I am talking about creating a Personal Brand. (No, not the “Old West” stories kind of branding.)
What do I exactly mean about “brand”?
The way most people think of the term is in reference to a product produced by a particular company. Or when you see a trademark symbol of a company, you will know right away what kind of products they produce, or what kind of culture they represent. When you think of the company Apple, you may think of innovation and the color white. When you think of Dodge you might think of powerful trucks, or muscle cars.
The Personal Brand:
Keeping to the above train of thought, when someone sees your name pop up in an e-mail or on a social media sight, what will they think of you? That is totally in your power, or at least it should be. Unless you have no desire to interact with the world, or be on social media, you should be thinking about your “personal brand”.
How you project yourself into the world can be as simple as you want, or as elaborate as you want. Just remember that in this day and age one comment on Twitter, or an image on Instagram can circle the world in a matter of minutes.
I went to college with a guy who for his freshman College ID picture, he shoved a big hamburger in his mouth and made a face. At the time it was hysterical and represented his quirky fun loving personalty. Only problem was, he had to keep that ID for his college career, and as graduation into the real world got closer and he needed to be taken more serious, that silly image became a handicap. Just like that drunk picture on Facebook, could be a future liability when you want to be taken serious!
Parents should also think before they post pictures and comments about their children on-line. They should pause and consider how they will be influencing their child’s future reputation and his/her “brand”. One day Junior is going to want a serious job and when his/her future employer does an internet search and comes up with a hundred pictures of Junior’s little butt hanging out, or covered in dirt, or him doing face plants, how will that help his chances? Is your need to get that “like” for that humiliating picture of him a good trade off for his future reputation? I won’t even go into my opinion of all those parents who put their young children on reality shows to be made a fool of.
Back to your “brand”:
Your brand can be created, or it can be forced on you by what you have projected out into the world up till now. I would think you would want to wrangle that in and control it.
You have been invited to an event. Someone turns to you and introducing him or herself and asks you what do you do? What you respond with, should be in the form of the famous “elevator speech”. Normally that type of introduction is reserved for people trying to pitch a product or a book. That is why it is called an Elevator Speech: you have a person trapped in an elevator for only a short time, quick, give them a fast complete run down of what you want them to know. Instead of a product, you are pitching yourself.
I am not saying you should overwhelm the person or be a braggart, but you should give them a wonderful first impression of yourself. Something memorable, so down the road if you want to do business/date/network with that person, they will remember you in a positive light. Take a few minutes and write down some ideas and keep editing till you come up with the intro that really fits you. Now practice it so it is second nature.
Once your perfect intro is out of your mouth, the rest of the conversation can be tailored to the person in front of you. That intro can also be used on your social media sites in your profiles. Now you are really on your way to building up your “brand” and having control of it!
If you want to stay in touch after your conversation, offer your contact information by what ever form that person appears to be at ease with, from adding it into their mobile device, or handing them your “calling card”. Yes, I used the term “calling card” instead of a “business card”. Calling cards are more personal. They have been in use forever and most may think they are old fashion. I don’t know if you haven’t noticed, but what is old is now new.
If a calling card fits your “brand”, (the type of person you are), or you are dealing with someone who is not techno savvy, or they can’t get to their phone, then you best have a few tucked away to whip out when you want to keep in touch with that person. It can be as simple as your name and your e-mail address written in elegant or bold font on a quality piece of paper. Done. If you also have a business, only put a hint of that on your calling card, such as your trademark. It is poor form to try a hard sell in a social situation. This first contact with you should be “soft” and personal, not in their face with your products. That is why you use a calling card and not a business card. They will appreciate you keeping social and work boundaries. You will be remembered in a positive way.
Let’s revisit your introduction speech. Does one sentence pop out that could be converted into a statement that you could put under your signature/name in your e-mails?
Bobby Jones “Curator of Dreams.” or
Bobby Jones “Always put innovation first.”
Bobby Jones “Live life to the fullest.”
That statement is the beginning of building up your brand’s “culture”.
You have laid down the roots: time to branch out.
I will use the same guidance one would use if you were creating a business brand’s culture. What are your core values? Where do you draw the line in the sand over what you will not say, do, agree with, or associate with? Write all those answers down and look at them. Those answers are the framework to your brand’s culture.
Don’t know what your “line in the sand” is?: Sometimes we don’t know until we are faced with them. Start with looking at your on-line self. What so far has made you want to “un-friend” someone, or delete a post? What was it that caused such a strong reaction in you? That trigger may just be one of your “lines” you personally would not say, do, or cross.
Here is an example of one of my “lines in the sand”: I don’t believe in censorship of someone else’s opinions/art/writings unless it is a direct threat to someone. I believe in free speech. I believe if we censor, others can’t form their own opinions about what was said/shown, or offer a chance to learn from that person. If the expressions are distasteful, oh well. Consider the source as my mother would say. People who know me, know they can safely express criticism or differing opinions around me because that is our “history” together. It is part of my culture. My favorite example of this was years ago I posted an on-line story that lasted almost a year. On a sister site a few folks wrote a parody that many of my Readers were very angry about. They pressed me to find a way to make them stop or have it taken down. I refused. Did it bother me? A little, but my take away was this, in order for them to write such a detailed parody, they had to have been reading my story! I let it run its course without complaint, even having a bit of fun with it, because like I said, I believe in freedom of speech. Not everyone is going to like what I say or do, or will I like what they say, but I will respect their right to say it.
If you stay true to your framework of core values, you are well on your way to understanding yourself and the image you want to project into the world. No matter what happens in your life; jobs come and go, love flames up and flickers out, locations change, opinions may soften, that framework should not change, and people will recognize you because of it no matter where you go on-line or in person. And when you project a consistent culture, they will feel comfortable to get to know you more, and trust will develop. If you toss out a very scattered and ever changing/confusing image of yourself, people will move on because people don’t like to be confused. I have learned in my life that someone you may have met once, could turn out to be helpful or a very good friend in the future. So best to understand yourself and project a consistent image so they may find you when you need them!
I am not saying we as human beings should not evolve. Believe me, each decade I live I have learned more about myself and I am more and more willing to share those personality traits and discoveries with others. Evolution is cool, but you can not shake me from my basic core values and people know that about me.
From those core values you can make a list of how you want to be perceived, such as; Fair, Respectful, Great Sense of Humor, Creative, Family oriented, etc. When you go to post a picture or make a remark, you can pause a moment and think about that list and ask yourself, will that fit my “culture” or am I being impulsive and reacting in the moment? One can be impulsive in real life about many things, but on-line…not so much! That chuckle of the moment can come back and bite you big time by hurting your brand, which is your reputation.
Now that you understand your “culture” you can take a look at the conversations and associations you have on-line already. Do they fit? Do they complement you? Do they help you project a positive image? If not, purge them and block them. If you think I am being harsh, look at it another way, negativity breeds negativity. When I sign onto my social media sites, I really don’t want to see a bunch of posts that are going to make me feel bad. If they make me feel bad or angry, others will feel that way. They will wonder if that is the type of person you are. Kick those “Downers” to the curb! I don’t know about you, but I have enough stress in my life to get myself down. I don’t need others pushing me down. I want to go on-line and be inspired to push forward and to lift my spirits so I can deal with my stress.
Let us wrap up what we have worked on up till now: First off, you are a unique and wonderful human being! You deserve to be given every possible great opportunity out there. Unfortunately there is a lot of competition out there! To improve your odds in developing better relationships and chances at success, you need to put your best foot forward. Taking charge of your personal brand is a perfect first step.
Go out and make it happen!!
Be sure and check out the other articles under the Writing Workshop title.
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