You know that businesses have brands. Logos, letterhead and marketing materials combine to create a visual representation of a company. Successful brands go even further by conveying a company’s core values and what it stands for. You may not realize that you—as an individual have a personal brand as well. What’s more, it’s directly tied to your online reputation. So, what is an online reputation and why is it important?
We often hear it said that one’s online reputation only matters when looking for a job. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Your personal brand should be thoroughly planned and crafted throughout your career. Just as you prune a tree in your yard, so should you care for—and hone—your online reputation strategy.
A Dangerous Playground
The internet is home to a host of things. Some useful, some silly, some just plain embarrassing. Unfortunately, the latter tends to linger longer than any of us would like. Maybe an acquaintance from high school tagged you in an awkward yearbook photo. While this has the potential to be cringe-inducing, odds are that this photo won’t jeopardize your future career options. But we’ve seen instances when old photographs have resurfaced and caused controversy. Many CEOs have apologized for actions—often years after the fact–which were brought to light thanks to the internet.
So how do you cultivate a healthy online reputation? Where should you start? Any smart marketing initiative begins with a plan. Ask yourself these questions:
- Who do I want to speak to?
- What values do I want to convey?
- Where do I plan to market myself?
- Why is my message important?
Once you’ve answered these questions, turn them into a one or two sentence mission statement. For example:
“I speak to business professionals who are committed to conscious leadership. Through seminars and speaking engagements, I provide tools that can be utilized to increase emotional intelligence in the workplace.”
This mission statement is your thesis. As you move forward with your personal branding strategy, ask yourself, “Does this enforce the values put forth in my mission statement?” If the answer is yes, you’re on the right path.
Establish a Baseline
Have you ever Googled yourself? It’s a simple way to get a sense of what information is available to anyone with a computer. Best of all, it’s free.
It’s incredibly easy for a potential client to perform a basic search to discover all sorts of information about you. In a best-case scenario, they find an interview you gave on an industry-related topic. Perhaps they unearth a blog post you authored years ago—further emphasizing your knowledge in the field. More likely though, they’ll discover links to your social media, personal website or LinkedIn page.
Once you’re able to see how you are viewed by others, you can determine how to shape that perception. Is there anything missing that would better position you to achieve your goals and improve your online reputation?
Being true to yourself is being true to your brand. Don’t try to be an expert on something you’re not. Identifying what you do well will define your message. If you’re skilled in an area, now is not the time to be shy about it. Make sure that what you have to say is useful. This is content that has value to others. Just remember, how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate.
Speaking honestly to your audience about your history and experiences will distinguish you and help build the brand you want.
Tell Your Story
A personal brand is essentially a retelling of your story. The best brands are those that leave an impression on someone. If a visitor to your website read your “About” page, what would they discover? Here’s an exercise: view your LinkedIn page and take a look at your Experience section. Make a list of the most important lessons you learned at each of the jobs/positions you’ve held. Now, turn your list into a paragraph. This is your story. The best part is that it’s personal and it’s yours.
Now that you’ve crafted your story, how do you tell it? Successful brands give people several ways to digest their content. Some people may want to read your blog, others may prefer to watch a video. LinkedIn videos get some of the highest levels of engagement across the platform. You’d be amazed at the personal connection you can establish with video.
It’s important that all aspects of your personal branding strategy communicate in the same voice. Your website and social media channels should work together to build an image of you as a thought leader. Remember your mission statement. Let your passion resonate but accentuate your expertise.
It never hurts to narrow your focus. By creating a brand voice around a single topic, you paint yourself as an expert on that subject. Take care to coordinate all your social media channels along the same theme. Consistency is key.
You don’t have to go it alone. The benefit of developing connections on social media is you have people who know you and your skillset. More importantly, they may be willing to help spread the word.
Family, friends from college, and former coworkers are all potential brand ambassadors. Reach out to them. Share your goals and ask them for their advice—and be sure to listen. Your contacts will very likely make up your initial audience. If you’re unable to move them, you’re not likely to be able to inspire others. Keep in mind that relationships are a two-way street. Make sure to let them know you’re willing to help them achieve their goals as well.
Live Your Brand
Whether you like it or not, your online reputation follows you wherever you go. Make sure it’s a genuine reflection of who you are and what you believe in. Keep in mind, your personal brand is not just a list of job titles and experiences. It should also convey your ideals or philosophy—like mentoring, philanthropy or thoughtful leadership.
It’s important to practice what you preach. Would you hire a roofer whose own house is full of leaks? Imagine that your brand strategy espouses the importance of sharing information. Yet your website offers no blog, no downloads—no value. You’re not living your brand. Set an example and become your own case study.
That’s it! With thoughtful planning and strategic execution, you can create and cultivate an online reputation engineered for success. Trueline offers an array of digital marketing services to help monitor, track and improve your personal brand. Contact us today to get started.