20 September 2017

Take control of your personal branding in 10 steps


Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell worked in Ciphr's marketing team from 2012-2020.


Career development


Whether you like it or not, as an individual, you are a brand. Every day you’re ‘branding’ yourself by what you share online, how you interact with others and the way you act on social networks. With a bit of thought, effort and time you can nurture your brand to achieve personal and professional success.

Of all recruiters, 95% believe that the job market will remain or become more competitive. If you don’t stand out online, your competition will. Optimising and maintaining your personal brand is an ever-increasingly important part of any successful career.

1. Realise that you’re a brand and run an audit

audit-your-personal-brandWhat is it that you want people to think when they view and interact with you online? What is it that you’re an expert in?
These are questions that you need to consider in order to start to build, optimise or reinvent your personal branding.

Defining your personal brand is no different to the process businesses run through when establishing theirs. Integrating your brand into your online presence, your ‘voice’ and even your mental ‘tagline’ which you’ll use as your mantra are all elements that make up who you are, what you can offer the world and what you stand for.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a brand (yet) others will. Potential employers, contacts, followers and influencers will all take an interest in your personal branding to ascertain your ‘worth’ to them and their own objectives.

75% of HR departments are required to search job applicants online.”

– Entrepreneur

Recruiters will look into your online presence and, in particular, your social media profiles. Taking the time to audit each and every profile you have online, whether this is on social networks, forums or personal websites is imperative to ensure that you’re representing yourself correctly.
Amending the language you use, ensuring consistency and optimising the quality of the content you share are all facets of a successful personal brand strategy.

How you conduct yourself online, even when using personal accounts, reflects on the brand you currently work for. Consciously maintaining a strong personal brand will also help improve the profile of your employer, strengthening your relationship with them and standing within the business.

2. Don’t spread yourself too thin

We’re all guilty of jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to new social networks. We eagerly sign up assuming that it’s the next big thing, only to never share more than a few updates.

choose-where-to-brand-yourselfWe all have an average of 5.54 social media accounts, choosing which networks to utilise is important and the decision will differ for everyone based on a number of factors. Whichever networks you choose to use as a platform for your personal brand, ensure that you don’t spread yourself too thinly.

It would be great to be on each and every site but it’s simply not possible without compromising on content quality and sapping your time. Think quality over quantity and select the sites that offer the most in relation to your goals.

Write down the networks you do decide to target and make time to share useful content on them all on a regular basis. You need to consider that an update which may be appropriate for one site may not be for another. Finding, creating and sharing original and relevant content is a time-consuming process.

If you’re trying to stay current and active on too many sites you’ll soon run out of time and compromise your personal brand.

3. Promote what makes you different

“They laugh at me because I’m different; I laugh at them because they’re all the same.”

― Kurt Cobain

I have previously written an article entitled ‘What Makes you so Special Anyway?‘. As the title suggests it asks the question that many interviewers will probably ask and it’s something that needs to be considered when branding yourself.

  • Are you more passionate than the next person?
  • Can you offer something that they can’t?
  • Are you seen as an influence in your field?

Flying manIn order to attract attention, you need to know what it is that enables you to stand out in a very crowded arena and get noticed. A 2011 study by AOL/Nielsen showed that 27 million pieces of content were shared every day.
This figure has doubtless grown in the last 4 years and you need to find your niche in order to be seen and heard among the noise.

Whether your ultimate goal is to get a job with a particular brand, build your own business or increase your following you must establish your niche and promote it vigorously.

4. Get involved (and realise that influence doesn’t just happen)

Contrary to what the proverb says, good things don’t just come to those who wait, they come to those who make an effort to go and get them.
Simply creating a social profile won’t magically equate to a huge following and an instant recognition of influence and expertise, you have to earn these mantles.

Contributing to online discussions, advising and answering questions and networking both on and offline are all essential elements of success. If you want to achieve a status of industry expert and influencer, then you have to make the effort to get out there and interact with others.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

– Dale Carnegie

network-to-succeedWord of mouth and advocacy are (possibly the most) powerful marketing strategies available today. Without them, your only other option would be advertising which is both expensive and doesn’t come with the personal recommendation of your peers.

92% of people trust recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them) over brands.

Sites such as LinkedIn and Quora are great platforms to participate in conversations about your specific profession or field of interest and build your personal brand and profile as an expert.
It’s not all about answering queries from others, asking pertinent and interesting questions is an effective way to invite engagement from others with similar interests.

5. Share wisely

Each and every update you share with the world should add value, be relevant and, in the case of self-created content, be original.
Before sharing content ask yourself if you would find it interesting enough to want to find out more. If the answer is ‘no’ then don’t share it.

Shopping cartWhat and how you share content will differ depending on the network too. For instance, some platforms, such as Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook lend themselves to image based updates so can be utilised for content such as infographics and photo’s overlaid with quotes.

Others are more ‘snippet’ based for faster consumption by followers such as Twitter. Content on such sites would generally consist of a short sentence and a link for further reading, rather than a longer, more descriptive update.

It may be tempting to share lots of information when trying to establish and build a personal brand but beware, if you share less than top quality updates people fail to see the value and soon stop following.
With over 3.17 billion users on the internet, people are spoiled for choice of who to follow which means you have to fight for their attention and loyalty.

6. Never assume you know everything

One of the biggest mistakes any aspiring expert can make is to believe that they’ve learned all there is to learn about their chosen expertise.
If you lose the thirst to seek knowledge then you might as well give up. With the wealth of information available readily on the internet there is always more to learn, differing insights and opinions and interesting takes on a subject.

Reading about and learning your expertise will inspire you to create your own content, provide the opportunity to engage with other experts and provide relevant and valuable content to share.
If you assume that you’ve no need to continue to research and take an interest in your chosen field of interest then this will be reflected in the content you create and curate.

7. Automate (just a little)

Robot sitting on a bunch of books. Contains clipping pathWith a vast array of intelligent automation tools available online (often for free) it’s a good idea to investigate your options when it comes to automating certain repetitive processes. Sites such as IFTTT or Microsoft Flow can provide automation which affords you additional time for other tasks.

Automated tasks could include, but is not limited to:

  • Adding engaged followers to a list on Twitter
  • Sharing articles from a certain site on social networks
  • Automatically update your profile photo on multiple social networks
  • Schedule Facebook page posts

Automating sensitive tasks is not recommended as it’s often too late before you realise a potentially damaging update has been sent.
Researching what can be achieved is highly recommended and often leads to some pretty clever little process flows that make your workload that little bit lighter.

8. Go live

According to many sources online 2017 is the year of live video updates. With several networks including Facebook, Instagram (limited availability) and Periscope incorporating live feeds into their arsenal it’s easy to gain access to live audiences.

pop corn on armchair cinemaA live broadcast could be a verbal tutorial, a round table discussion, a demonstration or even an interview. These could be in a controlled environment or somewhere which may in itself attract more attention and interest.
For example conducting an interview with an industry expert in their office may contain some very useful information but to truly capitalise on a video you could carry out the broadcast while walking around their place of work to show how their product is made or what a great environment they may have created for their employees.

With more people than ever using their mobile device(s) to browse the internet and consume content, utilising live video apps allows easy access to the technology required to broadcast and interact with existing and new audiences.

Live video can also save you time. As the expression goes “a picture is worth a thousand words”, imagine how much text-based content you can quickly illustrate with a 30-second live video!

However, you utilise live video it’s an exciting and important development in personal and business marketing. As with any live ‘performance’ if it goes wrong you can’t change it. Preparation is key and rehearsing essential.

9. Be authentic

Being authentic requires you to be real, genuine and ‘human’ not copy others or try to fake it. Authenticity in today’s world applies not only to your overall image but to every aspect of your personal brand.

Authenticity is the guts of your personal brand. You can dress it up with all the imagery, slogans and quotes you like but without being real and genuine you lose the trust and respect of anyone interested enough in your brand to dig a little deeper.

“If it acts like a duck (all the time), it’s a duck. Doesn’t matter if the duck thinks it’s a dog, it’s still a duck as far as the rest of us are concerned.”

Seth Godin

If people can’t trust you then why would they want to follow, interact or work with you?

Being transparent with the people that you connect with not only encourages trust but also gives people an insight into what it is that makes you tick, where you get your passion from and why they should respect you and your personal brand.

10. Advocate and become all powerful

Sharing is good.

“When brand messages are shared by employees on social media, they get 561% more reach than the same messages shared by the brand’s social media channels.”

– Entrepreneur

Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the power and benefits of advocacy, whether by employees, brand followers or customers.
When individuals are happy to share your news with their networks naturally you have free marketing to a potentially huge audience.

Young couple with Ice CreamsIt’s one thing earning the advocacy of these individuals for your own personal brand but you should also realise and tap into the power that can be achieved by becoming an advocate.
Sharing worthy content from brands that you follow and are interested in engaging with is an effective strategy.
Consistently advocating a particular business will attract their attention and engagement and may lead to new opportunities and networks.

A brand could send a simple thank you tweet or Facebook update to show appreciation. However, they might also take the idea further with special recognition programs maybe even offering you exclusive access to content.
They might invite you to participate in special advocacy campaigns and invite your feedback before publishing content to the general public.

Many brands will have spent a considerable budget on building their influence and, by advocating and sharing what they have to say, you can capitalise on that success and influence.
Advocacy should be reserved for those brands and updates that are deserving of your stamp of approval, sharing for the sake of it will not have a positive effect on your own personal branding efforts.