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How public image impacts your career

7 Tips on Building Your Personal Brand

Digital Marketing Apprentice at Scope

Your personal brand is who you are and how people perceive you. In theory, it seems simple enough but we all know that in the real world there’s usually a huge discrepancy between the two. We realised this in our early years at school when kids learnt how to gossip. And, it’s only human nature to want a favourable public image right?  This is where building your personal brand comes in. 

Why care about ‘your brand'?

The sudden rise of social media platforms has changed how we maintain our reputation. It’s not like the old days where that meant bringing a casserole to your neighbour every now and then. It’s now more important than ever to take control of your reputation online. I’ll even go as far as to say that, nowadays your online image is more important than your ‘real-life’ image, as sad as that sounds. There’s a reason that the PR industry has become as large as it is now - responsible for generating $16 billion in revenue in 2018.

Some of your favourite celebrities probably didn’t build their personal brand without help or at least without a little push from PR Executives. It usually doesn’t come out of thin air but instead out of carefully crafted PR strategies. In your case, you’ll be both your celebrity and PR executive.

To be honest, I used to cringe at people who referred to their ‘personal brand’. The idea of deliberately manipulating how other people perceived you on the internet rubbed up on me the wrong way, it seemed really narcissistic. Why look outwards instead of focusing on improving yourself instead? That’s the question I was personally battling with on my job-search.

I wanted to get into Digital Marketing so I read about it as much as I could and also studied to gain certifications. I then realised that, sure I was upskilling myself - but no one knew that. If you don’t work on building your online visibility, chances are others will do it for you. Do you trust others to paint an accurate image of you online? Exactly.

According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and about 43% of employers use social media to check on current employees. 

Upon realising the importance of personal branding, I started writing on a question-and-answer website called Quora - garnering over 600,000 views and 20,000 likes. I also created my personal blog (though still working on it!). I was able to leverage both of these on my CV and interviews.. I believe they played key roles in helping me secure a Digital Marketing Apprenticeship with WhiteHat.

Attracting employers is just one of the countless benefits that personal branding opens up for you. Have I made a strong case for it so far?

Top 7 tips on building your personal brand

Despite my awesome explanation of ‘personal branding’ so far (thank you), it’s still one of those really vague terms that could mean completely different to you than me. I did it by writing content but you do it your way - even if that means TikTok.

These tips are to cover the fundamentals of your personal brand (the most important part). They overlap more than you think. Think of how faster you’re sold to a product when your favourite celebrity’s on board. 

After the dirty work, you can then sell a product/service you feel aligns to your brand as you wish. Focus on your personal brand and the rest will follow.

1. Identify your target audience

At the risk of sounding cliche, you can’t please everyone. Narrow down who you’re trying to reach then narrow that down even more. Remember, you adjust your personal brand to them, and not the other way around, so pick carefully.

Create audience personas - divide your wider audience by their:

  1. Demographics - age, gender, location, social grade
  2. Challenges - what are they struggling with?
  3. Desires - what are they looking for?
  4. Aspirations - where are they trying to get to or what are they trying to achieve?
  5. Hobbies - what do they like doing?

Here are some tools and templates you can use to start building your customer personas.

2. Build an authentic foundation - staying true to yourself

The main reason I cringed on the term ‘personal brand’ was because of the people that preached it. A lot of them built their personal brand out of having fake personas - pretending to have fake lifestyles by renting Airbnb’s and fake Ferrari’s claiming that it’s just ‘a day in the life of an *insert flashy title here*’ You don’t wanna be that.

It’s not only unhealthy in every way possible to fake your personal brand but it’s also a ticking time bomb. It’ll be incredibly difficult to maintain in the long-term. Isn’t it just so much easier to show your authentic self, only in a strategic and purposeful manner? 

Don’t rush, build a strong authentic foundation and you’ve already won half the battle. 

Now answer these questions as honestly as you can in relation to your customer personas:

  1. How would you describe your brand?
  1. What’s unique about your personal brand? If I put you in a hall of 100 people, what area of expertise can you honestly talk about better than everyone else?
  1. How do you benefit your audience? Will sharing your experiences in a daily vlog structure be good, or do you have an area of expertise that’ll be best for how-to videos? Think wide.
  1. What pain points do you alleviate?

3. First impressions matter

Which looks better?

Use headshots on all your profiles please. Also, use email signatures - you can find email signature templates online. Or you can just stick to the classic one with your name, email address, job/occupation title, and mobile number on the email footer.

4. Social Media - the low hanging fruit you’ll be a fool to ignore

Make sure you're on every relevant social media platform. It’s the easiest thing you can do that makes the biggest difference when it comes to building your personal brand.

Jheeze, I even have an profile that I made over a year ago. If it’s not a platform where your audience currently lives, then whatever, at least you have control of your online visibility there in return for 5 minutes of your time. Bonus: you get ‘dibs’ on more search-friendly usernames.

Compile your account log-ins somewhere safe and organised, consider something like 1Password. Try to stay consistent across all socials. Brands like Nike and Apple have created different meanings for check marks and actual Apples for this exact reason. I recommend you go through the list of relevant platforms you need to be on here.

5. Build your network and community

We generally don’t want to be someone’s first friend. To put it bluntly, we’re more inclined to socialise and engage with someone that already knows a friend of ours or someone we’ve already crossed paths with one way or another.

This makes platforms like LinkedIn the place to be if you’re a professional for example. You need to find others to collaborate with. We have a Community Hub at WhiteHat where we can network with fellow apprentices and generally just chat on whatever,which is ideal for collaboration. It’s even open for external apprentices if you’re interested!

6. Don’t be afraid to be a copycat

It’s almost impossible to have a unique style of content at first. Don’t be afraid to try to look around for content that resembles your personal brand and put your own twist on it. Next thing you know, you’re slowly diverging away and finding your own niche. My website’s colour palette was inspired by Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’ colour palette for example.

Look at who’s leading your particular genre of content and find inspiration in what they're doing.

7. Trust in the process

It’s okay to fail along the way, and I don’t mean that in the ‘motherly’ sort of way because failing is obviously not a good thing. But fail with a purpose, if your content piece didn’t receive any traction but you move forward from it with just a little more insight about your brand than you did before then was it really a failure?

Keep reinventing yourself. Keep experimenting with your brand, who your audience are and what you’re doing. Everyone that has an established personal brand can tell you that they went through rough patches where nothing seemed to work.  It’ll eventually be your make-or-break moment as well.

And lastly, don’t forget that you’re the product

You’re the product. It’s the value that you bring to other people that will build your ‘personal brand’, it’s just what comes after the fact. There’s no free lunch - people will lift you up just as much as you bring value to them. Refer back to tip #2 to channel your value.All these tips of strategising and planning above are based on promoting you - and if the product is bad... just take it from the ‘Father of Advertising’ himself.

You more than anyone else should know how to improve your value. Your personal brand’s sort of the exam that you spend 1% of your time on after all the revising behind the scenes. Like revising for exams, learn what you’re talking about first and the rest comes easy.

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