Branding is no longer just limited to the Apples, Starbucks, Nikes, and other large companies of the world. All of us have an opportunity to develop and build our personal brand as individuals, a brand that plays a key role in determining how we want to be known in our professional, academic, and personal circles.
A major reason to focus on building your personal brand is that it sends a clear, consistent message about who you are and what you have to offer professionally. An authentic personal brand helps you become known for what youâ€™re good at, sets you apart from others and positions you as an expert in your field.
Here are three important yet simple steps you can take in developing or improving upon your personal brand:
By far one of the most-viewed TED talks is Simon Sinekâ€™s How Great Leaders Inspire Action â€“ and for good reason. It carries a powerful message that we all can use, which is that people donâ€™t care so much about what you do or how you do it, but why you do it. Your true purpose sets you apart.
In building your personal brand, start by writing down the passions and interests that drive you each day. Also think about what others seek you out for and the phrases they would use to describe you. It could be anything from â€œanalytical Excel god with a penchant for problem-solvingâ€ to â€œmaster connector and relationship builder.â€ In fact, ask your friends and colleagues to describe you. Simon Sinekâ€™s website even has a neat â€œFriends Exerciseâ€ tool to help you start finding your â€œwhy.â€
Once you understand your â€œwhy,â€ you will need to express it â€“ succinctly. When introducing yourself at interviews, conferences, networking events and other social functions, your 60-second (or less) â€œelevator pitchâ€ is key to expressing your personal brand. You need to make it count.
To develop a powerful elevator speech, first revisit your â€œwhy.â€ Think back to the last conference or networking event you attended. Chances are, the first question you asked someone and vice versa was, â€œWhat do you do?â€ And chances are, you both said something along the lines of, â€œI work as [job title] at [company name], a [brief company description].â€ Although functional, this response leaves out the drive behind what you do and does little to inspire interest.
Iâ€™ll use my role as an example. I just started working as PR Manager at CommonBond. At my next networking event, I could easily say as much. Or, I could say, â€œIâ€™m applying my passions for writing, storytelling and relationship-building in my role as PR Manager at CommonBond. Weâ€™re a platform thatâ€™s changing the student loan industry by lowering the cost of education for borrowers and providing returns for investors.â€
The latter response demonstrates energy and passion, which is likely to lead to an engaging conversation. Regardless of what you do, you can come up with a similar type of elevator pitch that makes you stand out and effectively demonstrates your personal brand.
Once you have the key foundational elements of your personal brand in place, itâ€™s time to live it. Here are ways to publicly showcase what you have to offer:
Use social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to broadcast your professional and personal messaging. Regularly sharing compelling content and ideas on these sites will help you engage effectively with others, and work toward building your brand.
Create a personal website, which can be as simple as a page with your bio, rÃ©sumÃ©, social media links, and a contact form. This will populate search results for your name with a page sharing who you are and what your goals are.If you want to get your perspectives out in the media, a great way to do so is to sign up for a service called Help a Reporter Out (HARO), which connects journalists with expert sources for specific stories. Topics range from business and finance to lifestyle, and you can receive a roundup of queries from journalists each weekday morning, afternoon and evening.
It will take time and nurturing to build the right personal brand, but with the right foundations in place, youâ€™ll be well on your way!
Michaela Kron is PR Manager at CommonBond, a student lending platform that provides a better student loan experience through lower rates, exceptional customer service, and a commitment to community. CommonBond is also the first company to bring the 1-for-1 model to education and finance.