No matter what business you’re in, your personal brand is crucial to how the public perceives you. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a CEO, or a junior executive at a large corporation, your personal brand is how you appear to the world and often reflects directly upon your company or employer. Therefore, it’s fair to argue that a strong, polished personal brand is preferable to one that lives under the radar.
The beauty of living in the digital age is that anyone can use the Internet to market his or her personal brand at any time. Websites, social networks and online forums are all popular mediums for small businesses and entrepreneurs alike who want to build up a presence and become recognized as a go-to person in his or her respective industry, but it’s also important to get out from behind your desk and promote your brand live, too.
So, where do you start?
Network, network, network
I’m a big believer in the power of networking as a long-tail personal branding tool. The best way to strengthen your personal brand is to show people that you are a trusted voice in your community. What better way to demonstrate this than to interact with those people directly? Whether you’re networking in person or online, be an approachable source of information for individuals in your industry.
If you’re active on social networks, share content from other individuals, which will help to build bonds and trust amongst your peers. LinkedIn groups are a great place to start to make connections and share content, and some industries may even use Facebook to build communities and connect with others on similar or complementary career paths.
If you have the opportunity to attend industry conferences or local networking groups, set a reasonable goal for yourself. I try to attend two Publicity Club of Chicago and American Marketing Association events per year and participate in my local Professional Women’s Club to ensure that I am constantly networking with people both in my industry and outside of it. Meetup.com is a good place to look for opportunities to connect with people in your field of work, and your local chamber of commerce may also have leads, too.
Build a Strong Web Presence
Valuable connections can be made both on and offline, but you always want to have a strong website to market who you are and what you do. Your website should be polished and professional, but there is no need to spend thousands of dollars on a web designer or a developer when you’re first beginning to create your personal brand.
The first thing you’ll need to do is pick a domain name. Fortunately, we are no longer limited to only a few options like ‘dot-com’ or ‘dot-net.’ Hundreds of “not-com” domain names are now available, ranging from specific choices like ‘dot-media’ (.media) or ‘dot-marketing’ (.marketing) to more generic options like ‘dot-life’ (.life) or ‘dot-world’ (.world). Not-coms are meaningful, memorable, available, searchable and they allow you to not only be extremely creative in naming your business or brand to the left of the dot, but also extremely specific to the right of the dot.
Using a creative domain name tells the world that you’re clever, creative and willing to think outside the box. You can visit www.Name.Kitchen to find the perfect domain name ending for your business or brand.
Once you have your domain name, use a website builder like Weebly, Wix or Squarespace to create a simple but professional web page. These user-friendly services allow you to drag-and-drop your way to building a professional website without the technical skills of coding.
You’ll want the website to contain your bio and a professional headshot, as well as a way to contact you, be it your email address or a web contact form. Another perk of registering a domain is that it allows you to create a tailored email address using your personal brand. This builds credibility and is great for marketing material such as business cards. I also suggest having a blog on your website, even if you update it once or twice a month, as a way to begin to establish your voice as an industry thought leader. Which brings me to my next point…
Become Your Own Content Hub
Anyone who wants to become a trusted voice in his or her industry needs to start somewhere. Before you’ll get invitations to guest blog, participate in media interviews or contribute to industry publications, you’ll need to have work samples and there is no better place to do that than on your own blog or website.
Starting a blog on your own website is easy, but if you want your content to reach to more eyeballs, think about publishing to LinkedIn, where you can share your content with your friends and groups (just be sure you’re equally generous in sharing others’ content too, lest you come off as self promotional). Medium is another good channel to establish your thought leadership and connect with other writers who are doing the same.
Get Involved Outside Your Industry
No matter what service your business provides, you can probably benefit from networking with individuals outside your industry.
There’s no better way to bond with prospective customers, clients, partners or vendors than over a shared passion. Volunteer for a favorite cause, join an auxiliary board or board of directors at a local nonprofit, or look up an organization in your community that shares similar values to your own.
You’ll be exposed to people in different industries that could be potential referral sources for your business. Referrals, along with praise and recognition from others in your industry, are an important component to building a strong personal brand.
Plus, when I think of some of the best personal brands I know, they are all people whose interests are balanced and well rounded. If you can demonstrate to your community that you have a variety of unique interests, people will be more likely to want to get to know you and hear about your expertise than if your knowledge is limited to one specific niche.