In recent years, personal branding has become a professional hot button as the rise of social media technologies has made branding not only more personal, but put it within reach. Personal branding isn’t limited to marketing professionals or business executives. You can create a personal brand whether you’re an at-home parent considering a return to the work force or a professional working in almost any field.
Personal branding is simply how you market yourself to others. By understanding how personal branding works and how to network using today’s technology, busy parents can better market themselves for future or current employment opportunities. We asked local professionals how to create an exceptional brand that translates into an effective job search or workplace image, how to build on that image regardless of your work environment or employment status, and how to make the best use of social platforms for networking and career purposes. Once you establish your personal brand, you can use it to build equity and leverage the same strategies celebrities and corporate entities use to become appealing and memorable.
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Create your brand
“Knowing oneself is the foundation on which effective networking, conversation and projects are based,” says Rachel Minihan, a consultant with Purple Phone PR & Marketing, a Holly Springs company specializing in content creation and strategy via digital marketing channels. Personal branding is vital in conveying who you are, what you are interested in and what you have to offer, she says.
“Today, employers and clients want to hire someone who is active in the community, interested in cultivating relationships, considered a resource and committed to [his or her] own tribe of personal brand ambassadors,” says Danielle Hatfield of Experience Farm, a Greensboro-based company that provides brand strategy and web development. Having a consistent and easily identifiable presence, she says, makes it effortless for those who are interested in connecting with you.
So where do you start? Whether you work full or part time, in a corporate environment, out of your house or on the road, you’ll need to do your homework. Brand discovery, experts say, is about:
* Figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life.
* Establishing goals.
* Committing to a written mission, vision and personal brand statement that defines what you do and who you serve.
* Creating a development plan.
Experts suggest reflecting on and writing down the answers to three important questions:
* Who am I and what are my personal values?
* What are my short- and long-term missions in life?
* What do I value most in my day-to-day lifestyle?
Define who you are
A clear visual image of who you are and what you represent is key to defining and establishing a unique brand. You’ll achieve success in all areas of life more easily when your various personas merge, becoming not you at work, you at home or you with your friends — but simply, you. In a sense, you become your brand.
“Once you have absolute clarity regarding who you are and your purpose, your personal brand will shine effortlessly because what you say and do will be congruent and consistent,” says Marlon Smith, a consultant with Success By Choice, a Charlotte-based company that offers leadership development and workshops.
“Carve out a persona that works in tandem with your performance,” says Olalah Njenga, CEO of YellowWood Group, a marketing strategy firm in Raleigh. “In this regard, you, your talent, personal attributes and demonstrated results start to chisel out your brand.”
Njenga says personal brands can be heavily influenced by other roles, so if you work from home as an alternative to relying on outside child care, be careful not to see yourself as a mom or dad first, since this could possibly hinder how others perceive you as a professional. She offers the following tips for creating a strong personal brand that has impact and relevance:
* Be consistent in how you package yourself, including the words that describe you, your style, how you are perceived and how you show up in the world.
* Monitor your online reputation with free tools (like SocialMention.com) and budget-friendly tools that reveal what is being said about you. Take note of what to keep, stop and start doing.
* Celebritize yourself. Develop a plan to boost your visibility online and offline. Bolster your image by focusing on areas where you can be exceptional and offer a unique perspective.
Choose a brand name
Marketing, branding and social media expert Kristen Daukas of Twin City SAM in Winston-Salem recommends selecting a brand name and sticking with it. “Capture every piece of social-media real estate you can,” she says. “If you’re unsure of what name to choose, Namechk.com will give you the availability.”
Seek out and purchase your domain, then use it as a home base. Use a consistent online image, or avatar, across social sites to achieve a polished personal brand, extending this to business cards and real-world experiences. “Think of yourself as a product,” Hatfield says. “If you want to be noticed, you need to have great packaging that stands out.”
Start a blog
Blogging is another way to get noticed. Write often, use good search engine optimization terms and post through applications such as Twitter, FeedBurner and Delicious. With time and dedication, your brand will climb in its Google ranking, increasing your chances of being discovered by someone looking for your expertise. Join blog communities and comment on posts you find interesting. “The more you comment on other blogs, the more traffic your blog will get,” Daukas says.
Carve out time for your brand
The biggest key to maintaining and maximizing your brand is to make time for it. Whether at home or dropping kids at day care before work, parents are busy. But take time to build your image online and through your activities.
“Remember, a successful brand mirrors who you are. If you don’t take time to actively pursue your interest/passion/mission, your brand withers,” Minihan says.
Be consistent and intentional. “In today’s economy and shifting workforce, it’s not a luxury to make time for your passions and stay connected to the communities and information that dominate your brand,” she says. “It’s a necessity.”
Make your milestones resonate with others. Relationships play a major role in achieving desired outcomes. Smith updates the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” with “It’s not what you know, but who knows you.” Social media is a tremendous way to communicate with vast numbers of people, so contributing only value-added nuggets to your audience is crucial.
Use your personal brand to educate people about you, the person, not just as a tool to sell your skills. “One governing principle that blessed my life is, ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,'” Smith says. “Share solutions and encouragement, and in return, people will be excited to share opportunities, insight and connections with you.”
Hatfield recommends thinking of each social network as a foreign country with its own language and customs that you, the user, must learn and adapt to. Find the sites where you are most comfortable and cultivate relationships based on your interests in and outside the office.
Although you can make connections without ever leaving your desk, it’s important to actively participate in your community, since clients often prefer to know a face. Remember to balance professional functions with time online.
“Personal branding is not a new concept,” Njenga says. “Having a targeted brand plan that positions you in an unforgettable way is paramount to lasting professional success.”
SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS AND TRICKS
Participate and market yourself through social media in the digital marketplace by following these suggestions:
* Introduce yourself. Learn who the heavy hitters are in your field, or in the company where you’d like to work. Follow or “fan” these professionals. Once you understand their ideas, join the conversation. Comment on their blog, share a tweet that would interest them or ask a specific question. You’ll be surprised at how many reply.
* Don’t sell yourself — be yourself. Social media isn’t the job interview. It’s simply the conversation that may lead to the interview.
* Think like a search engine and use keywords. If you’re looking to sell or use a certain skill, that skill should be included in all of your social media profiles. If you write a blog, blend those keywords into your post.
* Commit the time. Set a realistic goal for how much time you can devote to social media and stay on target. Set a timer when necessary.
* Learn who is using which tool. Twitter is a great way to discover new people and learn where to find them online.
Carolina Parenting Inc.
Carolina Parent, Charlotte Parent, Piedmont Parent