There’s a reason personal branding is a priority of the most successful businesspeople you know, whether they operate as freelancers, independent consultants, small business owners, corporate executives, executives in well-branded businesses or organizations, or leaders of every stripe. Those who achieve their goals and ascend to the top of their fields benefit from highly regarded reputations — personal brands — that pave the way for success.
Is it time to polish your personal brand? Here’s an advance look at six points to consider. They’re excerpted from the brand new second edition of Branding For Dummies, available online and in bookstores within days.
- Are your personal and business brands out of balance?
Most small-business leaders present two brands at once: a personal brand and the brand of their own or their employer’s business. Make sure the two brands reinforce but don’t eclipse each other by weighing these questions:
- If you sold your business or left your job tomorrow, is your personal brand strong enough to carry you into new opportunities? Have you developed your reputation based on your personal abilities and the distinct value you consistently deliver, or is your reputation built primarily on your current business situation and title and therefore not easily transportable to future opportunities? If your personal brand isn’t well defined and transportable, it needs work, especially if you anticipate major changes in the near future.
- If you own your own business or hold a key position in your employer’s business, is the business brand you represent strong enough to survive without the power of your personal brand behind it, should you decide to leave the business? If your personal brand is so strong that people know and trust you, personally, more than they know or trust your business, your business brand needs attention.
- Are search results for your name scarce, dated, or worse?
Google handles a more than a billion name searches daily. What do people see when they type in your name? The results influence their opinions about who you are, what you stand for, and how outstanding you are in your field.
So sign out of Google or click “incognito” or “private browsing” for a first-hand look. Do you own the all-important first search result for your name? Do you dominate the first page of results, with links to positive content all the way down the screen?
If your search leads to no, few, or deeply buried results, get busy:
- Launch a blog or website and create profiles on major social-media networks, including Google+ and LinkedIn, as both appear prominently in search results.
- Develop links to current, favorable content by achieving positive mentions on high-traffic, reputable sites that can push unfavorable links onto second, third, or subsequent screens, where they’re less likely to be seen.
- Make the most of your efforts by using one version of your name everywhere, from your business cards to your personal introductions, to your domain name and social-media profiles so you’re easily findable in searches.
- Do you freeze up when it’s time to introduce yourself?
In today’s attention-deprived world you get seconds to make others want to learn more. Be ready with a 30-second introduction you can use face-to-face, a 160-character (20-word) introduction you can use on social-media pages and other online sites, and 50-, 100- and 500-word versions you can rapidly select from to share when people ask for your biographical information. Convey:
- What you do and for whom
- The kind of information and expertise people can count on receiving from you
- A thought-provoking, interesting, likeable indication of why you’re credible, trustworthy, and worth associating with, along with facts about what you’re into and what you’ve done that’s cool and brag-worthy — without actually bragging
- Do your pitches get ignored or rejected?
If your social-media invitations get no response, your phone calls don’t get returned, or your pitches always come in behind those of the winning contender, your personal brand may be part of the problem. Improve your success rate by developing positive answers to these questions:
- What do people think when they meet you or see or hear your name?
- What do they learn if they ask around or search for your name online?
- What do they see if they look at your social-media pages?
- What impression do they get from their first contact with you, whether that contact comes through an email message, a letter, a phone call, a résumé, a personal encounter, or some other form of introduction?
- Do you need, but have a hard time asking for referrals and recommendations?
Good words from respected and trustworthy sources are key to branding success. Request praise following these steps:
- Tell why you’re asking for a recommendation. For example, “I’m preparing to announce my new book and would like my website and promotional material to include kudos from respected authors like you who are familiar with my work.” This gives your request context, allows you to share a compliment, and conveys that the request is carefully targeted.
- Describe the recommendation you’re hoping to receive. For example, “Would you help by writing a couple of sentences that mention my expertise and your experience working with me? I’m including a few recent comments as examples that might make my request easier to fulfill.” This saves the request recipient time and guides development of a recommendation that suits your needs.
- State your timeline. For example, “I’m hoping to receive your comment by the end of next week, along with the website you’d like me to link to your name.” This makes your request clear and mutually beneficial.
- Are you seeking more awareness, credibility, and recognition in your field?
Personal goals are the best reason of all to kick your personal branding efforts into high gear. If it’s time to make your personal reputation a higher priority pick up Branding For Dummies or go to my website, www.bizstrong.com, where I’ll post a PDF of the first chapter as soon as it’s available, along with ongoing tips to help you on your road to greater personal success.
Barbara Findlay Schenck helps entrepreneurs start, brand, market, and sell their businesses. She is the author of four For Dummies books and a small business columnist, strategist, and speaker. Contact her at www.bizstrong.com, Facebook.com/bizstrong or @Bizstrong on Twitter.
“Excellent Branding Means Company Identity And Branded” courtesy of Stuart Miles / www.freedigitalphotos.net