Do you really need a personal brand? What is a personal brand, anyway? In a “spotlight session”, Kim Dority, Principal, Dority & Associates, and Scott Brown, Owner, Social Information Group, explored the issue of personal brands and clarified many of the issues surrounding them. Introducing the session, Cindy Hill said that today we have new “normal” working environments, and many people are working and connecting with others differently than they did as little as a decade ago. A personal brand is a 21st century application of an old subject—how we represent ourselves to others. We are now going well beyond our business cards and resumes. Kim Dority said that the new model of todays careers can be thought of “parkour“–overcoming obstacles to reaching our goals. A strong professional brand can help you jump obstacles, stay on track, and propel yourself forward. You can showcase your strengths and how you add value no matter where you are. You can shape the perceptions of others before they have had a chance to develop their own misconceptions about you. Branding is important in fighting stereotypes.
A personal brand has these characteristics:
- Competencies—what are those things that you have honed to a strong level of contribution
- Standards—are you known for excellence, methodical, attention to detail
- Style—attitude, are you low key, enthusiastic, a great collaborator, etc.
Scott Brown noted that brands will happen whether you want them to or not. They are the online equivalent of networking and displaying your personal and professional interests. He also noted that HR people have become aware of social networking tools and are using them to scope out potential employees, so use caution when you are developing your brand (one way is to create separate profiles for personal and professional interests).
When you create a personal brand, there will be a shift in thinking about yourself and how you show up in the world. There is a loss of control, more visibility, personal responsibility. Can you handle that?
Brown also addressed security and privacy concerns, but said that they should not stop you from creating your brand. Be aware that social networking tools are called “social” for a reason, and if you are in a place where cameras are present, be careful how you behave. He showed an example of “social business cards” for library staff in which front shows the person’s photo and social networking links and the back shows the network data for the library–a great idea!
Three major networking tools are LinkedIn, blogs, and Twitter. Here are Brown’s top 10 recommendations on using these services:
- Know what your brand is. (If you don’t know, ask somebody!)
- Build your personal brand outside of your employer
- Be professional…
- …and also be authentic. (It’s OK to be yourself—share your humor and your interests)
- Leverage what others are doing.
- Don’t use social tools as your only tool.
- Start small (you don’t have to use several services all at once).
- Invite and involve others (don’t be shy about invite people you don’t know well, or who you don’t know at all)
- Experiment and play.
- Have fun with them!
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blogger