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How to Build Your Personal and Professional Brand

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When we hear the word BRAND, images may pop into your head of the Starbucks mermaid, that Smiling “A” that means Amazon or the little Apple with a bite out of it. These are such recognizable brands, that there is no question what they are “known for.” How did they do it? How do we become “known” for something?

The first thing to realize is your brand is not necessarily what you say about yourself or your company–although you can absolutely help shape it. Just because you put something on your website or social media bio, doesn’t mean that others will believe you. You have to prove it… and have others share that same proof for you.

Your band is what others say or feel about you. You may say you are an expert in the real estate arena, the animal photography industry or in Italian women’s shoes (in which case you and I should be best friends), but if you aren’t putting out some sort of content or product that people talk about, share or otherwise come in contact with, your desired brand will have a tough time becoming known.

WHO ARE YOU?

To begin crafting and influencing your personal or professional brand you have to start by identifying what you want to be known for. Notice I didn’t say what you are good at. Many of us have talents or skills that we don’t even want people to know about. My ability to train dogs to roll over and do the moonwalk is not a skill I am ever going to want to be “known for.”

Perhaps we don’t enjoy doing something, or we have “squiggled” or pivoted on to a new career track. We have to start by creating a list of skills and attributes that you want people to associate with you and your brand. When people are talking to their friends or co-workers and one of these topics come up, you want them to say, “I know who’s an expert at this” or “I know who you need to talk to.”

WHO or WHAT ARE YOU BECOMING?

Now, what are the skills you’d like to be known for but haven’t yet mastered?  Is there an area you’re developing? This is important when you’re starting over, re-entering the workforce, or making a pivot in your career.  Don’t minimize these skills and don’t wait until you have that proverbial 10,000 hours of expertise before you start to weave it into your branding plan. Finish this sentence:

I am becoming ___________.  

Starbucks started out as a coffee roaster and BECAME the “third place” for people to come and hang out. Lululemon started out as a maker of surf and skateboard shorts and BECAME synonymous with yoga-pants. The Knot started by writing articles for unique and counter-culture wedding ideas and then BECAME the go-to planning site for all things “wedding!” What are you becoming?

START BEFORE YOU’VE ARRIVED

When you are working in a new area and BECOMING the expert or resource, you want to share this journey with the world. Jump into the conversation. Share what you are learning and doing. If you are launching a product, bring us along on your journey to involve us in your process. We love to come along when someone is learning, growing, and going somewhere we want to go as well.  If I am on that same journey or wanting to begin, your content will inspire and educate me, even if you have not “arrived.”

I know you can’t get great until you get started, so the longer you wait to begin, the longer it will take for you to get great. Start. Learn all you can, and share the nuggets of learning along the way.

WHO WILL YOUR BRAND REACH?

The next step is to understand who your brand wants to reach. Who is that ideal person that will connect and “get you?” This is important because it will shape HOW you share your expertise and brand attributes. Go beyond the “what gender, age, and income level define my ideal client.” Dive into the psychographics as well. What is your ideal customer interested in? What do they hate? What are the things your ideal customer would be doing during the day? How about on weekends? What does he or she read or watch on television? Where do you think she shops? How about online? What problems does she have that you can help her with? What are her pain and frustration points?

This may seem unnecessary, but it is so important to get this right. If you try and create content for everyone, you will create content for no one. The more targeted you can be with your products, services, or content, the easier it is to attract the right audience and the greater loyalty someone will have for you.

WHAT WILL YOU CREATE AND SHARE?

Content comes in so many forms. Written articles, blog posts, whitepapers, videos, podcasts, webinars. What will you create to solve a problem for that ideal person you identified earlier? If you need a starting point, simply write down the top FAQs your ideal customer would be asking Google, SIRI, or Alexa. Now take each of those questions and answer them in different formats—blog posts, articles on other websites, videos, podcasts, webinars, infographics, etc.

Be sure to stay focused on your overall goal for your brand.  This doesn’t mean you can’t share any other content on your social sites or that you can’t be involved in other side projects, but if someone you don’t know, looks at your body of work, can they tell what your area of expertise is? If you suddenly post political rants or lots of information on other topics, it begins to dilute or pollute your brand.  Do a self-audit. Scan down a page of your social media channels. What would someone say you were known for if they looked at it? Would YOU follow YOU?

WHERE WILL YOU SHARE IT?

Today there are so many channels to share your content. You can share your content on websites, blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Medium, and Podcast channels and so many more. The question is often, “Do I need to be on all of them?” Absolutely not. I like to say, “Choose one and NAIL IT, before you decide to SCALE IT!” Select the social channels that you believe your audience is most active on. If you’re not sure, there are ways to do a bit of research first.

Look across the different social channels and search for your peers, competitors, and customers. Where do you find them hanging out? Are there groups they are participating in? Search industry and conference hashtags on each channel. This can pull up content that can help you discover where you might want to be found as well.

Start with one or two social channels and be consistent. Don’t spread yourself so thin that you can’t keep up with it. Sharing and participating on social media channels is more than just blasting your content out to the world. It requires you to participate in the community as well. Comment on the content of others. Ask questions in groups or share your expertise there when others ask questions. It’s the “social” part of social media.

Related: Here’s What You Can Control When It Comes to Success

HOW OFTEN DO YOU NEED TO HAVE CONTENT OUT IN FRONT OF PEOPLE?

This is another common question. There isn’t a hard and fast rule, but there is a direct correlation between frequency and the number of people who will be drawn to your content. Obviously, if the content is not good, people won’t share it or want to consume it, but even good content produced once ever 3-6 months is not going to do you much good if you are trying to establish a brand.

Many people want to be known like Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, Marie Forleo, or Adam Grant, but they don’t want to do the work those people do when it comes to creating and sharing content. The people who are considered thought leaders in their industries are sharing video content, blog posts, writing books, newsletter content, podcasts, and everything in between.

Start with a goal to write or create one piece of good content per week. This can be you answering a question or giving your opinion on a topic that has come up at work or in the news. Work to create a habit to write or record something every day, even if it doesn’t get published or used. By doing this daily, you will begin to get better and you will end up sharing more content more often, and in turn, you will become known for this.

WHAT IF YOU DON’T HAVE TIME?

I get it. We’re all busy and our time is more limited than ever. This is why it’s hard to become a “thought leader” or well-known brand. If it were easy, everyone would do it. To stand out requires sacrifice somewhere. You can hire someone to do the writing and sharing for you (hint hint…that’s what we do at SocialKNX), or you can put in an extra hour each morning or each evening to do what others won’t do.

You can sacrifice evening television time for writing time. You can trade a couple hours of sleeping in on the weekends and get up to work on your personal or professional brand. When someone asks, where they should spend their time, my answer is, “it depends.” I can tell you where NOT to spend your time. Don’t waste it watching television. Don’t waste it attending meetings you don’t have to be in (don’t even get me started on this one).

Become a high productivity content creator. While you are waiting in lines, at appointments, at soccer practice, pull out your phone or notebook and jot down ideas. I love using Evernote for this. I have notebooks in there for podcast guest ideas, blog post ideas, Alexa and Google Briefing tips to create. When I sit down to create I don’t have to waste time thinking of ideas.

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Now it’s your turn. What will you create to begin crafting that brand? What are you BECOMING? I’d love to hear in the comments below or on any social channel. Connect with me –> @GinaSchreck on any social channel and tell me what you are becoming. I can’t wait to hear!

 

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