If anyone knows what personal branding is, my guess is that architects do. In fact, they could have or should have coined the phrase. Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, and Zaha Hadid are great examples of architects whose name recognition and perhaps personal brands have pre-dated the rise of popularity of the very idea, and certainly pre-date the use of social media to promote their reputations. Like other nostalgic notions that one longs for as one ages, gone are the days of heroic reputation built in trade magazines and print ads. Today, social media enables personal branding and “reputation management” at light speed.
What is it?
So what is personal branding? According to Forbes.com, “Your personal brand is all about who you are and what you want to be known for.”
The term personal brand is believed to have first appeared in the August 1997 issue of Fast Company Magazine, in an article by management guru and author Tom Peters, who wrote, “We are CEOs of our own companies: ‘Me Inc.’ To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”(1)
Just Google-search personal branding and you’ll get 53 million results.
Personal branding describes the process by which individuals differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique offering, also called their “value proposition,” and then utilizing it with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence.(2)
Why does social media matter?
Social media tools including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have strengthened the idea of creating, building, and maintaining a personal brand. Numerous articles and blog posts have been written suggesting that if you are not in charge of creating and managing your own brand then it is happening for you, whether you like it or not.
Have you googled yourself lately? Do you like the results? Will your next client or employer like those results? You can bet THEY will google you. When you interact with people, both online and offline, they will build up an image or perception of who you are over time. It is strongly encouraged that YOU want to be in control of all of those impressions. Don’t leave your professional reputation to chance. You can be your own PR guru and manage your own image.
Personal branding is now integrated into many companies’ staff-development programs. Savvy organizations understand that they need to get the best from their people, not just the most. Additionally, companies are slowly beginning to understand that each employee represents an authentic part of the face of the company. Expressing the corporate brand is not just for the CEO anymore. In each and every professional interaction, individual employees will be seen as the representative of their companies.(3) Whether it is during normal business hours, or after-hours at a professional organization get-together or a pick-up summer sports league, the individuals of the company are representing the company.
And, social media plays an important role in building and managing your individual personal brand, while collectively reflecting your firm’s brand. Some suggest if you don’t have social media skills, your personal brand will all but cease to exist – this is probably a bit extreme. However, social media is no longer simply a lighthearted, youth-oriented way to differentiate yourself. Adopted by virtually every demographic segment, social media is essential to staking your claim online in the professional landscape. Most employees, regardless of their role or generation, will be expected to participate in their organization’s social branding efforts.(4)
How you can improve.
Do your search results reflect the professional image, or personal brand, that you want to portray? If not, it’s time to do something about it. Here are a few steps to get you started:
1. Complete your LinkedIn profile. Think “keywords” for your personal brand. What makes you different, what makes you special. If you are already on LinkedIn, do your skills and endorsements reflect the brand you wish to portray? If not, you’ve got some work to do.
2. Coordinate all of your social media profiles to reflect your personal brand. They don’t have to be EXACTLY the same, but they should be similar. Start with the profile photo and then review the descriptions. We are all multi-faceted people with likes and hobbies and interests, both personal and professional. Nonetheless, keep the descriptions similarly focused on the words you wish to be known for.
3. If you “have work to do” to change perception about your personal brand, what does that mean? Essentially, you have to begin to share messages that reflect what you want to be known for. For example, if you are a residential architect who favors contemporary design, begin to share more articles about residential architecture that reflect contemporary design. Share less about traditional or other forms of design. Comment on posts that reflect your keywords. Join LinkedIn groups that reflect the key terms you wish to be recognized for. Participate in those groups at a level at which you are comfortable, once per week or once per day.
4. Each social media platform has rules of etiquette for posting, but don’t get bogged down by the specific rules. Think 80/20, whereas 80% of your posts should be focused on the reputation and personal brand you wish to portray and 20% can be reflective of your likes, hobbies, and interests.
So, with a little bit of effort and possibly an adjustment in focus, YOU can take control of your personal brand with a few simple steps in your social media activities. The result will reflect positively on your reputation and your personal brand.