Branding, Career Advice

The ABCs of Personal Branding, According to a PR Expert

In the digital world we live in, the concept of personal branding has never been more important.

Think about the products you buy every day and why you buy them.  For me, I buy Nike shoes, Lululemon clothes and just recently bought a Boss suit (a little splurge, but worth it). I am willing to pay more for these products because I view them as trustworthy and reliable thanks to their branding as well as my personal experience with the product.  It’s also why I prefer Starbucks coffee even though it’s more expensive than making coffee at home. But the experience is consistent, and the coffee has never let me down. 

At Mercury Marine, our brand is, among others, reliability.  When you put a Mercury engine on your boat, you can always count on that engine to perform and help you create amazing experiences with friends and family.

So why don’t we view ourselves through the same lens as we do our favorite brands?  People “buy” what we are selling every day.  At some point in our lives, we are going to apply for something.  Whether it’s a job, internship or home loan, you will put yourself in front of someone and must convince them to give you something you want.  In this instance, you are the brand. Companies are marketing themselves every day to consumers – as a personal brand, you should be doing the same.

A quote I once heard that I absolutely love should be plastered on your wall at work.  “If you aren’t branding yourself, you can bet someone else is and you probably won’t like what they have to say.”

People are willing to invest in “YOU” if your brand is strong.  Personally, I work every day to make sure my brand remains strong – you could say it keeps me up at night.  I’m a firm believer that when I wake up every morning, I have to prove myself all over again, it’s what keeps the focus on my brand.  

A personal brand is the spawn of how you see yourself and how others view you, it’s a meeting in the middle.  It’s in how you dress, how you talk, how you compose yourself.  It’s about your resume, your experience and…drum roll…your social media.  All of that together defines who you are.

Here are my A, B, C’s of personal branding:

Appealing:  We buy brands that are appealing.  As a personal brand, someone will invest in you if you are an appealing brand.

Believable:  Is what you are selling believable?  When Nike or Mercury Marine is marketing, do I believe in their message?  When I’m marketing myself, are people believing what I’m selling?

Consistent:  It’s the Starbucks example.  As a personal brand, when people interact with me, their experience must be consistent.  I’m not treating our security team any different than our CEO.

Distinctive:  This is the single most important trait in developing a personal brand.  What makes you stand out from the rest?  I’ll dig deeper into this one in a minute.

Evolving:  Your brand must constantly evolve.  What you did as a freshman in high school isn’t applicable as a professional.  Find ways to evolve your brand.

Think about your brand as your health.  If you exercise, you’ll be healthy – if you sit around all day, your body and mind will suffer.  It’s the same with your brand.  If you exercise your brand, it’ll continue to evolve and define who you are.  If you don’t spend any time on it, someone else will.

Now back to why being distinctive is so important.  We live in a world where everything looks the same, sounds the same and feels the same – a Sea of Sameness.  When you graduate, you walk across the stage and get a diploma.  Your diploma looks the same as mine.  As an employer, for every job we have open, we receive hundreds of resumes, LinkedIn profiles, etc.  More times than not, they all look the same.  Your brand needs to stand out above the rest.  Graduating top of your class from Harvard is impressive, but it’s not going to guarantee you the job. 

Here are four things you can do to help define your personal brand:

  1. Spend Time Developing Your Resume:  This must be the single greatest representation of you.  If you haven’t talked about all your accolades and awards, you aren’t doing it right.  Even if you have been a professional for 40 years, create and constantly update your resume.
  2. Optimize Your LinkedIn Account: Make sure you understand how powerful a tool LinkedIn can be to develop your brand. Complete your profile by adding a professional headshot. Tell your story using your summary and experience section. Connect with thought-leaders in your industry and share your knowledge by publishing blog articles. I used to laugh at my friends who spent time on LinkedIn, and then I got the job at Mercury Marine because I used it to showcase my personal brand – now I’m a big fan.
  3. Go for the In-Person Meeting:  Networking is a great way to make connections and showcase your personal brand. I usually know within minutes whether I’m going to like a person, be friends with a person or want to hire a person.  It doesn’t take a 5-hour interview to see if someone’s brand is what we are looking for.
  4. Be Smart on Social Media:  I could write a book about this and do a lot of presentations about students and professionals who screw up their lives on social media. Your resume and LinkedIn profile may be amazing but if your personal social media accounts are showing a different story – you are telling the world, “this is my personal brand.”

Our world moves at the speed of light and we live in a “what have you done for me lately” world.  There’s no real-time anymore – it’s NOW-TIME.  Creating and defining your personal brand is extremely important; in fact, it’s a must.  Like anything, it takes time and hard work. But if you do it right, you will create a lasting memory of yourself when you leave the room.  

So, ask yourself, what are people saying about you when you leave the room?  And, are you OK with what they are saying?  That will help you determine whether your brand is strong or needs some work.

 

Lee Gordon is the Director of Global Public Relations and Communications for Mercury Marine, a division of Brunswick Corporation.  Prior to taking the role at Mercury, Lee was a television anchor for CBS and FOX for 15 years and a sideline reporter for the NFL on FOX.  

Want to develop your personal brand alongside Lee? Mercury Marine is always looking for great talent.

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