Is Personal Branding a fad? This concept swept across the globe following Tom Peters’ article “The Brand Called You”, published in 1997 in Fast Company magazine. There are those who believe it can help their professional development, those who are undecided about it, and then there are those who think that it is just a hoax.
Personal Branding is based on the value of the individual and consists fundamentally in making ourselves our own brand. Normally, our brand image is perceived by various targets (your family, your friends, your colleagues and your followers on social media) but can also be constructed to include being perceived by other target audiences: an HR manager at a major corporation, potential customers, a thought leader or by a community.
Are personal brands exclusively digital?
A personal brand does not solely exist on social media. It is born out of the way we do our work, our talents and knowledge that we demonstrate to our potential customers. Nevertheless, it is true that social media is a major channel for displaying your brand and for developing it; it is a window out to the world.
So then, is a tweet about politics or an Instagram post from my summer vacation also Personal Branding? Social media is not a walled-off space; it is not a place where we can control impacts and where we can separate the personal from the professional. Today, everything is interwoven. For this reason, we must keep in mind that image and the representation of oneself define us more than ever. Everything sends a message, everything we post is communication and leaves an imprint. For this reason, it is vital to stop and think before posting. Analyse what it is that we are best at, know what we want to say and to whom.
Social media needs to be seen as a powerful constructive channel for Personal Branding. This is why HR recruiters increasingly rely on social media to scrutinise candidates. They look at the type of content they have posted recently, if they have a professional image, what their personal preferences are, how well they communicate, their range of interests and so on. And conversely, they strike off the list those candidates whose profiles have information, photographs or videos that are deemed inappropriate.
Many people believe that their personal opinions have no merit professionally. This is a serious mistake. To think that I can make deprecating remarks because I do not have a great many followers is wrong. The digital footprint of racism, homophobia or intolerance is enduring and can be called to account. In fact, there have been several known cases in which professionals have lost their jobs due to comments of this sort on social media: Google, Tinsa Estate Agents, New York University or the famous case of Justine Sacco at the IAC.
Which values should we communicate? Use Marketing
It is important to have a strategy and establish beforehand which values define you and which of those values you wish to communicate. In the end, it is about creating a professional image that you wish to project to others, of leaving an impression that is clear and coherent. You can achieve this by showing what is most relevant in your biography, adapting one’s language (what you say and how you say it), giving importance to your image (both physical and virtual) and by increasing your presence on-line (via website, blog and social media).
Imagine yourself as a living advertisement. We are continually generating Personal Branding, constructing and creating a personal brand with our actions, our way of working, our attitudes, our expressions, our creativity, even the way that we dress. Hence the power of personal branding needs to be measured every step of the way. Establish a communications strategy for carrying it out over the medium and long term. Pay attention when creating and developing this will help you improve your professional career. My advice: use the 5 W’s (plus an H) of Content Marketing:
WHO: Who do I want to interact with? Be more visible so that other professionals and companies notice you. Communicate with thought leaders in the communities you care about. Your target should identify you with the image that you wish to transmit.
WHAT: What is my message? What is it that I want to convey: seriousness, credibility, leadership, creativity, etc. Remember that your message will not be crafted in a single post.
WHEN: When will my message have the greatest impact? Choose the right moment. I urge you to be proactive in your professional life and on social media. Attend courses, forums, master classes, presentations and conventions.
WHERE: On-line and/or off-line? Use all channels according to your strategy. Depending upon how you use your personal brand and on what you share, you can show people that your opinion is worth paying attention to.
WHY: Am I clear about my goal? Generating a positive image will make people trust you and want to work with you.
HOW: How do I wish to communicate? Always keep in mind the classic model of communication which includes a sender, a receiver and a message that is encoded by the sender and decoded by the receiver. In addition, feedback and noise may also affect communication. Remember that on social media you are communicating with a community, not with your screen.
Author: Joan Margarit, Marketing and Communication analyst.