Your “personal brand” can also be defined as your “online reputation.” Whether you’re an employee or self-employed, developing and managing your online brand is essential.
If you apply for a new job, one of the first things a potential new employer will do is Google your name. If you’re self employed and have approached potential new customers, it is likely that they will do the same. When this happens, you want to make sure you’re in control of the information that gets presented to them. In fact, you cannot afford to not be.

Step 1: Define your brand

In order to develop a strong brand that will resonate with people you must clearly define what your brand is. This sounds more daunting that it actually is. You can easily do this by breaking it down into these three steps:

1) Description
The first part of defining your brand is to write your description, in essence, who or what your brand is targeting and what you want to be known for. For example, some questions to consider are:

  • What industry are you in?
  • What are you good at?
  • What do you love doing?

Example: A local contractor

2) Emotional appeal
Next, incorporate the appealing emotional characteristics of your personality, for example, you could be highly organized, hard working or have a great sense of humor. Identify why people like to work with you and how you make them feel.

Example: A highly organized local contractor with a great sense of humor.

3) Your function
Lastly, define what it is you actually do and what services you offer. Also consider what differentiates you from others within your market.

Example: A highly organized, local Remodeling Contractor with a great sense of humor and over 15 years of experience in remodeling kitchens and bathrooms.

Once you have defined each of these points you will be able to nail down your personal brand and what you stand for. Remember while considering these points, stay away from clichés and jargon so your definition is more authentic. It’s also important to remember your definition and be able to give a concise summary of yourself when someone asks, for example at a networking event.

Step 2: Communicate your personal brand

Once your brand is defined you can start communicating it. First of all, create a brand name. This could be your name or, if there are many people that have the same name as you, you could use your name and your career direction. Once you have your brand name, you can follow these next steps to communicate your personal brand.

1) Get a Personal Domain
The next thing is to secure your name on the web by getting your own personal domain name. If your name is not available, consider adding in your career direction to the URL, alternatively if a .com is not available, get a .co instead or a country extension e.g. if you’re based in the UK or .ca if you’re in Canada.

2) Build a Website
Once your domain name is secured, build a website. Think about your personal website as an online portfolio, list out your skills and expertise; consider adding recommendations from past colleagues or companies you have done business with. Make sure you regularly update it with new skills, colleague/client recommendations or new content you have created. You should also include links to your Social Media profiles as well as your contact details.

3) Social Media
Another good way to communicate and promote your personal brand is through Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ etc). Update your status regularly and share stories related to your personal brand also adding your personal thoughts and opinions. If you have created any content yourself, Social Media is a great place to promote it.

Make sure to include a link to your website from your posts so you drive traffic to it. Posting across all the Social Media networks can be time-consuming, so to make the process easier by using a tool such as Buffer app that will post your status across all the Social Media networks you are present on.

Blogging or creating unique content such as whitepapers is a great way to promote your personal brand and demonstrate your expertise. As mentioned above, make sure you feature this content on your website and also promote via Social Media.

Once you have created content, share relevant links to your posts on other blogs, comment on other blogs and build up your reputation within your industry. Make sure your comments and posts are real and authentic.

Lastly, make sure to maintain design and content consistency between all of your online profiles (e.g. your website and Social Media as well as with your offline branding such as such as business cards, brochures, resume and other marketing collateral).

Step 3: Maintain your brand

Once you have defined, developed and started promoting your personal brand, you must maintain it. In order to do this, you must continue to educate yourself within your field of expertise and keep challenging yourself. This is particularly important if you are in a fast moving industry that is always evolving.

In order to keep your brand fresh and relevant to your target market, you must continue to create fresh content. Add new layers to your brand by introducing ideas and giving your opinions on different topics. When commenting on other blogs focus on topics that are new or where you have a different perspective or more value to add.

Lastly, never stop communicating with people. Respond to emails, tweets and comments. If you are finding it difficult to keep up, manage people’s expectations by telling them that a reply can take up to X days. That way they are not disappointed when you don’t respond immediately. Networking is a great way to meet new people and to remind existing connections why they may need your services.

Build a relationship with influencers within your industry by commenting on their blog posts, interacting with them on Social Media and even offering your services as a guest blogger. Building a strong relationship with these influencers is a long process and will not happen overnight, but it can be very rewarding in elevating your position as an industry expert and increasing the longevity of your brand.