What's your personal brand and how can you improve it?


Small Business Nation recently profiled Watermelon Social, a New York City-based marketing agency that helps businesses and business people develop their personal brands. The article led a number of people to ask what exactly a "personal brand” constitutes?

A brand is shorthand for a set of beliefs about a product. If you hear Nike you think “shoes and clothing that are made for professional athletes but are attainable by people like me.”  If you hear Uber, you think "smartphone ride hailing app" and "disruptive startup."  

Brands are powerful shorthands that help consumers distinguish between otherwise similar products and services. (Imagine going into a grocery store where all labels contained nothing but small type.) Even when the ingredients or constituent parts are not that different, a brand carries with it a guarantee of consistency that may extend across offerings. If you like a company's line of cookies, for example, you'll probably like their brownies as well.

It's easy to imagine how brands work when you're thinking about products in a market, but how does a "personal" brand work within the context of your profession?

A personal brand distinguishes you from others with the same job title and suggests a level of quality work across skill sets. Think about it like this: If you are at a party and someone asks, “what do you do?’ it is easy to say, “I work at company Y” or “I’m an accountant.”  While those are accurate descriptions, they aren’t a brand—just as an aluminum can with “Diet Soda” written across the front isn’t really a brand.

To raise your personal brand above Diet Soda level, you need to shape perceptions about you and what you do. The best way to do this is through language: the language you use in conversations like the one above to describe yourself and your job, the language you use (and content you share) on social media sites, and the language people use when they're talking about you.

Here are some quick tips for improving your messaging in these three areas:

  • Job description: Your job description should let people know not only what you do (and who you work for / what business you run), but also how you add value. Don't just say "business owner"—for example—say "I run the most popular chain of pizzerias in Ohio and help other restaurants connect with customers."
  • Social media: Make sure your job description language is consistent across platforms, especially LinkedIn, Twitter, and AngelList.
  • Reputation: Never stop nurturing relationships. You never know when somebody is going to have an opportunity to recommend you or your business to others. And keep your friends and professional contacts up-to-date on what you're doing.

As these examples indicate, networking is an important part of personal branding. You need to talk to people (and get them talking about you) in order to cement your brand in their minds. Much of this networking will occur online, including on LinkedIn. And guess what? We've got a whole guide about networking on this platform. You can download ithere.