Personal branding – for some, this term fits seamlessly into the series of numerous and overused buzzwords of recent years. In fact, personal branding describes a well-known principle that is often ignored or misunderstood: It is not about companies or brands, but about presenting one’s own person, personality and professional skills and making individual concerns visible. The development of an own brand and a positive reputation is at the center of this personal branding strategy. For applicants, professionals and freelancers, the potential benefit of this becomes apparent very quickly: they are found on the Internet, are soon considered specialists or even experts in their field – and get jobs or assignments. But how does personal branding work? We explain that in our extensive dossier…
Definition: What is personal branding?
Personal branding is the construction of a (usually digital) personal brand. Through various strategies and measures, it is not a product or a company brand that is to be marketed, but one’s own person. The focus is not on features or advantages of products, but on individual personality, skills and experience.
However, there are some different definitions. Sometimes personal branding refers purely to the digital private label, sometimes it’s about building a reputation in general. However, there is general agreement on a few key points:
Legendary management thought leader Tom Peters first used the term “personal branding” in 1997. The digital change and the increasing presence of profiles on the Internet and social networks not only opened up numerous opportunities for online reputation, but also risks if you were associated with the “wrong” attributes online. In the beginning, it was all about a person’s googlability.
Personal branding is the digital form of the self-made brand. Personal branding is therefore always about a person and their image and reputation (personal brand) in public. Personal branding is therefore a part of reputation management. In some cases, the private label at work, i.e. the perception of bosses and colleagues, is also covered by the term.
Why does anyone practice personal branding at all? Quite simply: The aim of image and reputation building is to communicate one’s own qualifications, skills and successes to the outside world and to position oneself (e.g. to improve one’s professional opportunities) or to gain expert status through targeted staging, selected presentation and self-marketing and to achieve sustainable opinion leadership.
Personal branding is particularly suitable for public figures (celebrities, athletes, politicians), for the self -employed and executives – but also for career starters, career-seekers, coaches and artists. It is not uncommon for those affected to be accused of vanity (which is partly true), but especially for freelancers and small businesses, reputation and findability on the Internet are simply decisive for sales.
The essential components of a strong personal brand are – in addition to a clear message: one or more unique selling points , content relevant to the respective target group, an individual style and a credible, because consistent and reliable appearance. And of course growing references and contacts that confirm the expert status.
Why everyone needs a personal branding strategy today
An impeccable reputation is like magic – online and offline: it is able to enchant or even cloud the minds of others. It works no differently on the Internet than in real life: a good online reputation and personal brand protects against reputation attacks just as it helps to attract the attention of headhunters and potential employers.
Positioning the presence is as natural for some professions and experts as a business card is for others . In short: personal branding has long been a mass phenomenon. We live in the age of staging and media self-portrayal. Enjoying a competent public image and high social standing is an essential part of public personality and professional success. Whether as an applicant, colleague, boss or potential business partner – we are all googled and judged over the internet.
Our personal branding therefore has an influence on several neuralgic points in a career:
- When applying
- On promotion
- In job crises or job loss
- When placing an order
- If you don’t notice, you fall through the cracks
Personal branding is no longer just an additional benefit, but a fundamental necessity. The number of network activists who are making a name for themselves and the importance of their own digital brands are constantly increasing. Sounds like a threat, but offers many opportunities. By influencing important factors yourself and improving your online reputation, you work on your future success.
The social networks of Xing profile, Linkedin profile, Twitter account and personal blog acts like a virtual driftnet: once it has been knotted and ejected, attention and reach can be caught in it as well as prestige or fame.
With every employer and client you work for, you grow your business, contacts and skills. Even if you’ve worked for an employer for three or four years, you don’t identify as strongly. It is more important to build and maintain your own brand.
From the quip “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know” the Internet has long since formed a new derivation. It now reads, “It’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you.”
3 questions to ask before building your personal brand
Personal branding always begins with oneself and with self-reflection . Before you take the first steps towards reputation building, it is important that you answer these questions:
What should your brand stand for?
A brand only becomes strong when it differs from others and stands out positively. So do not concentrate on breadth, but on what is special, on your individual strengths (everyone has some!): What can you or do you know in contrast to others? Become an expert and put this expertise in the foreground. Gladly documented by specialist articles, interviews, references, contacts.
Who do you want to reach?
In marketing-speak, the question could also be: Who is your target group? It is crucial that you are clear about what your readers, listeners, viewers are looking for. If you are doing self -marketing , for example when looking for a job, then your online presence should appeal to and convince either HR managers in general or specifically the recruiters at your target company. No matter what they are looking for – you provide the answers!
What are the main keywords?
To stay with the example: HR professionals look for candidates based on specific skills and qualifications: For example, “Specialist for…” Your Xing or Linkedin profile, or even better your own blog, should contain appropriate search terms. And not too tight. This works particularly well, for example, by publishing technical papers or curating them (so-called curated content), i.e. linking, citing, commenting.
The dos and don’ts in personal branding – a checklist
Not everyone is a natural when it comes to creating a brand around themselves. To make it as easy as possible for you to start building your personal brand, we have summarized the numerous tips and examples of how you can proceed in a personal branding checklist for you.
Dos for personal branding
- Be clear about what you want to stand for: What is your message? What is your expertise?
Develop a suitable brand name – or use your first and last name.
Register your own name as a URL. If that’s no longer possible, at least check for variations or association with your brand name.
- Check with KENIC whether the relevant URL for your brand title is still available, register it and open a blog or website there. Just nothing static: people there have to be able to communicate with you. Pure show sites are yesterday’s concepts.
- Develop a uniform design concept for your signature and all brand components. They must be reflected in your website URL, email address and other places of publication.
- If necessary, develop a personal claim, a motto, which will appear on your website and in the signature of your e-mail.
- Also don’t forget the signatures in forums or social networks.
- Design your own logo with recognition value.
- Take a professional photo of yourself and use it to create a general avatar, a so-called gravatar for the internet.
- Take a look around who is still active in your brand market. Get in touch with the best (and friendliest).
- Try to spread your message across multiple channels: don’t just write a blog, but also produce videos or podcasts and broadcast them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and so on – where it reaches your target audience.
- Make sure that you can be reached easily: by e-mail, by Skype, by using the contact form on the blog or by mobile phone.
- Be clear about what you want to stand for: What is your message? What is your expertise?
- Social networks
- Create an account in business networks such as Xing or Linkedin. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram also have a high reach (provided you take a lot of good pictures). Feel free to register profiles in several networks. However, make sure that your website is consistent and at least related: same name, same profile picture.
- Link the pages to each other and include the links everywhere, but at least in your e-mail signature.
- If you want and already have some reach, you can also open your own social network for like-minded people.
- Sign up for industry-related forums or social networking groups and contribute helpful information.
- Provide food for thought and always remain friendly. Always remember: give first, then take!
- Comment on articles on relevant blogs. No blah, please! This is the litmus test of your competence. If you show up there repeatedly as a helpful and informed expert, people will come to you later of their own accord.
- Get involved in initiatives that deal with your topic and are in your interest – even if others came up with the idea first. Never work against competitors on the web, but with them. The viral effect is bigger that way.
- Start a newsletter about your topics.
- Write a book – or an eBook that you offer on your website for free download. Tell us about its appearance – via Twitter, blog or press release.
- Think about how you can share your knowledge with others. For example, start a discussion forum on your topic on your website.
- Point your readers to recommended products or websites from colleagues. They will be happy about it – and maybe even take pay back. But never count on it.
- media use
- Create studies, surveys or other newsworthy results and pass them on to the press and fellow campaigners.
- Give interviews. Offer topics that are as relevant as they are fun.
Write guest posts in prominent blogs with a multiplier effect (these do not always have to be the best in the rankings).
- Start and moderate expert chats on your topic. Try to use it primarily to help others or to answer burning questions.
- Conduct interviews with prominent representatives, trendsetters, celebrities from your industry and publish them through your channels.
- Visit relevant trade fairs, congresses, bar camps – and report about them (via article, interview, podcast, on video).
- Give other people in your industry a reason to say something positive about you. The best reason is: they really help.
Personal branding don’ts
On the other hand, typical mistakes are made again and again in personal branding. You should therefore absolutely avoid these:
- They don’t choose wisely
Some choose their themes and priorities without prior reflection or analysis. This is how you position yourself on topics that you may not be (so) competent at, that only allow for little visibility or worse: have hardly any future potential. They are then committed to content that no one will be interested in tomorrow.
- You choose the wrong channels
They may correspond to your own preferences and customs, but not to those of the target group. Or to put it another way: you publish past your target group. Personal branding has no effect.
- They bring no continuity into it
A brand obliges. Continuous communication is crucial for reputation building. Anyone who starts out weak and then slacks off badly will do more damage to their brand in the long term than if they had done nothing at all. Those who can only do a little due to time constraints should rather start with a low frequency, but persevere.
- You delegate personal branding to others
Others let a personal branding agency do the work. There is no question that this saves time, but it costs money. And the quality can vary significantly. If you create soulless and replaceable SEO content, you might be found, but you won’t convince anyone. It takes real passion and competence – if these aspects are missing, the reputation will soon be different from the one planned. Always allow yourself to be shown examples – and read the articles carefully: How do they affect you? Would you want to be positioned like this?
Advantages of personal branding on the web
Personal branding has numerous benefits. Basically, it is therefore always worthwhile to work on your own personal brand on the internet. Not as a fake, as a façade with some ego make-up, but as an echo of your own personality, ability and knowledge – albeit in a positive light.
It’s not about a masquerade. Actors who just try to live up to expectations or an image will sooner or later be caught. Sustainable personal branding always relies on authenticity and tries to work out the existing personality more clearly.
However, personal branding is also about: acting instead of reacting! As the number of self-portrayals grows, so does the need for action. Because in contrast to the endless expanse of the web, the brand spaces there are finite and limited. The domains “ottonormal.de” or “ Wunschprodukt.de” only exist once. Instead of you, interested parties end up with the competition. “Nowadays, if you can’t be found on Google, it’s almost as if you don’t exist,” says bestselling author Jeff Jarvis.
Therefore, therefore and therefore: These are the advantages of positioning your own brand on the Internet in a nutshell:
- You show what you know and can do.
- You sharpen your technical and professional profile.
- You differentiate yourself.
- You become easily recognizable.
- You turn your interests into a branded product.
- Now you determine what people read about you on the internet.
- At the same time you demonstrate commitment .
- You protect yourself effectively against damage to your reputation.
- You gather new knowledge at the same time.
- You generate new ideas from your knowledge.
- You’ll develop skills you never knew you had.
- And mutate into experts over time.
- You might even become a trendsetter with your topic.
- They find previously unknown like-minded people, other experts.
- You get supporters.
- You gain a valuable network.
- You inspire others.
- You will also receive inspiration and suggestions in return.
- You become influential.
- You gain respect and media presence – for example through interviews.
- You become more independent.
- Also towards employers.
Possible disadvantages of personal branding on the Internet
A brand shapes. It develops luminosity and thus forms its own center of gravity. That’s what its supposed to do. But – and this is its greatest disadvantage – it also commits at the same time. Assuming you position yourself as an expert in social media and digitization at a young age and you succeed in doing so, then you can first take advantage of all the advantages described above. But after ten or 15 years you want to completely reinvent yourself professionally and are aiming for a change of profession and industry – then you may have a problem:
Your personal branding brands you. You are known as an expert in social media and digitization, not for your new thing. However, HR managers are looking for precisely the specialists in this area. Your established brand is now becoming a stumbling block and a handicap, no matter how positively it is perceived.
Personal rebranding: 3 steps to a new online image
It can therefore be part of the personal branding strategy to get rid of the previous image and build up a completely new professional reputation and profession. In this case, you should heed the following recommendations:
When changing jobs , the online brand can become a burden. The internet never forgets. If you want to reinvent yourself, you need a personal rebranding. The first step: define your new brand. Use the first time in the immersion to determine your position and self-analysis . How do you want to reposition yourself?
- To construct
Also important for the image change: a good and credible story. However, this kind of self-declaration should never sound like justification, but rather like a planned departure. There must be a red thread that holds the patches together. It’s good if there’s a period of time between ending and starting. A phase of reflection gives the change of image meaning. And for the creation of a legend to have its full effect, you should already have something concrete up your sleeve. So build up new online profiles and presences in secret beforehand.
Now comes the element of surprise. They are back – with a new image, a new job profile and a new online presence. Communicate and link the new position on all old and new online channels. Adjust your CV and contact details and change the look too: swap your portrait photo on Xing, give your Facebook page a new design, your Twitter profile a new background, your blog a new look. And don’t expect too much: It can take six to twelve months for such a rebranding to be completed.