If you are an entrepreneur, your “personal brand” is very important.
What do I mean by your personal brand? BuildingBrands has a great definition of the word brand:
“A brand is a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer.”
A personal brand then is how people perceive you. It is the way they describe you to friends, the way they differentiate you from someone else, and the things they remember about you when you aren’t around.
Online Personal Brand
There are lots of ways to can tailor people’s perceptions of you. One way is through an online presence. Like a domain name! MikeLee.org is mine, obviously.
(True story: I used to introduce myself as “Michael Lee.” Then I got the domain name MikeLee.org and started introducing myself as “Mike Lee.” Yea, I know, I’m a geek.)
Here are some great articles on how to build your online personal brand:
- Why You May Need an Online Persona from Web Worker Daily
- Online Self-Promotion Made Easy from Web Worker Daily
- How to Build Your Personal Brand Online from Web Worker Daily
- South Park, the Philosopher, and the Power of Visual Storytelling from Success from the Nest
If you create your own online personal brand, you will have more control over it. You can expect every recruiter to do a web search on you nowadays. I did this myself as a hiring manager. Don’t let the one search result of you be a photo on a friend’s web siteof you, drunk, nekkid, and puking all over yourself (I’m just sayin’). Let it be a brand that you created and tailored for your needs.
And if you have the time and energy, consider creating some content (e.g. blog articles, personal essays, free samples of your work, etc) and telling a story about yourself, as the above articles suggest.
Offline Personal Brand
Just as important as your online personal brand is your offline personal brand. Your personality and behaviors basically lay the foundation for this. And if you are an arrogant son of a motherless goat, well, then there isn’t much I can do for you. Anything you do online will be erased as soon as a recruiter meets you in person.
Self-marketing doesn’t mean you have to be slick and polished. As Entrepreneur Magazine’s article “Shut Up and Listen” writes: “entrepreneurs who practiced over-the-top self-promotion rarely captured the attention of others.” Sometimes it is best just to be yourself.
There are times when it is acceptable to be assertive about your offline personal brand. Like at networking events, conferences, etc. For those occasions, here are some great articles:
- Some Networking Power Tools from Duct Tape Marketing
- How to Be More Approachable from Duct Tape Marketing
- Your Business Card Is Your Offline Home Page from Success from the Nest
- Refining Your Personal Elevator Pitch from Web Worker Daily
If you are nervous about meeting new people, the easiest thing to do is to smile and nod at another person standing alone. At any networking event, you are guaranteed to find a few people wandering around by themselves, eager to meet new people but unsure of how to break into an existing conversation. They are probably the easiest to approach.
As the above articles suggest, getting into a conversation is just part of your brand building. Your business card is an important part as well.
Also, if you promise to follow-up with someone, do so. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been impressed by people who remembered some tiny aspect of our conversation, then followed-up about it later. Those are the kinds of people you want to know. Those are the kinds of people who also have a strong offline personal brand.