together, offline and online branding gives any onlookers — be they managers, human resources, colleagues, influencers or friends — the complete picture of who you really are.
Here’s how to define your brand and put your best foot forward.
Offline brand: How you treat people is key
To paraphrase Maya Angelou, people will forget what you said or exactly what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Developing a personal brand in the offline world is all about how you treat people and act in your day-to-day life — especially at the office. The feelings and ideas that people associate with you will actually become your brand.
Keeping this in mind, people will cultivate offline brands that include the type of work they focus on, the causes they are passionate about, their hobbies, the type of pop culture they consume and even how adventurous they are with food. All of these attributes help define who you are as a person, while also reflecting on people's expectations of you in the workplace.
For example, someone with a personal brand who is seen as ‘approachable, agreeable and cares about volunteering’ is a great pick for a role working on a team. Or if you are pursuing a role in finance, you can emphasize and reinforce your personal brand in the office by being detail-oriented and a problem-solver.
Don’t be afraid to let people know your personal brand standard. Map out what your career goals are, and then think about the qualities and experiences you’d need to be successful in that role.
Online brand: Find new opportunities in the digital world
Entrepreneur Peter Voogd, founder of the Game Changers Academy, credits an important action in his six-month journey from broke to social business success: consistency in branding. In order to stand out, says Voogd, it was that consistency over the long haul that really made the difference and helped him earn a seven-figure salary.
As a brand, he has made his name and face stand out amongst the masses — using social media like Instagram and Snapchat to gain massive followers and publicity for his books and digital assets. Now his strategies are featured in major publications, he has speaking engagements lined up around the world, and he is considered a "leading authority for Millennials and entrepreneurs."
In the online space, developing a personal brand requires that constant attention and tailoring — this helps you build an audience and define exactly what your brand stands for. Whether it’s social media, a personal website or any other number of possibilities, online personal branding is about using the platform to tell your key messages.
80 per cent of human resources departments search for job applicants online before even inviting for an interview. Clearly, the business world is looking out for your personal brand as well. Knowing this ahead of time, you can make an impression with well-groomed profiles.
A word of caution: make sure your online personal brand is consistent with how you want to be seen. With the ability to catalogue your interests as well as endless blogs, comments and media that people can create, a personal brand can come into its own very quickly — so make it count.
An online personal brand can also sink your offline brand if it is not aligned with who you claim to be offline. No one likes to be misled, and that’s especially true of brands. Volkswagen is still paying, in both fines and brand damage, for emission claims about the environmental friendliness of their cars.
Stand above the crowd: How to bring them together
Barry Saltzman, CEO of Saltzman Enterprise Group and Partner at Culture Measures, notes that the “mutual relationship between career success and personal branding is a truly unique dynamic." With over 30 years of experience as an executive, Saltzman has had a strong focus on developing the people side of the business world.
He goes on further to state that, "when understood, (personal branding) has the potential to launch a person to new heights.” Your online and offline personal brand come together when you apply for new roles, network with contacts at events, collaborate with clients, and in countless other situations throughout your career.
While there is always the urge for some to cloud or exaggerate their aptitude, as sometimes happens with new hires or workers at the start of their careers, there is no need to hide behind inexperience. We've all started out at the very beginning. Your career is exciting, and the start of a new professional life (whether you're brand new or starting over) can be an incredible story that draws others to your brand.
In addition, if you exaggerate your personal brand, there are aspects that can be easily verified. If you're making new connections or interested in getting hired for a particular position, those contacts and hiring managers will still be able to use their expert judgment to see through it for the most part.
With that in mind, the most diligent people will go above and beyond when aligning their online and offline personal brand.
1. Have a plan
Going in with a strategy of what your goals are and how you plan to reach them will make combining your online and offline brand that much easier. Are you searching for a new job? Are you looking for a promotion and level up within your existing company? Do you aspire to become a keynote speaker or moderate conference workshops?
No matter what your goals, think of them as guidelines for your ‘do’ and ‘do not do’ lists. If certain activities will help towards your goals, then make sure you complete them.
Feeling novice? Don’t be afraid to talk to career consultants about how to do this.
2. Be consistent both online and offline
Just like Peter Voogd, it's important that you stay true to who you are and how you present yourself to the world. You’re known for certain qualities, and ensuring you demonstrate them both online and offline will help people see your brand as one unified party.
Being your honest (yet refined) self will make this a breeze, but many people struggle with this part. Don't feel alone in this, as everyone encounters inner conflict at one time or another with this part. Discover your true self by reflecting on the activities you do on a regular basis, the people you surround yourself with and the things that truly inspire you.
Make sure those aspects line up with who you want to be, and that you genuinely present those in your online persona. There's no point overstating who you are or what you do, as the offline world will see right through you.
3. Reinforce your name
Make sure that your name is part of the right conversations and in the right spaces. Your name is literally your calling card — and by making it part of your brand, your audience will know who and what to expect from you.
Join the right groups on LinkedIn that match your goals, abilities and experience. Write blog posts under your name, and connect with people by explaining past experiences in real language, which will engage people as if they already know you. And in person, make sure you employ all the common networking techniques by shaking people's hands, introducing yourself by name, handing out business cards and then following-up again with an online connection.
The digital world is only becoming further entrenched in how we all do business, so you should expect to see even more cultivated personal branding online and offline. Creating a well crafted and genuine persona can help develop your career and put you one step ahead of the competition.