Knowledge: Arlen Pettitt, North East England Chamber of Commerce knowledge development manager, offers sage advice on the main factors you should be thinking about when building a personal brand and your approach to connecting with people
When we think of a brand, we think of logos, colour schemes and typefaces.
The kind that leap at us from billboards and bus stops, and follow us around the internet reminding us of the things we left unbought in our Amazon baskets.
These brands are carefully crafted by professionals after months of research – focus groups, customer experience surveys and huddles with senior leadership teams – and extensively and very deliberately deployed to influence customers and clients.
Brands aim to convey a set of values, a sense of quality and create an emotional connection. They establish a tone of voice and a set of principle messages.
The best brands don’t even need words to do that. Some have an incredibly strong link with colour – think Coca-Cola’s red, Easyjet’s orange, or Google’s whole colour palette – or sounds, like Asda’s pocket full of change or McDonald’s ‘loving it’ jingle.
That’s how it works for organisations, but individuals have brands too.
Personal brands serve exactly the same purpose as organisational ones. They convey who you are and what you’re about, what your values are and what you care about, get across your voice and create or cement some level of emotional connection to you.
And that isn’t just true of sole traders and independent consultants.
“With our modern blurred divide between work and home life, who we are is increasingly connected with what we do and how we present ourselves is increasingly influential when it comes to opening (and closing) the doors of opportunity”
With our modern blurred divide between work and home life, who we are is increasingly connected with what we do and how we present ourselves is increasingly influential when it comes to opening (and closing) the doors of opportunity.
How we do this in person – in the office, in meetings, when out networking – is only one part of this, how we connect and reinforce that to our digital self is just as important. It’s often the first thing we do when we get back to the office having met someone new; Google them and see what they are like on Twitter, add them on LinkedIn, read any recent blogs.
It’s also now commonplace for employers to check the social media accounts of potential new recruits.
In a survey of 1,000 hiring managers, US-based HR specialists CareerBuilder found that 70 per cent checked the social media profiles of potential employees, and two-thirds ‘Googled’ candidates before inviting them for an interview.
Concerningly for the over-sharers amongst us, more than half had found content which led them to decide against hiring someone.
All of which means it’s impossible to ignore the digital as well as the physical when it comes to personal brand and the way you connect with people.
It’s no use being one person on one platform, a second one on another and third when you meet face-to-face – the consistency of message which is so important for organisational brands is just as important for personal brands.
So, if that’s the case, what should you be thinking about?
Number one on the list is authenticity.
This might feel a little counterintuitive – after all, if you’re crafting a personal brand, there’s a degree of creative license involved – but it’s vital to root it in a place of genuine interest.
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of adopting the corporate line of wherever you work and to lose your own voice in doing so.
There’s no doubt it’s difficult to strike the balance between having a professional tone and incorporating enough of yourself to be authentic.
Nonetheless, the benefits are there if you do. It’s an old adage, but an accurate one, that people buy from people.
There’s nothing more likely to set hearts aflutter in marketing circles than a brand behaving like a human on social media.
So, why would you short-change your own potential impact as a human by behaving like a brand?
After authenticity, there’s usefulness.
That comes in three parts – useful for those you’re connected to, useful to your employer, and useful to yourself.
The best content, and the best form of personal brand will be all three – you’ll be a source of information and introductions to your connections, a source of leads and productive interaction to your employer, and you’ll also be raising your own profile which enables you to further your career.
What do personal brands mean for businesses?
There can be a legitimate anxiety among corporate marketing managers at the prospect of their employees being online
and off the leash, but there are benefits for them too. The high profile brand trust research carried out annually by Edelman often points to the expectation consumers have that their favourite brands will behave ethically and be leaders on social issues.
The Dentsu Aegis Network, whose North East base is in Newcastle, also recently published research which found that 84 per cent of consumers feel it is important for them to trust the brands they use.
The best advocates for a business, and those best placed for building trust and connecting to social issues, are the team.
Potential clients and customers are likely to respond well to seeing a team trusted to be themselves and bring themselves to social media, and indeed to face-to-face networking.
From the individual perspective, speaking about things which interest you – even where these aren’t directly linked to your job role – helps to round you out as a personal brand.
It rounds out your organisation too – a business will never be perceived as a company full of automatons if the team are out there developing and embracing their personal brands.
When designing their brand, an organisation will think about their audience, about the communication channels they’re using and what they want to achieve.
For your personal brand you should be asking yourself similar questions – who are you trying to speak to? Are you coming across genuinely on Twitter, LinkedIn, your blog and in person? Do you have a clear sense of where you are heading?
Maintain a focus on those elements, while reacting honestly and humanly to what’s in front of you – whether online or in person – will set you in good stead for building your personal brand to the benefit of your employer and your career.