You: The Brand.

Taco Bell. Jeep. Walmart. Apple. Dell. What do all of these names have in common? They are all brands, and well-known ones at that. Each of these companies has built a strong and unique brand image through their products, services, advertisements, social media, and other communications with the public.

You’re a brand too. Whether you know it or not, the way you interact with others is similar to how companies express themselves. Your statuses on Facebook, tweets on Twitter, videos on YouTube, and posts on your blog provide potential friends and employers a wealth of information about you, without them ever having to meet you. Once they do meet you, you can refer them to your personal sites so that they can learn more about you and your passions, skills, and abilities.

I had a friend who is a personal trainer ask me a few months ago: “How can I build my personal brand and find more clients?” Here are some tips to help him and you develop a personal brand:

  1. Know thyself
    If you do not know what your personal skills, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses are, then you will have a hard time developing a consistent message and image. Before you begin branding yourself, take time to reflect on what your core competency is. A core competency is a trait or skill that sets you apart from everyone else. It is hard for others to copy and can be used in a variety of situations. Your core competency is what you build your personal brand around.
  2. Be genuine
    When marketing yourself online or in person, you must, must, must be genuine. It is tempting, especially when job hunting, to slightly exaggerate some of your qualities or abilities in order to stand out from the crowd. This is not the wisest approach to take (just ask Food Network star Robert Irvine who got in some hot water over his resume) because someone will eventually find out that you misrepresented yourself. When you create a resume, LinkedIn profile, or are having a conversation with someone, be realistic. Your friends and employers will thank you for it.
  3. Communicate effectively
    Many times when we think of communication, the first thing that comes to mind is talking with someone. The truth is that whenever you talk, write, post, compose, text, or tweet, you are communicating. What you choose to say or display tells others about who you are, what you value, and how you operate. This can be an enormous advantage to building your personal brand. As David Meerman Scott puts it in his book The New Rules of Marketing & PR: “You are what you publish.” Since each channel has its own advantages and disadvantages, link them all together to reinforce your brand image. (For example, on my business cards, I put a line that says “Connect with me:” with the LinkedIn logo under it. From my LinkedIn page, they can access all of my other social media sites.)
  4. Go where “they” are
    I recently read about a man that, while he was in college, used to complain about being single from time to time. One of his friends got tired of hearing about it and told him, “If you want to meet girls, you have to go where the girls are.” The same is true for your personal brand. Want a certain person to be your friend? Go where they go. Looking for a new client for your company? Go where people that would be interested in your company go. In order to expand your personal brand, you need to connect with the people who might be interested in what you have to offer. Whether that is going to networking events put on by your local chamber of commerce, attending a job fair, or joining a social community online, it will be hard to increase your brand awareness without meeting the right people.
  5. Build the relationship
    Relationships drive action. Marketing yourself goes beyond shaking someone’s hand, giving him/her your business card, and moving on, hoping they give you a call the next day. To really get your name out there, you must build relationships with people: not for the sake of getting something out of them or hoping they will hire you, but to get to know them. If the purpose for your pursuit of a relationship is genuine, the other person can tell. Once a true relationship is established, not only will you have a new friend, you have another person who can potentially be an advocate for you. Also, in the corporate world, people would prefer to do business with people they know than with a stranger. Get to know people within your company and at other companies and spend time with them outside of the office to build those relationships.  Think beyond the business card.

Should you decide to take your brand to the next level, create a personal logo, design a custom background for your social media sites, or make a video resume. Take care of your brand because it can take a lifetime to build, but just one bad moment to tear down.

What have you done to strengthen your own personal brand?

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