What do people find when they Google you?
Or when they look you up on LinkedIn?
What sort of impression do you leave with people that you meet at a networking event?
What do people think when they work with you in a business meeting?
These are a few points where you make an impression on others. Sometimes they are actively trying to learn more about you. Sometimes they are more passively forming an opinion.
Across any of these interactions, people will get a sense of who you are and what you might have to offer. They will also learn about your style and personality.
You can just let that happen, which is what most people do. Or you can be a little more active in shaping your personal brand.
Imagine if you could show more people your best attributes. Maybe you would help them understand how deep your expertise is in a certain area. Perhaps you would like them to see how clever you are in solving problems. But probably you would at least want them to know your core competencies.
You might even want them to know a bit about your personality and style.
Well, you can. And it’s easier than you think.
I will show you how.
A Little Brand Work
When people think of you, what do you want to be the first thing that comes to mind?
Quick, consider: McDonalds, Starbucks, Target, Apple, Disney, Coke.
Like those brands or not, you have an immediate association. What do you want your association to be?
It’s got to be something authentic. So you’ve got to know what your biggest and best strengths are.
StandOut 2.0: Assess Your Strengths, Find Your Edge, Win at Work by Marcus Buckingham (affiliate link) is a quick and easy way to get a sense of your strengths if you haven’t done much work in this area yet. The book includes a self-assessment exam.
You can also reach out to friends and colleagues to ask them for feedback. They can often give you insight and perspective that’s difficult to acquire by yourself.
You can also ponder a few key questions:
What is it about you that you wish everyone knew? What is the best impression they could have of you? What value do you have to offer that you wish people would notice?
As you get a sense of how you would like the world to see you, take action.
When is the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile?
Maybe when you last changed jobs? Perhaps not for a long time?
Well, it’s time to take a look. What does it say in your “summary” area? How can you reshape it to better reflect your emerging brand?
Re-writing the summary is a good first step. This forces you to articulate your personal brand a little more clearly.
Go through the rest of your profile and look for other places to tweak and update.
This is one of the first places that people will learn about you. It’s a great place to put forth how you would like others to see you, whether they are former colleagues, current colleagues, potential employees, potential employers, associates, or vendors.
Show Them How You Think
Now that you’ve taken some easy steps, it’s time to share more. An easy way to shape your personal brand is to publish original content. An update profile is nice, but showing more about what you think about and how you think can really go a long way.
LinkedIn is once again a great place to start. It’s the main hub of professional networking and it has some nice tools that are easy to use.
LinkedIn allows you to post original content. Here you can more fully express your thoughts on just about anything. Perhaps you want to publish your analysis of a current topic in your industry. Or maybe you want to share some thoughts on something less timely or controversial. Whatever you share, it should tie back in some way to the personal brand ideas you developed above. What impression are you trying to make?
If you’re not quite ready to post original content, you can start by sharing content from others. Posting links to relevant articles shows what you are reading and thinking about.
People will look for you on LinkedIn, but they will also Google you. You should periodically Google yourself and see what comes up.
You should also take a little more control over what does come up in those search results. One easy way to do this, other than LinkedIn which will likely show up in the top results, is to register your own domain name.
If you can, register a domain name that is made up of your firstname+lastname.com. A domain costs less than $10 per year and for another $10 per year you can host it at a place like wordpress.com. This low tech, easy approach will allow you to put up at least a few pages of content about yourself.
This is an easy way to put out exactly what you want people to find most. You can include a bio, photos, and perhaps even a little original content on certain topic matters. You could even share some more personal content. Whatever you want to convey about your personal brand.
Your brand online is important, but the impression you make in person is crucial too, of course. This is why it’s important to be authentic in how you represent yourself online. People should already feel like they know you a bit from your online trail. And that should ring true when they meet you.
The benefit of working actively to develop and promote yourself online a bit is that it forces you to think through what you would like your brand to be. You then need to put it into words and demonstrate it somehow online. Which helps when you are meeting and working with people in person.
Once you’ve crystallized a sense of your brand in you mind by working on your online presence, it helps you to realize small things you can do offline. The words and phrases you use, the way you talk about things, the sorts of things you talk about will be informed by the work you did to put content online.
And the conversations you have in person will start to inform future content that you will post online. One informs the other. And both become consistent. Which is what you want. Your authentic self, represented consistently, and continuing to develop and evolve.