personal brand advocacy

The Importance of Developing a Personal Brand

By: Robert Boot

Everyone approaches the concept of self-promotion differently. Some people consider self-promotion arrogance, while others view it as a necessary part of building an effective career. Fortunately, a compromise exists… a powerful strategy referred to as “Personal Branding.”

Why Develop a Personal Brand?

Successful professionals have a set of skills and experiences that clients can benefit from. It can be, however, extremely challenging for an individual to showcase those attributes in firm-wide marketing initiatives.

Because individual skillsets can add tremendous value to a firm’s overall credibility, it is important for employees to be actively engaged in promoting their personal brand. Every professional — and business owner — should have a strategy in place to leverage the skills of each team member through effective and intentional self-branding.

Personal branding is not the same as shameless self-promotion.  Eagerly seeking out opportunities to tout your own skills in every situation is a surefire way to make yourself seem arrogant. Conversely, assuming that great work will speak for itself can result in praiseworthy personal efforts being lost in the crowd. Understanding when and how to draw on personal experiences while contributing to your employer’s efforts can lead to employer success with the added benefit of an enhanced personal brand.

When considering your personal brand, ask yourself these three questions:
  1. What do team members depend on me to deliver?
  2. What value do I provide to clients?
  3. What elements of providing for clients do I enjoy the most?

For one person, the emphasis might require researching solutions to solve a complicated task. For another person, personal branding may include getting to know a client’s true goals and building a process that meets their specific needs. Yet another individual may focus on fostering a cohesive work relationship or team culture.

Research Your Current Brand

Before you can promote a personal brand, it is necessary to understand information already available about you online. As an experiment, open an “incognito” window in Google and search the following about yourself:

  • Your name, first and last
  • Variations of your name
  • If your name is common, consider adding other elements that might help define you, including your occupation, your employer, your school, etc.

What results did you get? In my case, three of the first four results were for social networks — LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. The other is a press release by Tidwell Group. All of these results are current and positive, which is great! In my case — and likely for yours too — social media and content creation will form the backbone of personal branding. Personal branding is all about what other people perceive about you. You can effectively influence that perception through authentic, personalized social media content.

Here are a few examples of what personal branding efforts look like in action:

  1. Act as your own media company. Gary Vaynerchuk, one of my personal branding influencers, says that the Internet has provided the opportunity for anyone to develop great content that people want. Make it educational. Make it helpful. If you find a cool work shortcut, for example, make a post that could help someone else.
  2. Share a variety of content. Your content doesn’t just have to be professional (read: boring). Influencer Marketing Hub recommends using your social profile such as LinkedIn to post “a mix of entertaining, funny, and informative content so that you can meet the needs of different kinds of audiences.”
  3. Interact with your followers and “friends.” Online e-commerce influencer Oberlo, noted that the biggest mistake with social media is to ignore your followers, especially if they interact with your content. Social media is supposed to be social, and it helps to build your personal brand when you interact with people in a friendly and respectful way online.

Tie Personal Branding to Firm-Wide Goals

According to researchers who study the value of skill diversification, professionals who identify two or more unique areas of personal interest are more likely to flourish in their careers than those who try to specialize in just one area. In addition, improvements in online visibility and expanded workplace contributions can contribute to their employer’s growth.

After identifying the ways in which you add value to your workplace, it is important to establish and reinforce that value by increasing your visibility to the professional community. Whether you are early in your career or a seasoned professional, it is time to promote the ways by which you can most effectively contribute knowledge and build interest in your work. Consider the following starting points:

  • Follow other advisors on social media to see how they promote their knowledge and experience
  • Ask your managing partner(s), HR, or marketing team about personal branding activities that would support firm-wide business goals.
  • Read any company policies that guide individual writing, networking, or social media activities on behalf of the company.

Identify areas where you can most effectively contribute. If you prefer writing for the company blog over participating in social media activity — or if the opposite is true — develop a consistent process for contributing. Consistency will help audiences start to associate specific topics or comments with your individual skills and knowledge. This recognition can lead to increased opportunities to participate and future promotions.

Personal Branding Action Items

Start slow, but consistently make improvements to your personal brand. Here are a few tips to consider.

  1. Add Content to LinkedIn or Twitter
    • These particular social media platforms are primarily used by professionals and business media. Keep your Instagram and Facebook accounts private if you prefer them for personal use. I am personally very selective about who I’ friend,’ and I intentionally limit both Facebook and Instagram relationships to a tight circle of my closest friends and family. I never invite co-workers to connect with me through these platforms, except in the most extraordinary circumstances. Accordingly, I recommend that your Facebook post settings allow for ‘friends only’ and not the default setting of ‘friends of friends.’
    • Expand your use of LinkedIn and Twitter by posting about — and commenting on — relevant industry news in a positive way. Selectively engage with posts that relate to your area of expertise.
    • Consider writing a blog post on LinkedIn, seeking endorsements for your skills, and asking for recommendations about your work. Expand on the summaries section of your LinkedIn profile in order to showcase the ways in which you achieve success in your work.
  1. Contribute to Industry Groups and Networks
    • If you only have time to network virtually, follow various industry groups in your field and take time to regularly engage with applicable social media posts.
    • Connect with and follow industry influencers to see how they reinforce their personal brands.
    • When you are able to network in person, look for opportunities to participate in association committees, to participate in speaking engagements, or to share your knowledge by writing for trade publications.
  1. Network Internally and Speak Up
    • Does everyone in your firm know what you do, or have you isolated yourself in your office or cubicle? Be proactive. Look for opportunities to introduce yourself to more people in your company who work in related services.
    • Share your professional expertise and let people know that you are happy to consult on related projects. Tactfully ask questions in meetings that draw attention to your personal contributions.
    • Eat lunch with your colleagues and — when appropriate — direct supervisors. If you work in a fast-paced, results-oriented workplace, make an appointment or ask someone to have a quick coffee at your desk to identify ways in which you might coordinate your work.

The suggestions I have outlined in this article can, if implemented professionally, provide tremendous opportunities to improve your ability to provide exceptional service to your clients and your employer. In addition, effectively promoting your personal brand can have a measurable impact on your personal career trajectory. With the right intentions — a willingness to contribute broadly rather than acting in your own self-interest — people will increasingly trust your professional motives, and you will be seen as an indispensable team player whose contributions benefit the entire team.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me below.

Rob Boot
Tidwell Group Marketing Director

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