In an age of overexposed reality stars, it’s easy to be cynical about personal branding. Neglecting your own brand, though, has very real consequences for your career.
Whether you’ve actively created one or not (or whether you like it or not!), each of us has a brand. It comes from how others see you. Are you the organized one, the person who gets things done, the flake? If you imagine how differently you’d interact with each of those types of people, you’ll see how ignoring your brand can limit your possibilities.
Marketing guru Seth Godin says, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for [the decision] to choose one product/service [or person!] over another.” When you create a compelling brand, you attract people who want the promise of your brand.
Think about what differentiates you from others. Getting clear on the benefit you provide helps direct your actions and can even help you answer those pesky interview questions! And even if you can’t identify your brand yet, take the following steps to protect your online reputation.
Claim your online identity before someone else does. Every professional should have a LinkedIn profile. Just registering starts a positive reputation. Claim your name on Twitter and Facebook, and if you can, buy your URL, e.g., www.yourname.com. It’s a rare hiring manager who doesn’t Google a prospective staffer.
Live the reputation you want to see online. As Martin Zwilling notes in his Entrepreneur article, “6 Keys to a Positive Online Presence and Reputation,” “It’s impossible to live one life and project another, so remember your current or future business [reputation] before posting that provocative picture…the Internet sees the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Watch for negative online comments and address them directly. Set a Google Alert, or an alert from a similar free app, to find any not-so-positive comments associated with your name on the internet. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring negative comments hoping no one will notice. Act quickly and address each comment non-defensively, ideally pointing to other content that supports your statements. Participate in LinkedIn forum discussions on industry activities to help you establish a positive internet presence, which can offset any random negative comment.
Remember, a strong personal brand is the best protection you can have against business factors you can’t control.