What Is Personal Branding:
When talking about personal branding we are referring to establishing and promoting what you stand for. Your personal brand is the unique combination of skills and experiences that make you you. Effective personal branding will differentiate you from other professionals in your field.
Why Personal Branding Matters
When it comes to building a personal brand, some people dismiss the process as being too time consuming, or not that important.
But we want you to consider this:
People Are Googling You At Every Stage Of Your Career
Regardless of your age or professional stage, someone is screening you online. What they find can have major implications for your professional (and personal) well-being.
According to CareerBuilder:
“More than half of employers won’t hire potential candidates without some sort of online presence today.”
And if you’re not looking to get hired and think this doesn’t apply to you, think again. Especially if you own your own business or work as a freelancer:
“Over half of consumers have chosen to do business with a freelancer or company because of a strong, positive online presence.”
If you aren’t properly managing your online reputation, then you are actively losing out on business.
Personal Branding Can Help You Take The Next Step
Numbers aside, the most important reason to focus on personal branding is to help yourself. Think of this as building an additional channel for growing your own successes.
Personal branding is a painless step in working towards your goals. Regardless of your industry or professional status, your personal brand has the power to make or break all kinds of opportunities for advancement.
When building your brand starts to feel like a job, remember that it is an essential part of cultivating your career. And keep in mind that the greatest investment of resources, time and effort will likely come up front.
Building and optimizing new profiles, generating content about you and your work, identifying your goals, building a brand strategy – this can feel overwhelming. But once you’ve established a strong foundation, you’ll have a roadmap to follow, which makes the whole process much more manageable.
The Most Effective Process For Building A Personal Brand
As you start to go through the stages of creating a personal brand, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Take a deep breath.
Think of building your brand and personal branding as an ongoing process that can be broken down into phases. This isn’t an overnight process, and the objectives and specifics look different for everyone.
Below we’ve gathered the most important tips on how to build a personal brand with long-term success in mind. This entire personal branding process can be broken down into 3 steps:
- 1: Building a basic brand
- 2: Building credibility & an audience
- 3: Targeting Opportunities
1: Building a Basic Brand
Build an online presence that reinforces your qualifications. When someone looks you up online, they need to see a strong presence with fresh content in your area of expertise. What you will need to do
- Audit your search results
- Clean up any content that doesn’t fit your desired image
- Define yourself and your personal brand
- Build an online presence that reflects your brand and expertise
- Follow a personal branding strategy and stick to timelines
Audit Your Search Results
Before you start building a personal brand, you first need to know where you stand in search results. Google yourself so you know what others see when they look you up.
You have to know everything that you’re dealing with before you can come up with an effective personal branding strategy. Identify what search results or online content attached to you can damage your reputation.
Clean Up Risky Search Results & Social Media Posts
Once you know what kinds of search results are closely attached to your name, you can take steps to remove them.. Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit with your vision for your personal brand.
Define Yourself And Your Personal Brand
After you clean up existing web properties, you can really start to think about the personal brand that you are trying to build. Create your own personal brand online by identifying the unique elements that make you you.
What is your personal brand? What do you want to achieve by putting effort into how you look online?
When figuring out how to start your own brand online, ask yourself questions like:
- Who are you?
- What makes you unique?
- What is your vision for your personal brand?
- What is your goal with personal branding?
- What are your professional goals?
- Who is your audience? Who can you help?
- How can you help them? What makes you different?
- What’s your X Factor? What makes you reliable? Trustworthy?
- How do you prove that? What’s the evidence?
In addition to these kinds of questions, start thinking about your accomplishments and gather any supporting materials that can reinforce them. What are your short and long-term goals for your personal branding strategy?
Showcasing Your Skills And Accomplishments
You’ve just finished thinking about your goals and what differentiates you from others. Now it’s time to showcase your assets.
You can do this by:
- Writing out the accomplishments that make you proud
- Listing moments when others recognized you and your work publicly
- Thinking of times other people acknowledged your work privately
Whether you’re building a personal brand while: applying to schools, job-searching or just trying to increase your network and earning potential, take some time to answer the questions above for yourself.
Think holistically about what you are projecting and the impression that you want to leave with anyone who searches for you online.
Now you can come up with a brief description of your personal brand and bio, as well as longer versions. You will use these variations of your biography and personal brand statement for your social media profiles. This is how to make your own brand cohesive, but still have unique content available on different platforms. This is appealing to users and search engines alike.
Building An Online Presence That Reflects You And Your Expertise
Just to recap, you should have the following written out somewhere:
- A clear outline of your personal brand
- Short and long-term personal branding goals
- Your unique qualities, talents, areas of expertise
- Your accomplishments
Once you feel confident in that, it’s time to start building an online presence that people find easily and leaves a great impression.
This involves following a 3-step process of building a strong foundation of sites and profiles, optimizing them for search engines, and then maintaining content over time.
A Strong Foundation Of Sites And Profiles
In order to have a strong online presence, you need to build the sites and profiles that you want people to find. This involves having a strong combination of personal websites and professional profiles. What does a strong foundation look like?
- 1 Personal Website
- 8-10 Professional profiles
You need to build these because each page of search results typically shows at least ten results. By taking control of at least 8-10 properties, you give yourself the chance to curate those key search results on the first page of Google. And what is a personal brand without visibility?
When choosing which profiles to build out for your personal branding foundation, we suggest that you select at least 8-10 from the following list:
- Personal Website
- Instagram (while this is not as strong for Google search, it is an excellent networking tool and a place to showcase your personality)
- 2-4 additional properties relevant to your industry
Optimize Your Online Presence For Search Engines
Optimize the existing sites and social media profiles that you control for search engines and for people looking you up online.To optimize these properties for search engines:
- Use your full name on all profiles and domains (be consistent with the name you go by)
- Write in the third person when you can
- Fully fill out all profiles
- Include your location when possible
- Include relevant keywords in meta-data
- Take advantage of h1 tags
If you have an amazing personal brand, but no one sees it, it’s not helping you. That’s where strategy comes in.
Personal Branding Strategy And Timelines
When it comes to getting started with your own personal branding project, it’s easy to get a lot done in a short amount of time.
Depending on the current search results for your name, some of the sites and profiles that you build might even start to rank pretty quickly.
However, in most cases, it takes time for Google and other search engines to index these profiles.
Typically, indexing takes 2 to 6 weeks, but even then, that doesn’t mean that your new XYZ account will automatically shoot to #1 when someone looks up your name.
Search engine optimization and personal branding are part of an ongoing strategy that depends on your consistent updates and regular engagement across platforms.
You will see incremental changes over time. While that can be frustrating at first, this is very common when you use proper personal branding and SEO strategies.
2.1: Building Credibility
Use your personal brand to start getting credible placements in relevant third party publications and channels to get your content syndicated. In addition to ongoing content creation that you publish on sites and profiles that you control, it’s critical to show others (and search engines) that you are relevant and knowledgeable. Publishing on well-respected, and high quality platforms helps establish this kind of credibility.
Writing strategic content in the right places
As you get used to creating content start to publish it in places where interested parties in your field will see it.
Whether that means publishing on LinkedIn, Medium, or a super niche site devoted to a particular aspect of your field, do it!
By finding your audience, you have the opportunity to create and share something directly with the people who will get the most out of it.
And don’t be afraid to reach out to other well-regarded thought leaders in your industry to see if your work can appear on their sites and profiles as well.
How to build your personal brand through third party placement
As you start your personal branding campaign, try a combination of pitching to third parties and getting your content syndicated.
When it comes to guest blogging – or creating new content for another platform, consider the following points:
- Understand the audience and content typically found on that platform
- Pick out the top performing content
- Replicate aspects of what made that perform so well
Talk to the editor, and perform your own research so that you are setting yourself up for a lot of engagement from this article. Hopefully you’re on the same page with the owner of the blog, but take this into your own hands so that your experience as a guest blogger can be held up as a shining example to others, and acts as a return ticket to guest post for this person in the future.
Having your content appear elsewhere through third party publishing exposes your personal brand to another audience, and offers a new layer of credibility.
Syndication (ie someone re-publishing your work) serves a similar function. The whole point of this is brand visibility and credibility.
Data is your friend
Keep track of the engagement that your content receives on different platforms. See if you can recognize any patterns in the type of content that tends to do well on some platforms and not so well on others.
Consider what day of the week and what time of day you post content. Use the tools at your disposal to see if you can recreate those successful posts and avoid those that people don’t want to engage with.
In addition to using different tools to help you analyze the performance of the articles, updates, tweets, comments, videos, photos, etc that you’re posting, consider using social media management tools to make life easier when it comes to sharing content consistently. While organic posting is important, don’t be afraid to make your life easier
2.2: Effective Personal Branding By Strategically Building An Audience
Start building a relevant audience of “opportunity gatekeepers” on key social media platforms and publications.
Determine the gatekeepers of your opportunities
First identify what your goals are:
- Who is your target audience?
- Where are the best places to connect with these people?
- What kinds of content interests them?
Once you identify this, you can then figure out who you need to get in touch with in order to get in front of that audience and accelerate your personal branding campaign.
Make your own brand stand out by getting endorsements or even just mentions from respected leaders in your industry. Who really has the power when it comes to exposure and endorsement of your brand?
Look to people in your industry who are highly successful and visible on social media. But also look for the best platforms to connect with your audience. Get creative when it comes to asking influencers in your field for help.
Start with who you know
Not everyone that you know will fit into the bucket of “strategic audience members” for your personal branding efforts. However, there’s a good chance that you already know a lot of people who are interested in your area of expertise that want to help you and see you succeed.
When you’re first starting out, make sure to connect with these kinds of folks online since you’ve already developed a relationship with them in real life.
Keep track of these key players because you may have special content, information or opportunities for them as you build out your personal brand. These are the people who can share your brand with other interested people that they know. This is an important facet of audience building.
Connect with gatekeepers & influencers via social media & strategic publications
Find inspirational influencers and mentors who are in line with what you’re trying to accomplish.
Connect with and follow them using the personal branding tools at your disposal. An easy place to start is by looking at the people recommended to you or “also searched” (depending on the platform), when you look at a profile of a thought leader you admire.
You can also do a quick Google search for the top influencers within a given industry. There are plenty of lists online outlining the “top people to watch” or “top people to follow”. Do a quick search of “Top [industry] influencers on Twitter/LinkedIn/etc” and go from there.
Start off by focusing on people in your industry, but don’t be afraid to learn more about people from other disciplines who embody something about your personal brand.
Whether you end up speaking directly with these influencers or not, you can learn a lot by watching how they execute their own branding strategies.
In addition to connecting with the people who are succeeding at goals similar to your own, make sure that you also connect with relevant publications, forums and news sources specific to your industry.
Pay attention to the tone and type of content that is published there, and especially those items that tend to have great engagement metrics.
Figure that out so that when you pitch a piece there, an editor will take an interest.
3: Nurturing your audience for Personal Branding Opportunities
Make unique, high-quality content to stay top of mind with your audience and to win more professional opportunities. You never know exactly how or when a piece of content that you publish will resonate with a potential business partner, client or employee.
By branding yourself as an active thought leader in your industry, you open the door to tons of possibilities. This includes (but isn’t limited to):
- Speaking gigs
- Blog exchanges
If you opt out of consistently developing your personal brand and engaging online, you are choosing to limit potential growth in your career. It’s true that none of these opportunities presented by your audience will last if you don’t have the talent and drive to support the person you illustrate through your personal brand.
But, if you have the skills, why not open as many doors as possible for yourself? And that starts with personal branding, actively connecting, and building your audience.
How To Cultivate Your Own Brand With Advanced Audience Building Techniques
When it comes to developing your personal brand, visibility is a necessity. In addition to the initial steps suggested in Step 3, make a consistent ongoing plan to ensure “personal branding recognition”. Again, steps you can take to increase your visibility online by strategically working with your audience include:
- Ongoing engagement
- Ongoing content creation
- Link building
- Advanced keyword strategy
This process blends best practices and proven strategy when creating a personal brand that showcases your strengths and increases your earning potential.
This is a pretty broad topic, but it refers to contacting people, organizations, news sources, etc that you think would be interested in you or your work. Outreach can range from tweeting at someone, to sending a message on LinkedIn, to cold calling, emailing, pitching and more. Your goal in outreach is to create “brand awareness” in others.
When done well, networking is about making a sincere connection with another person that can then develop into a mutually beneficial relationship. It’s as simple as that. Personal branding tactics don’t always have to scale to be powerful.
You already have a network, so when it comes to growing your audience and creating personal brand awareness – think about people that you’d like to reconnect with as well as new people to bring into your orbit.
Really listen to what they’re up to, and check in with them regularly.
Just find events in real life or online relevant to your industry and talk to people. Some events could include:
- Talks from a leader in your field
- Charity events run by colleagues
- Gallery openings featuring subject matter relevant to your industry
- Online forums
- Interest groups on social media
Remember, networking doesn’t have to happen in formal settings. It can start in real life or online, but engaging on social media is the easiest way to nurture those relationships actively and passively. These efforts will always help you when it comes to personal branding.
Your brand should nurture your network and vice versa.
Publishing high quality content isn’t enough. In order to keep your existing audience interested and attract more people to your brand, you have to regularly engage on these platforms.
Respond as best as you can to the comments, questions and content directed at you from your audience.
If you don’t acknowledge the different ways that people are choosing to interact with you online, then your brand may come off as out of touch, and inaccessible.
While you don’t have to craft long responses to every single person who comments on your Facebook page, respond when you can. And if you notice general trends in questions and posts, acknowledge that and respond publicly.
In addition to engaging directly with your growing audience, publicly engage with people and news sources that are prominent in your industry. From commenting on articles to retweeting people you admire, it’s important to demonstrate that you are active in the conversation that’s happening in your industry.
Ongoing content creation
When it comes to developing a personal brand, regularly updating your profiles and website(s) with fresh content is a must. Consistent content creation positively impacts three channels of your overall personal branding strategy:
- Search engine optimization
- Personal brand development
- Audience engagement and growth
Search Engine Optimization
From an SEO perspective, high-quality content that people engage with shows search engines that your property is valuable. Over time, this translates to an increase in authority, which mimics the authority you are aiming to grow with personal branding.
Sites that search engines view as “high authority” outrank their competition … that means that when people look you up online, they’re more likely to click on that link, as opposed to those ranking below it. When people find this profile or piece of content, not only are they exposed to engaging information, but they see your positive personal brand and may increase your audience numbers.
In short: Ongoing content creation + optimizing your properties for search engines = higher authority = best chance at ranking high in SERPs = Better chance of people finding you = successful personal branding
Personal Branding Development
After you’ve created and optimized a strong foundation of profiles and websites, you still have to keep them fresh by updating them with new content to keep your personal branding campaign heading in the right direction.
- Demonstrate that your personal brand is part of your industry’s current conversation
- Present your brand voice as relevant
- Reinforce your personal brand values through examples
Audience engagement and growth
Another critical reason for ongoing content creation is, it nurtures your existing audience and encourages new audience acquisition.
Nurture existing audience
- Content creation with personal branding in mind reinforces the aspects of your brand that audience members enjoy with each post
- Provide value to those who are already on your team
- Encourage existing audience to engage more frequently with your properties
- Increase the likelihood that your audience will follow your calls to action, which is the main purpose of personal branding at the end of the day
- Sharing new content regularly gives you the chance to see what your audience responds to and improve their experience with your brand accordingly
Expand your audience
- New content is a must when pitching to news publications, blogs and magazines – getting placed exposes you to an entirely new audience
- Increase your chances of being featured then discovered by a new audience on social media
- Tailor new content to target emerging demographics that should know about your personal brand, but don’t yet
- New content increases the likelihood that your current audience will share something with potential new audience members
By growing your audience with personal branding, you increase the opportunities for link building.
Link building is a search engine optimization tactic where you try to earn links to your website or social media profile from a another site. The value of these links increases based on the authority of the site linking to you.
In other words, a link to your website from the New York Times is much more valuable than a link to your site from a spammy website that doesn’t rank well.
There are two main benefits of effective link building. The first is that you will earn referral traffic from the site that links to you, bringing your personal brand more exposure. The second is that new links to your site give it a greater chance of ranking highly for your target keywords.
This can be links to your home page so you can rank for your own name, or links to a specific page on your site so that it might rank for its own set of keywords (more on this in #6).
As you start to connect with your new community that you’ve built through personal branding, the opportunity for link building will undoubtedly present itself.
Simply by expanding your audience and developing your personal brand, you increase the potential for link building. As you start to collaborate with others you start the process of link building if they agree to link to your site from theirs. There are many advanced link building tactics you can use in your personal branding strategy, but for now stick with the basics.
In addition to SEO value, the process of link building takes advantage of your current audience and expands your reach to a new one.
Advanced keyword strategy
When it comes to capturing your target audience and growing your personal brand, don’t shy away from a keyword strategy. If you look at the top personal branding experts, most of them are comfortable with the basics of keyword research.
Use free tools like Google Adwords and Keyword Planner to create a list of words related to your personal brand and industry. Using tools like these let you investigate the volume of searches for specific keywords.
So what? You may ask. Well, by doing research on words related to your industry, you can find specific keywords or phrases that a subset of your desired audience is searching for.
The search results currently ranking for those kinds of keywords probably aren’t that competitive. By choosing content topics carefully and optimizing the content properly, you can likely get your piece ranking for that keyword.
Even if only 100 people look up that term per week, you’ll get a significant portion of those people to view your content once it’s ranking in the first or second spot of search results.
While this takes research, patience and awesome content, an advanced keyword strategy gets new people to discover you organically, and help the audience you’ve built with personal branding continue to grow over time.
While the focus of personal branding should be about getting your story out there and connecting with the right people, another important aspect of actively branding yourself has to do with risk factors.
Personal branding to defend against a crisis
By thoughtfully developing your personal brand online, you are taking preventative steps. The act of personal branding will help you preemptively combat negative or irrelevant online content about you or someone who shares your name.
Even if there is nothing unflattering published about you online right now, there’s always the chance that a disgruntled former employee, an unreasonable client, or a temperamental ex will change that.
Instead of having to jump into crisis management mode when this happens, you are already getting ahead of that scenario through consistent work and development of your personal brand.
Dealing With Negative Search Results
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having damaging search results pop up when someone googles your name, you’re not alone.
Even though this is not uncommon, the effects can still take a toll on your professional and personal life.
Developing a strong cohesive personal brand online isn’t going to happen overnight. However, over time you’ll find that the process of personal branding provides the added benefit of suppressing negative content and replacing it with a more complete picture of who you are.
Most successful people have to deal with negative, irrelevant or personal search results at some point. Even so, it can feel like an embarrassing failure when it happens. Try to brush that reaction aside, and instead focus on what you can control.
Where You Go From Here
In today’s competitive market, a strong personal brand is no longer a “like to have”, but a “must have”. Whether you choose to do it on your own, or enlist the help of a Personal Branding Expert, it’s time to get started with personal branding.
No matter who is doing the work for you, make sure that the work is consistent, valuable, shared with the right people, and optimized for search engines and users alike.
The steps in this guide have shown what is your personal brand, how to build your brand and how to make sure the right people find it.
If you don’t have time to put in the work that it takes to build and maintain a personal brand successfully, Jutta Putz offers a number of managed services packages. We are happy to do the work for you and handle the entirety of the personal branding process.
No matter what your needs are, our team of experts are ready to work with you to come up with a solid strategy to accomplish your goals.
While every client campaign is different regarding the specifics of their personal branding strategy and execution, you can expect the following when you work with our specialists:
- We build you an online personal brand that highlights your expertise
- We make sure people find your presence when they google you
- We continually create positive content that positions you as a thought leader in your field
- We strategically start to help you build an audience to amplify the opportunities coming your way
- We leverage thought leadership to find speaking, press, and career opportunities
- We monitor the web for damaging content and mitigate the impact if anything shows up
- We report on your progress as your online reputation improves over time