Building Your Personal Brand
A few months ago I was invited to be part of a panel discussion on personal branding at the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD) national conference. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend so I asked Michelle Ockers (who lead the discussion) if it would be ok if I wrote a blog post on the topic, using some of her discussion questions as a basis of the post. She kindly agreed and so here are my thoughts…
Michelle defines a personal brand as:
“While we associate brands with large corporations and products, the idea of having a personal brand is relatively recent. It would be easy to dismiss the idea of building a personal brand as hype or inauthentic. Perhaps it helps to view your personal brand as another term for your professional reputation. It is about who others think you are, what your purpose is, and what you stand for.”
This sums it up nicely and I would also add that it’s your actions both online and in person that both define and support your brand.
Describe your personal brand.
I started being active online about three years ago and I never intentionally set out to build my personal brand, its evolved over time. My driver came from seeing a lot of negativity towards eLearning and rather than just being a critic, I thought why not flip it around and do something about improving my own practice and helping others in the field do the same.
This is why my website contains mostly practical (and hopefully helpful) content designed to give others some ideas that they can use in their projects straight away. I also use my website to reflect and show that I’m still learning as I go too.
I’ve never been motivated by numbers of followers or connections and while it’s nice to see them grow (because hopefully it means that I’m reaching more people) I don’t set targets in terms of numbers.
Why is a personal brand important?
A lot of people (and I was no different) wait until something happens with their career – maybe they’ve become unhappy in their job, things change in their workplace or they lose their job altogether – before they take action and think about who they are and where they want to be.
Most people have a resume and/or an online profile and often they are just lots of descriptors about what someone says they can do. They all start to look the same after a while but a personal brand can bring those words to life and show who you are, what you can do, what you’re good at and most importantly help you to stand out from the crowd.
I’ve also found that having a personal brand can open up other opportunities career wise such as invitations to speak at conferences which in turn helps you to reinforce your message.
What are some of the most valuable things you’ve done to build your personal brand?
I’ve done a few things to build my brand – starting this blog, using Twitter and LinkedIn in a targeted way and being active in the Articulate E-Learning Heroes community. But with all of them the one thing I did was participate. While you might start off watching from the sidelines, you need to get involved and if you want to build a strong brand you’ll need to move from just consuming the work of others to also being a creator and putting your own work/thoughts/ideas ‘out there’.
How do you find time to build your personal brand?
It’s not always easy to find the time but if you learn to use your time more effectively you can fit things in, for example use the time you spend commuting to work on the bus or train (I wrote the first draft of this post on a plane trip home), get up a little earlier or set aside a couple of hours on the weekend. If you’re serious about building a personal brand, you either need to find the time or make the time. It takes effort to build and maintain your personal brand but the investment is definitely worth it.
I’m also fortunate that my employer – B Online Learning – is supportive of myself and my colleagues having our own identities in the wider learning community.
Any advice for those new/wanting to build a personal brand?
Firstly, ask yourself: What am I passionate about? Building a personal brand is a bit like gardening, there’s a bit of work in the beginning to get things in place but then you need to maintain and keep working on it otherwise it will wither away. If you’re not passionate, you won’t be able to sustain the effort needed to grow your brand.
I’d also suggest starting out small and building from there as there’s no need to do everything at once. Also keep in mind that you may not get much response to your actions initially but don’t give up as people need to get to know you and what it is you’re about.
My main tool for building my personal brand is my website that started out as a blog and has grown to include samples of work, suggested folks to connect with, downloadable templates and more recently ‘how-to’ video clips. I also use Twitter and LinkedIn to promote myself (be careful not to overdo the self-promotion) but I also like to promote others via these same channels. You need to find tools that you’re comfortable using.
When you decide on the tools you’ll use you need to be consistent in posting and sharing. Try to do something at least every day so that others will see your passion.
In terms of an online profile a couple of tips would be have a good picture of yourself (not a cropped picture from a holiday or function) and also have a description of yourself that summarises who you are and what you want to be known for.
Remember, your personal brand is up to you.