Why You Should Take Charge of Your Personal Brand

You’re already a brand and don’t know it. If you have personal information online, people have formed an opinion about you—whether you like it or not. That Twitter account about cat memes, your Yelp review on fish tacos, and your LinkedIn profile are all telling the world a story. And if you grew up posting content as an adolescent, that story includes cringe-worthy material.

In the pre-internet days, the only thing a business knew about you was the polished info you put on your resume. Today, people can plug your name into a search portal and find out everything about you from your age to where you lived to those drunken photos you posted on Instagram.

This is why taking control of your personal brand is so important. Personal branding is about creating your own narrative so the world sees you as you want to be seen.

To get some advice on how to improve your personal brand, I turned to Cynthia Johnson, a branding expert, keynote speaker, and author of the new book Platform. Here are three steps she talks about how you can get started forming your personal brand.

1) Discover what’s already out there

Have you ever Googled your name? Some call it ego surfing, but when you find out what’s out there, it’s actually ego deflating. One site even gave me a personal rating of 3 out of 5. Even worse is finding all the content you published without realizing it was searchable, from random blog entries to YouTube videos to embarrassing profile pics.

Johnson suggests you search from a new browser or incognito window to see unfiltered search results. And don’t just use Google to search for what’s out there. Use other sites like pipl.com, dogpile.com, and webcrawler.com to make sure you have found everything. Because if you don’t, someone else will.

2) Curate what can be seen

Next, make a chart of the content you found. Johnson suggests placing the content in three categories: what you don’t want, how Facebook categorizes you for ads, and how Google categorizes you for ads.

For the content you want to vanish, you can delete it or make it private—if you have control over the site. Sometimes, there will be content you can’t delete, such as that old online diary you lost the password to like Johnson did. In that case, don’t visit that site again so the material gets deemphasized in search.

3) Write your narrative

You are the person you tell people you are. So write your own narrative. New content will show up on the first-page search results over old content. So make sure people get the right first impression of you as a go-getter before they go deeper into the result pages and find your college party photos.

Johnson suggests you can write your own narrative by joining a new social media site, starting a blog, buying your own web domain, or interacting with sites you want to be associated with. Once you start publishing content in one or more of these areas, people will see you as you want to be seen.

Remember, people who do business with you will always research you. So the best action, Johnson says, is to take control of your narrative before people start creating their own narrative.

Read more: Three Popular Misconceptions About Personal Branding