Estimated reading time: around 10 minutes
Today, personal branding is talked about to such an extent it became a buzzword, but it still has undeniable value – especially in the context of job hunting and career building. Wherever you look, competition is harsh and you need to invest and effort to make yourself recognizable and memorable.
However, building a name for yourself is not an easy task. It implies articulating your skills and expertise, identifying your strong sides, and finding a way to communicate your authenticity to the world. This leads us to the ultimate question:
How to brand yourself?
At Domain.me blog, we try our best to educate working professionals about important business skills and effective strategies that will help them prosper. Needless to say, personal branding has always been in our focus. We decided to consult some of the most prominent experts in this field and ask them for insider tips on personal branding.
Introducing: Mel Carson, personal branding consultant and keynote speaker, author of the Introduction to Personal Branding; Mark Schaefer, consultant, speaker, and author of the book KNOWN; Karl D. Speak, president of the Brand Tool Box and the author of Be Your Own Brand; and last, but not least – our lovely CMO, Natasa Djukanovic, also a founder of digitalizuj.me and spark.me, who is often asked to share her experience in brand building, as well as domain and marketing expertise on conferences.
Let’s move on to the questions.
1. How would you define personal branding?
Mel Carson: Personal Branding is the practice of defining your professional purpose and being able to articulate your experience and value to your target audience through digital media and in-person.
Mark Schaefer: A brand is what somebody thinks about a company. A personal brand is what people think about you. So this is something to pay attention to!
Karl D. Speak: I have found that some people conflate the notions of personal brand and personal branding, the former being more like a noun that defines the identity of a person; the latter being akin to a verb describing the actions taken to ensure that one’s authentic personal brand is accurately perceived by others. You may find this content taken from Brand Tool Box website interesting to add to your perspective:
Everyone has a brand and anyone can be a strong brand. It doesn’t involve changing your personality and you can be an introvert or an extrovert. The difference between one personal brand and another is that the person with a strong brand utilizes his or her special qualities to make a difference in the lives of others. Using one’s values and distinctive qualities to make a difference for others is the core ethos of a strong, thriving personal brand. [… ] One cannot underestimate the importance of authenticity, nor can one overestimate the power of alignment in striving to become a stronger brand. The challenge to building a stronger brand is having the courage to be authentic, finding alignment with others, and applying one’s special qualities creatively to make a difference.
Natasa Djukanovic: I know everybody connects personal branding with celebrities, or famous people, and it usually means creating and maintaining a unique and distinct image of that person. But why can’t it be done for us, ordinary people too? We all want other people to think about us in a way we want them to believe. Personal branding is basically taking care of what part of ourselves do we expose and being aware that is what should be seen.
2. What are some of the best ways one can build a personal brand? Can you share some insider tips?
Mel Carson: In my book Introduction to Personal Branding, I talk about the importance of having purpose. Many of the people who come to us don’t know why they do what they do. They have no professional or personal compass. They are going around in circles and have no direction.
First, figure out your purpose and mission. Then, work on who your audience is, who are your trying to touch with your personal brand. How do you want them to act or react? How are they going to help you achieve your mission? Lastly, recognize your value. For too many their personal brand is all about them. Actually, your personal brand is your shop front to the value you bring others. Be of use to others and your halo effect will increase. We have a mantra with personal brand and content. AURA = Authentic, Useful, Relevant and Actionable. Stick to those adjectives when you present yourself and you won’t go far wrong.
Mark Schaefer: I did years of research to develop my book KNOWN and the process I describe in there is really the only way to do it. I have found no exceptions. Simply put there are four primary steps: 1) define what you want to be known for (your story) 2) figure an underserved place to tell that story; 3) consistently produce one content type to tell that story and 4) build an actionable audience (this is different than a social media audience!). Done with consistency and patience, this process works.
Karl D. Speak: Effective personal brand building begins with defining an authentic Personal Brand Platform. No matter what model one uses we believe it is very important to anchor the definition of a personal brand by stating an individual’s five most important personal values. Those values must be translated into a set of Personal Brand Dimensions that describe the behaviors that are a true reflection of their authentic personal brand.
Natasa Djukanovic: We often find ourselves to start working on our personal brands, when we already have a big and diversified online presence. Most of that building is actually understanding who we are and what do we want to be online. That is a process of internal discovery and reflection and going in line with that.
3. What would be common mistakes people make when they start to actively work on their personal brand?
Mel Carson: Broadcasting. At Delightful Communications, we are in the business of helping personal brands be more discoverable, shareable and memorable. Broadcasting too much about yourself and not engaging with, or bringing others with you, is a total turn off.
Mark Schaefer: I do a lot of coaching in this area and I see two common mistakes. First, people try to be too broad with their brand idea – what they want to be known for. It’s better to discover a small but viable niche. Second, they try to do too much. They may be doing a blog, a podcast, Instagram and more because they think they need to be everywhere. Just choose one platform, do it well, and build an audience there.
Karl D. Speak: Not taking the time and introspection to define their Personal Brand Platform. Not routinely measuring the perceptions others have of them. Failing to understand the principles of perception management. Confusing social media activity as personal branding. Failing to align their personal brand with the brand of their employer.
Natasa Djukanovic: Being mild and not standing for values. Authenticity is often the one thing that makes a person noticeable and liked. In addition to that – hiding mistakes and deleting when already too many people reacted; better apologize and make fun of yourself if needed, just don’t pretend nothing happened. Also, jumping into conclusions without investigating. Do a little research before you express your opinion online.
4. How important is personal branding in the context of job hunting?
Mel Carson: Massive. Recruiters scour social media for insight into applicants’ personal brands, but they also look to see if you will fit into a business’ culture. So be cognizant of what you are putting out there and how you show up online and in person!
Mark Schaefer: That depends on the field. In some areas like computer coding, you may not need much of a reputation, you may just need skills. In highly competitive areas like journalism, or marketing, being “known” is a always a permanent and sustainable advantage.
Karl D. Speak: The first part of this article may provide some insights into this question.
Natasa Djukanovic: There are so many people looking for a job, smarter, prettier, more persistent, with better references than we have. But it’s all about how we represent ourselves, how we “promote” ourselves. If we do that correctly, through a good website or online presence, we have proven to a recruiter that we know what is wanted from us. And also, recruiters google people before they employ them. We have to make sure we can control our online presence.
5. Do you feel people are slowly starting to recognize the importance of building and controlling their personal brand online? Please give us a short comment from your professional perspective.
Mel Carson: I’ve sold 5000 copies of my book on the subject, so that tells you people are very aware of personal branding and our business is growing. Personal branding is a no brainer if you want to get on and up in life. It’s all about the experience people have with you both on and offline. And it’s all the more heightened now we have many a tool available to help monitor and control it.
Mark Schaefer: It’s hard for me to speak for the world, but according to Google Trends, search for the term “personal branding” has increased by 600% since 2005. So, that would be an indicator of progress! I also think that more people are beginning to realize that the personal brand IS the corporate brand in many cases.
Karl D. Speak: Mostly everyone we have worked with in the last 10 years understand the importance of the digital world and their personal brand. After working with many thousands of business professionals we have found that many gain powerful insights by defining their personal brand; gain even more powerful personal insights when they discover through valid research techniques how they are perceived by others and are challenged and motivated to narrow the “perception gap” between the personal brand they believe in and how others perceive their personal brand.
Natasa Djukanovic: As somebody who often employs people (especially outsourcing), the first thing I do is google the company, but I also google the person who is an account manager. Around five years ago, I couldn’t find those people online and I didn’t feel I can trust them. Now it’s so much more different. More people express their opinions online, which makes them more transparent and easier to understand. If you can’t find somebody online today, it looks murky and it’s difficult to connect with them.
Awesome insights! We thank the above mentioned personal branding experts for taking the time to answer our questions and share their expertise.
Hopefully, now you have a clearer idea regarding the importance of personal branding, as well as ideas on how to brand yourself. If you want to start by building your own website, you know you can count on .ME as the most personal domain name out there!