In elementary school, the essays that we wrote were scored on the following 4 categories: organization, spelling/grammar, content, and voice. I never failed to take advantage of the “voice” category, incorporating dry sarcasm and sassy commentary into every paragraph to show off my personality. When I think of personal branding now, I am reminded of the voice category of that 4-part rubric. Like successful elementary school essays, much of establishing who we are has to do with simply presenting information about ourselves in a certain light and doing so without grammatical errors. As a college student, especially within the communications field, personal branding is absolutely critical and all too easy to get wrong. If you’re looking to establish or clean up your image, start with the tips below.
- GET ONLINE.
Obviously this isn’t something Generation Y hears all too often, as we have no problem getting on the web. However, just being online isn’t enough. It’s crucial to not only have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, but also to be active on LinkedIn, WordPress (yes-everyone should be blogging!), and Youtube if possible. Vlogging (video blogging) paired with blogging creates an immense social network that could come in handy later, and it provides a way for potential employers and clients to get a sense of who you are without ever talking to you. Be connected everywhere, and post often. Unless you have reason to be concerned for your safety, keep everything public. Keep your name, face, and brand fresh in every online community.
- PICK A NICHE.
Now that you’re on a number of platforms, you need to decide what topics you plan to cover. The more specific, the better. People like reading about things that interest them, and maintaining a uniform theme throughout all of your sites makes it easy for an audience to identify what you’re all about and whether they’re interested. Pick a topic that you enjoy-something that you wouldn’t mind writing about, speaking about, and researching. If you’re not sure what inspires you, ask your friends! You’d be surprised at how easily they can identify interests that you never realized you had.
- RESEARCH IT, KNOW IT.
Become an expert in your chosen field. No one will seek you out unless you can provide a fresh perspective. Research before you write, and reread before you post. Stay on the lookout for trends or controversies, and always offer your perspective. Be the wise sage of your industry, and people can’t ignore you.
- SHOW PERSONALITY, BUT BE APPROPRIATE
This is where many 20-somethings fail miserably. It is important to show who you are-that’s the whole point of personal branding. If you’re witty, be witty. If you’re pessimistic, be pessimistic. If you’re overdramatic, great! Show it! However, there is a fine line between showing your true colors and oversharing. I think this can best be explained with examples, and Inc.com has a few hilarious ones. Check them out here and then never repeat them. When in doubt, follow the “grandmother” rule-if you wouldn’t want your sweet, innocent grandmother (or your boss) to read it…don’t post it. It’s as simple as that.
Don’t forget that others are trying to establish their brand as well, and everyone appreciates an encouraging comment or two. Follow others in your industry and make friends with those that have established a strong presence as well as other up-and-comers. Insightful comments are always appreciated and usually reciprocated, so don’t forget to scratch your neighbor’s backs. They’ll scratch yours!
Now, check out this clip from personal branding guru, William Arruda. Clearly, he knows a thing or two.
“Effective branding is based on authenticity…Your brand is based on who you really are-your best self.”
“Do you leave your mark on everything you do?…And if you don’t, how can you?”