At a recent talk for experienced professionals, a question came up on how to invest in your personal brand:
Something I really struggle with is my personal brand and how to make myself stand out – especially as someone who maybe isn’t as tech savvy or a social media savvy as they should be, so I would love to know what people have done to build their own brand that comes across as authentic. I would also love to know where you think money is best spent if you have a limited marketing or PR budget to build your brand. If I can start with 1 or 2 thousand dollars, where will that money best be spent?
In a recent Forbes post, I shared ten ways to invest $1,000 in your career, and many of the suggestions for investing in your personal brand are similar. Let’s face it: a strong personal brand supports a strong career. When people know about you and think of you positively, this helps you get jobs, you gain supporters to help you advance, and if your career of choice is entrepreneurship, your personal brand helps early customers trust you and buy from you.
Sound career investments make good brand investments. You could earmark your $1,000 to branding in the following ways, all of which made the list for overall career investments as well:
- Buy free time (e.g., extra help around the house) so you can spend the time saved on branding activities, whether that’s meeting with people live, interacting with people on social, or reaching out more broadly by blogging or speaking.
- Pay for networking events (e.g., conferences or coffee with a former colleague) so you connect with new people and build your brand or reconnect with old friends and maintain your brand. Just make sure that you recognize that networking is more branding than selling. Too many aspiring business owners run themselves ragged in these networking meetings, thinking they’re making sales. The best networking isn’t about trying to close anything.
- Update a branding-related skill, such as consumer marketing, social media, or public speaking. All of these disciplines will give you strategies or tools that can help you build your brand.
- Update brand-building equipment, such as your wardrobe,
- Call in an expert, such as a brand consultant who can help you get clarity about your own brand, an image consultant who can help you with your physical appearance, or a writer who can help you with your resume (if you’re branding for a career) or your website and marketing collateral (if you’re branding for a business venture).
- Develop a personal hobby or passion – a.k.a., get a life. A multifaceted brand is more interesting to employers, customers, and in general networking. You want to have something to talk about outside of professional interests during those conference cocktail receptions and coffee catch-ups. People who are enjoyable to be around have a strong personal brand
- Reduce your stress, and project good energy. People who have positive energy have a strong personal brand.
The most important thing to remember about branding is that you are going to care more about optimizing your personal brand than anyone else. So you can never outsource branding entirely, and no one will do it better than you or even well, without your active participation. Therefore, your primary investment is not money, but rather investing the time, effort and focus in your brand to ensure that it reflects what you value and what your career objectives are.
Knowing what you want and what your career objectives are is the first step. This professional asked specifically about social media and branding. Social media can be incredibly powerful to amplify your brand, but you still need to know what your brand is, you still need to determine who you want your brand audience to be, and then you need to confirm if social media is the best way to get to that audience. For a traditional career, many employers rely on LinkedIn to find candidates, but do you need to be a LinkedIn power user? Not really, you just need to follow some basic steps to make sure your LinkedIn profile reflects your value. Many business build a following on Facebook, does that mean your business should grow that way? Not necessarily, depending on whether your target customers use Facebook to decide what to buy.
I wouldn’t make any money investments, until you have allocated specific time on your calendar to work on branding activities and have thought through what you want your brand to represent. Then, when you have a sense of what’s missing (I need to know more about social media! or I don’t have enough time to post as much as I need to!) then you can invest your dollars effectively. You can also spread your total investment across different activities to further test what works for you.