Days after graduating from college, I landed a job at a PR agency and received a promotion to an executive level position within less than a year. While I owe a lot of my success to my Alma Mater, one thing that made all the difference was personal branding.
Essentially, personal branding is how we market ourselves. It seems farfetched to consider marketing ourselves as if we were a product, but guess what—you are a product, and a very unique one at that.
For example, Nike, Apple, and Target all have distinct, unforgettable brands. You can use the same concept by establishing a personal brand.
Just imagine if these iconic brands chose to disregard the concept of product branding. That means no memorable taglines, logos, messaging, culture, engagement, appeal, visibility, partnerships, etc. Without a solid brand, you lose visibility and become overlooked. Given our economic climate—12.8 million Americans unemployed, 1.5 million jobless college grads—you probably thought of our job market. you can’t afford to go unnoticed.
To begin this process, you need to first identify and determine a few things:
• Define yourself: What are your unique skills, experiences, and values? What makes you different?
• Determine your audience: Who are you trying to reach?
• Establish your messaging: What are you trying to convey? What do you want others to remember about you?
Identifying these areas will form the backbone of your brand. Once you pinpoint them, you can begin constructing the other pieces needed to communicate your brand. This is the fun part. To effectively communicate your brand, think of yourself as if you were an organization. What tools would you need to enable others to be able to identify you?
Implementing the following tools will be essential:
Logo. What fonts, colors, shapes, etc. represent your name/brand identity? For example, let’s say you want to convey you are a bold thinker. You could think of symbols you associate with the word “thinking” to design your logo. You could also use bold fonts or colors to design your name or initials. Remember, simple is more memorable, so try to design with only one to two fonts and three to four colors in mind.
Tagline. What’s the one line that people should relate to your name/brand? For example, when you hear “Eat Fresh,” you probably think of Subway and its fresh ingredients? Imagine if Subway didn’t have a tagline. Would you think it was a sandwich restaurant or a transportation organization?
Back to our “bold thinker” example: This is only one facet of your brand identity. You should also consider your other strong suits to establish a more far-reaching brand so that you don’t miss out on other opportunities.
Let’s say your top three traits are bold thinking, strategizing, and relationship building. One possible tagline to express these traits could be: “Intentionally connecting your ideas.” Remember, taglines are unique to you and offer a distinct definition of who you. Think of the U.S. Army’s “Be All That You Can Be” and Sprite’s “Obey Your Thirst.”
Brand tools. Creating personalized business cards, stationary, a website, etc. says to potential employers that you take yourself seriously and that you bring professionalism with your work.
Social media. It seems no discussion is complete without mentioning the role social media should play. In this case, your brand should have a presence on social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and especially LinkedIn. Note I said your brand. If you have personal accounts on any of these outlets, it would be in your best interest to tailor your accounts to your brand messaging otherwise you could be conveying opposing messages. For example, if I design my brand in a way that tells potential employers I am highly motivated and driven, they should not find a Twitpic of me looking bored at work with a description saying, “It’s only 8:05 a.m.”
Greeting cards. This seems to be a dying art in today’s electronic world. But research shows that 90 percent of people prefer receiving a real card over an e-card. Why? Because it’s more authentic, sincere, personal, and memorable, and therefore a great way to get your personal brand noticed. SendOut Cards is one of the most effective communication tools today; it enables you to design cards so customizable that you can even upload your own handwriting. You can use them to send a thank you card to that person in HR who set up your interview or to introduce yourself to a potential employer. Check it our here.
Overall, personally branding yourself will give you the unique opportunity to share your story. It is critical to go beyond online applications or mass emails containing your résumé. Make use of this concept and get your foot in the door, literally.
Ann Ittoop is the PR account executive at Lyerly Agency, a brand marketing and public relations firm, based in Charlotte, N.C. For questions or comments, you can reach Ann at firstname.lastname@example.org.