The A to Z guide to personal branding

Your personal brand is what people say about you when you are not around. It is how the world sees you. It is your reputation. It is who you are. It is what you value. It is your unique perspective on the world.

In today’s digital age, personal branding is not optional.

A powerful personal brand has its benefits. You can take control of your online identity and influence the perception other people have about you. It can help you to attract opportunities such as a promotion, a new job, a new client, or a new speaking opportunity.

By establishing yourself as an expert on certain topics, you can become a “go-to” source of information. Creating your successful personal brand will require time and effort but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

It starts with understanding and mastering the fundamentals.

Here is your A to Z guide to personal branding:

Accountable

Personal branding is your individual responsibility. That is why it is called personal. No one should manage your brand but you. We are all chief executive officers (CEOs) of our own companies and our job is to be the chief marketing officer (CMO) of the brand called you.

Balance

In today’s age, it is important to distinguish between your personal and professional brand by understanding your audience. One of the easiest ways to balance personal and professional is through your bio. For example, your bio on LinkedIn will be different than your bio on Facebook. Most likely, some of your followers will track down all your social media accounts so it is up to you on who you “let in” into your social networks by accepting or ignoring their connection requests. It is critical to balance your personal and professional brand to make sure that your digital body language is what you want others to know.

Content

It is important to create compelling, entertaining and helpful content through your blog and/or submitting content as a guest contributor to other publications/blogs. By providing a consistent amount of content over time, you will earn a reputation as an expert on the content you publish.

Delete

Think of the Internet as a copy machine. It is easy to replicate but tough to delete. For example, social media platforms like Twitter are easy to delete while others like Pinterest are impossible. If you don’t like what you see online, you need to act using tools like justdelete.me.

Elevator Pitch

If you were in the elevator with your future boss or the CEO of your company, could you tell that person who you are in 30 seconds or less? That is your elevator pitch. Learn how to quickly develop your elevator pitch.

Fad

Is personal branding a fad? Nope. Look at the growth of the words “personal brand” in Google Trends from 2004 to the present. In a survey of hiring managers, 56 percent of them admit candidates that have a personal website are highly impressive. To beat your competition and find that dream job, you need to have a strong personal brand. Your current company should be helping your build that personal brand or you should think about leaving that company for that one that will. According to Fast Company, personal branding is essential to career success.

Generous

Expressing gratitude and generosity are qualities that make people remember you. Being noticed is critical in building your personal brand. By being generous, you build goodwill and are associated with positive feelings. This will help you open the door to new opportunities and experiences.

Habit

A habit is doing something that you don’t have to think about it. There are good habits and bad habits. Make sure you cultivate good habits like exercise, helping others, being proactive, and developing your leadership skills. Learn the 10 habits for building a personal brand.

Identity

Your personal brand helps you clearly and consistently define and communicate who you are. There are three key components of your personal brand identity: 1) who you are and what you do;  2) why you do it; 3) your tagline.

Job

Your brand will tell employers why you are a good fit for their company and how you can help them reach their business objectives. Your personal brand must shine in your resume, your cover letter and your online presence such as your LinkedIn profile or your personal website. Learn why your personal brand is essential for getting a job.

KISS

Keep it simple, stupid (KISS). If you understand a topic, you know how to explain it simply. People who have strong personal brands can communicate complex topics in simple terms. Learn the 10 ways use to KISS principle to simplify your life.

LinkedIn

If there one social media platform that you should be on to develop your personal brand, it is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is one of the most professional social media platforms of all the social media networks. LinkedIn demonstrates what you are all about and it shows others what your colleagues think about you in a professional way (think: recommendations and endorsements). Learn how to optimize your LinkedIn profile in 10 steps.

Manage

Your personal brand is changing daily as you learn and grow. It is important that you manage your personal brand like a company manages its company brand. As it evolves, it is important to keep tabs on it. It is important to do the tough work up front like crafting your elevator pitch and updating your LinkedIn profile so you can reap the rewards in the future. Learn why managing your personal brand is like being a scientist that fails 85 percent of the time in their quest to discover the right formula and breakthrough.

Name

Your name is powerful. It is the main thing that people ask for when they meet you. It is one of the most important means by which someone can identify and refer to you. It is something that we use every day but we don’t realize how important it is until someone misspells it or mispronounces it. It is one of the most unexploited tools in personal branding. If your name is common, it is more difficult to brand yourself so you may want to use your middle name (think Samuel L. Jackson, Michael J. Fox, Stephen A. Smith), your professional career (think @prsarahevans) and your significant other (think 14 best celebrity super couple nicknames).

Objectives

As part of personal branding 101, the overall goal with branding yourself is to differentiate yourself in the marketplace so you can attain your objectives. What are your objectives or goals? It is important to define those so you can better define yourself and how you are different. To be hired, you must first be found.

Proactive

Don’t wait for things to happen to you. It is critical to proactively manage your personal brand so you can control how the world sees you. The more active you are in managing your personal brand, the more control you have over your life. There are many things you can proactively do such as launch your blog, update your LinkedIn profile, create your bio, build your network, get a new headshot, update your personal website, or learn new skills.

Quarterly

Check-in on your personal brand and online identity, at least quarterly. It could be as simple as emailing your network quarterly. It is important to build a feedback loop with friends, family, colleagues, and others you trust so they are helping you polish and refine you and your personal brand.

Reputation

Do you Google yourself and find another person with your same name pops on the screen? If your answer to that question is “yes” then you will want to monitor and be proactive about your personal brand and online reputation. There are 10 key steps for creating a successful personal brand.

Storytelling

Storytelling is one of the most critical ways to make your personal brand shine and grab the attention of your audience, grow your network and build stronger relationships. It is one of the main components of good marketing. Remember, you are the CEO and CMO of the brand called you. Your storytelling abilities set the foundation for your brand and provide a strategy for future growth. Learn how to define your personal brand using storytelling.

Tools

There are many apps, websites, and tools that you can use to help you build your personal brand. Here are 10 free tools to help you develop your personal brand.

Unicorn

A unicorn is a legendary or mythical creature that has a horn coming out from its forehead. A unicorn person is someone who has very specific skills who can jump in without any training and work magic. To really differentiate yourself, it is critical to market yourself as a unicorn who delivers a lot of value and is rare.

Value

What can you offer in terms of your talents, skills, network, etc. that will add value to people’s lives? For example, are you asking the right questions during a discussion at work? Are you helping someone improve their LinkedIn profile? Are you helping someone find a job by using your network? Are you proofreading someone’s resume?

Warmth

With your personal brand, you shouldn’t over-emphasize your competence and skills and appear cold. To exert influence, it is important to balance competence with warmth.

Xenagogy

Xenagogy is a guidebook. You may want to read the complete guide to building your personal brand to learn more about personal branding.

You

Opportunities will find you when you have a strong personal brand. Your personal brand is about you and what you stand for: your values, your abilities, your skills, your network and your actions. What is the overall impression you want people to have of you? Create your personal brand statement to proactively address this upfront.

Zig Zag

To be different and differentiate yourself, it is critical to do the exact opposite everyone else does so you stand out. Learn the zig-zag method for catching attention and building credibility.

What are the letters of your personal brand?

What words would you add this A to Z list?

47 digital marketing tools to help you be more productive

One of the biggest challenges digital marketers face is finding the right set of digital marketing tools. I rounded up some of the best digital marketing tools out there to maximize your efforts when it comes to Twitter; day-to-day work tasks; search engine optimization (SEO) and keyword research; and your personal brand and online reputation.

12 Twitter tools to help you maximize your tweets

Some of the top questions when it comes to Twitter: How do your tweets noticed? How do you get them retweeted and liked? And how do you grow your followers? The key is to optimize your tweets. These tools can help you ensure you maximize every tweet.

15 helpful tools to increase your productivity in the workplace

Time-saving tools are critical I today’s world where it seems like we always have pressing deadlines. These tools can help you be more productive at work, ranging from converting PDFs to PowerPoint slides, discovering how much time you spend time working on certain things to creating cool graphics for your social media and blog posts.

10 free keyword research tools for writing compelling headlines

What keywords does your audience type into search to find your company or your competitors? Keyword research is the foundation of a good SEO strategy and a key component of your content marketing strategy. To write more compelling and better headlines for your articles, blog posts, landing pages, news releases, and overall website, these tools can help you increase your website traffic, improve visibility in search engines such as Google and Bing, improve your odds of others your sharing your content via their social network, and genetate ideas for future creation and curation of content.

10 free tools to manage your personal brand and online reputation

Do you Google yourself and find someone else with your same name? Want attract recruiters and future employers to contact you? Want to land that perfect job? If your answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you should take a more proactive approach to managing your personal brand and online reputation. It is not an easy task but these free tools can help you.

What tools do you find helpful as a digital marketer?

Optimize your LinkedIn profile: 10 steps you should take

LinkedIn is one of the most professional social media networks. Professionals sign up to join LinkedIn at a rate of more than two members per second.

I have had the opportunity to LinkedIn to hundreds of Forsythe Technology employees and students at Duke University.

Here are 10 things every career professional should do to optimize their LinkedIn profile.

1. Update your profile information

Make sure you add all of your basic info such as your full name, title at your company, location, correct industry, and company (linked to your company’s page).

Some key points to remember:

  • Add a custom background. The image should not be distracting and should be at least 1400 x 425 pixels in size.
  • Include a professional photo. Make sure you take the time to get a real professional picture taken by a photographer. Taking it on a white background is the recommended but it is up to you.
  • Your name should ONLY contain your name. Please avoid adding any additional titles, acronyms or credentials. Please keep your name clean and concise.

2. Customize your public profile URL

When customizing your LinkedIn profile, aim to just have your full name without anything else. If you have a more common name (sorry, John Smith) then you might have to resort to a slight modification. If you can’t add your full name consider adding your middle initial or “your company name” at the end of it. If you leave your company, you can always edit it.

3. Add important websites

Add important websites (LinkedIn limits you to three). Make sure you check off “other,” then add the Website title and URL so people quickly understand the website title. It is better to use “Other” than “Company Website” or any other pick list items LinkedIn provides.

4. Add or tweak your Summary section

Ensure your LinkedIn profile Summary section captures your overall career and specifically your current role at your company and how you help others and your company’s clients. This summary section is basically your elevator pitch in written form. Remember, LinkedIn is not your resume so make sure you are always writing in first person.

5. Make sure you have company logos for each of your positions in your Experience section

Go through your Experience section and make sure you have logos for each of your old positions. Please go to “change company” and find the correct company to ensure the company logo is set up. If your company was acquired by another company, find the acquired company, link it to that and then in Edit Display Name, change to XXX (acquired by XXX).

6. Add articles, blog posts, videos or work samples to your LinkedIn profile

Under your Summary section and past positions in Experience, there is the capability to “add a link” to your profile. Go to your Summary and add articles or blog posts you have written. Or you may want to add videos or samples of your career work.

7. Update your Skills and Endorsements page

Take a proactive approach to editing your endorsements by adding skills you want to be known for with your network. For example, you may want to add “Team Leadership” to your skills. You can’t change the order of these endorsements because LinkedIn has them ranked by number of endorsements for particular skills and orders them accordingly.

8. Follow companies to keep up-to-date with your ecosystem

At the top of LinkedIn in the black header, go to the white search bar and find some companies you want to follow. There are four main categories of companies that you should follow: 1) analysts; 2) partners; 3) competitors; and 4) clients.

9. Connect with “People You May Know” to grow your network

Make sure you have at least 501 people but only connect with people you know. LinkedIn will show how many connections you have until you hit 500. Once you reach over 500 connections, LinkedIn will continue to count. It says “500+” connections on your profile. Remember: People like to connect with “connected” people.

10. Update your LinkedIn status at least once a week and/or write via LinkedIn publisher

One of the pillars to social media success is how many people view your profile and sharing content consistency. Be sure to update your LinkedIn status daily or at least once a week with something that provides value to your network. You may want to put a reminder on your calendar to share an article. You should also think about publishing through LinkedIn.

What steps would you add to this list?

10 steps to building and managing your personal brand

“All of us need to understand the importance of branding… we are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. … our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called you,” wrote Tom Peters in Fast Company.

Are you branding yourself in everything you do and developing and refining your personal brand?

What is a personal brand?

Personal branding is also known as your career or professional brand. It is the way you present yourself to your colleagues and your network online and off. With the growth of LinkedIn, blogging, social networking and people use search engines all the time, it is important to portray your brand in a positive professional light. Just like a company differentiates itself to stand out from its competitors by identifying and articulating its unique value proposition, you should do the same. If you take a proactive approach to your personal brand, it can benefit your career.

There are 10 key steps to help you develop and take control of your personal brand.

1. Search the major search engines to search your name and its variations

What are the search engines saying about you? Is there someone else in the world that has your same name? Is your identity correct online? If there are variations of your name, have you search those names? The first place to start with your personal brand, especially online, is to find out what is being said about you and what information comes up first in the search engines about you.

2. Clean up your web presence

Are you looking to do some “spring cleaning” because you don’t like what you see? You may want to erase some of yourself from the Internet by using a tool like justdelete.me. This website ranks the process of erasing yourself from easy to impossible. Social networks like Twitter are easy to delete while others like Pinterest are impossible.

3. Proactive create your online reputation with free tools

Create your own personal website that lists all of our social networks with a free tool such as about.me Or brandyourself.com that will give you a letter grade relating how your name ranks in search results. Read 10 free tools to manage your personal brand and online reputationAlso, launch a blog (see step 7).

4. Claim your social media profiles and your personalized URL on LinkedIn

Have you protected yourself from cyber squatters when it comes to your social media profiles? To ensure you secure your desired username or vanity first, visit namechk.com to see if it is still available. You should also secure your personalized URL on LinkedInIt also may worth creating a Google+ account to ensure you should up on the right-hand column of search results. You may want to create a Twitter account to share helpful information with others. I found that my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to show up near the top of my search results since I share a lot of articles through these networks.

5. Buy your own domain name (even if you are not using it yet)

Do you own the URL of your name or blog name? If not, you should secure it at a website registrar like godaddy.com or networksolutions.comYou may want to read 3 reasons why buying a domain name for your child is a good ideaBy owning your own domain name, you can be sure that if you use that URL, you will rank high in search results. If you don’t own your name, you are leaving your online reputation in the hands of the unknown. Purchasing your name is about $15 a year. Read why you need a domain strategy

6. Set up an ongoing monitoring alert system

It is important to constantly monitor what is being said about you online. Set up Google Alerts or Talkwalker Alertsa free alternative to Google Alerts. When you create the alerts, make sure you put your name with and without quotation markets. You should also include the different variations of your name.

7. Launch a blog where you can publish content and show your perspectives

I found that my blog is ranked within the top 5 search results in Google. You may want to create and publish content on your blog using a platform like wordpress.com or blogger.comRead best free blogging websitesWhen you do start up a blog, remember the Internet is a copy machine. Think before you publish. If you get angry or emotional reacting to something you see online or someone else is provoking you, you may want to email yourself first or ask yourself: would my parents, friends or colleagues like to read this post? A blog is a great way to demonstrate your personal brand. It helps you position yourself in a way that you want to be seen. A blog helps you grow your network beyond your work colleagues, may position yourself as a thought leader at your company, demonstrates your expertise on a topic or topics and shows that you know how to write and communicate (skills your current and potential future employer value).

8. Take some time to get to know yourself and share helpful content on a regular basis

What do you want others to think of you as online? What types of articles do you share with others? Are they personal growth articles, leadership articles, career articles? What do you want to be known for? Your personal brand reflects who you are. It is important to really know your strengths and weaknesses and do what you love. If you can’t blog, do you share useful tips to your colleagues about the industry you work in or how to do PR or marketing better? By learning who are you and what you are good at, you can better take control of your personal brand.

9. Create your elevator pitch and key messages

Just like a company brand creates its elevator pitch of who the company is, why it is unique and different, and why you should care, the same goes with your personal brand. Do you have your elevator pitch created and validated? What are your core or key messages? A good example of where you should really have your elevator pitch down is your LinkedIn summary section or your bio page on your blog. That paragraph or two should sum up your personal brand in a short, concise and compelling way.

10. Develop a feedback loop with those you trust and evolve your personal brand

Just like company brands change over time, your personal brand is constantly changing and evolving. As you gain more work and life experiences, your brand changes to reflect who you are at work and in life so it important to build a feedback loop with friends, family, colleagues and others you trust so they are helping you polish and refine you and your personal brand.

As Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, once said:

“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Do you know people are saying about your personal brand online and off? Are you taking steps to build, polish and refine it? The key is to remember your personal brand is more than just your job, it is your career. It is the brand called you!

What helpful tips would you add to this list?