I have been hearing a lot of talk lately about building a personal brand and have been mulling about how I could best put it into my own perspective. An admitted Reality TV junkie, I thought this format might make for a fun take on the topic. Here are my tips and advice (and a very blatant, shameless attempt to get noticed by the people over at 12most.com).

1. You become what you present:

“Pick a role and OWN it. It helps people identify with you and reduces uncertainty when dealing with you” Jack Harrold. For most of the people you interact with online, the only view they have of you is your personal digital brand. What you say in blog posts, Tweet about, or write on your Facebook status is all they can get of you. Unless you have a webcam on you 24/7, your digital communities will only get what you present in a predominately written format. Do I know people like Scott Stratten (who, technically I did meet once on his book tour – so, you know, total bff) Margie Claymon or Erika Napoletano in person? No, but I do feel like I know ‘who they are’ from how they represent themselves online.

2. Cameras are everywhere:

I use the term “camera” here loosely. I should say the Internet is everywhere. You have to keep in mind that everything you post can be found by someone. Don’t post things you don’t want your mother, boss or future children to see. Your offline antics can also come back to haunt you in a world of camera phones (people of Walmart anyone?) YouTube videos.

3. Someone is always just in it for the money:

Don’t be that guy. Please. Ever. When you are building a personal brand, make it about you. That’s why it’s personal. Show your passions and personality. In whatever you are doing, find a way to make it important to you. You don’t want the impression of your personal brand to give off a spammy “MAKE BIG MONEY ONLINE!!!!” feeling.

4. Form an alliance:

Having a group of people you can trust is important. You need to build a community of people who you know will help answer your questions, pick you up when you are down, brainstorm ideas, proof your work or even bury the bodies, (ok, that last bit went a bit extreme, but you see the idea) Having the ‘go to’ person for whatever may rise.

5. You may just have to eat a bug:

There is always something you don’t want to do. Stick to it. Pay your dues, keep your ears open to criticism, form a routine, whatever it takes to “Pull up your big girl panties and get on with it.” Note: if you do in fact feel the need to eat a bug – at least choose a chocolate covered one.

6. Use you 15 minutes of fame wisely:

If you come across an opportunity to have a sudden boost in views (such as a guest post on a high profile blog or a potential “viral” moment) Take advantage of being introduced to new people and communities and put your best foot forward.

7. I’m not bad; I was just edited that way:

“I’m not really like that. I was edited to look that way” is one of the most popular things said on reality “Real Housewives of…” reunion shows. C’mon ladies, you gave the editors everything they used. Learn how to edit yourself. For instance, I have a terrible “potty mouth” in person, but that is something I can and do ‘edit’ out of what I say online. Am I still me? Absolutely. Just the most “suitable for work” version I can be.

8. It’s all about looks:

Look at your avatar. Do you see a clear, flattering photo of you? Do you see the Twitter egg? Are you showing an image of yourself that you can be proud of? Take the time to look at your photos on Facebook. If you have posted, or have been tagged in someone else’s that is not how you want yourself represented, take it down. Think about it – in 30 years – is that picture you took of yourself in front of a wall of urinals or doing a keg stand something you will be proud of?

9. It’s not always as pretty as it seems:

Image is important but, sometimes things look a lot better on the outside. In the realm of Reality TV, you often see big homes, designer bags, champagne, fancy cars and diamonds, but the lives the people are living can still be hard. The wealth and fame could he hiding some terrible unhappiness.* Remember: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” — Plato. Things may look better on the outside because people are keeping the battle hidden. The decision of whether or not to keep the big and bad out of notice is up to each person. Some people use their struggles as part of their own brand to help others out and act as positive role models, while some complain & some choose to stay quiet. It is all in how you want to represent yourself and your brand.

10. Whoever you are, you will find your audience:

This goes back again to finding your passion and being you. Get out there and enter communities where people want to listen to the things you want to talk about. There is an audience out there for everything you just need to find yours.

11. If you wait around long enough, something WILL happen:

The production companies of Reality TV shows usually film days and weeks at a time, which eventually gets distilled down to a few good hours of the good, juicy stuff. To these producers, it must appear that nothing exciting will ever happen…Just more footage of a bunch of young adults pouring bowls of cereal and talking about who was in the “smoosh room” last night. But then, out of nowhere, something does happen. Suddenly there a book is set down and the next thing you know a table is being flipped and all you know what breaks loose! ** When you are trying to start a personal brand, you have to be willing to wait it out through post after post before becoming recognized. Some of your blogs may become a runaway hits, while the ones that you were sure would be social media gold fizzle into obscurity like literary drivel.

12. Just because you got the final rose does not mean you win:

Don’t sully your personal brand and reputation fighting to reach the top of the heap. Do you best and earn your reputation. Sometimes the person who works hard will not take the immediate prize, but will win something bigger in the long run. Look at American Idol season three. Who is the bigger star now? The winner of that season Fantasia Burino or Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson who was voted off the show in the weeks prior. Being the best possible you will get you far in life, and besides. Would you really want to be engaged to Jake Pavelka?

* If anyone would like to donate some diamonds and designer handbags, I would be happy to have you prove me wrong! ;)

**I mean no disrespect to the people of the genre. In fact, Tereasa & Caroline from RHONJ are two of my favorite people to ever grace my TV.