When you're looking for a job, you should expect to be Googled.
When you're trying to land a speaking engagement for a big industry event, you should expect to be Googled.
When you send a guest contributor pitch to a blog you admire, you should expect to be Googled.
The truth is, anyone that may end up working with you in some capacity wants to get a good idea of your work and your personality before responding to your email or getting you to schlep all the way into the office.
That's where you personal brand comes in. Your personal brand refers to the way you present or market yourself, your skills, and your work. And if you want to get past that initial Google search, you're going to want to develop a personal brand that accurately reflects what you're capable of.
That's why we put together the A to Z guide below. From consistency to networking, we'll walk you through all of the elements that go into defining an impressive personal brand so you can feel good about those Google search results.
The Complete A to Z Guide to Personal Branding
1) A: Authenticity
Building a brand around you requires quite a bit of soul searching. In the process, you'll likely learn a lot about who you are, what you value, what your strengths (and weaknesses) are, and so on. These are all elements of your authentic self.
When working on your personal brand, be sure to tap in to those layers -- those things that make you, you.
2) B: Bio
Your professional bio provides a clear and concise summary of your professional background that can be used to represent you across a ton of different mediums -- blog posts, social media, a speaker profile, etc. In many cases, it serves as a first impression -- which is why it plays such an important part in defining your personal brand.
Trouble is, most people fail to keep it updated.
"A short, professional bio is one of those things most people don't think about until, all of a sudden, we've been asked to 'shoot one over via email' and have approximately one afternoon to come up with it," explains HubSpot's Lindsay Kolowich.
Don't fall into this trap. If you need help ensuring your bio reflects your best professional self, check out our free professional bio guide, complete with plug-and-play templates to help you get started.
3) C: Consistency
Thanks to the internet, discoverability
One example of how to exercise consistency in your personal branding would be to align your username across all of your social channels. This approach is more memorable and it makes it easy for folks searching for you across platforms to surface the right account quickly. Just be sure the username you choose reads professional.
Think: RoseJMills across everything instead of MissRose8794, RosiexMills87, and RJM8794.
In addition to username, employing a consistent headshot across your online accounts is also a personal branding best practice. Take a look at how HubSpot Co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah sticks with the same headshot across his Twitter, LinkedIn, and Inbound.org profile:
4) D: Direction
When it comes to determining the success of your personal branding efforts, how will you know when you're making progress?
This is where the importance of direction comes in.
Some of the most accomplished professionals have a clear sense of direction. This includes well-defined goals, a long-term vision, and a handful of vehicles to drive that vision forward.
Before you make any major personal brand plays, stop to think about the professional direction you want to go in and then plan your next steps accordingly.
5) E: Evolutionary
Old Spice. Pabst Blue Ribbon. Instagram.
Source: Logo Inspirations
These are all hugely successful names that have undergone dramatic rebrands over the years. And there's something to be said about their willingness to change and evolve.
Much like these brands, it's important that you keep a close eye on the success and relevance of your personal branding strategy and pivot accordingly.
As you develop new skills, consider how you might evolve your brand to reflect that. Similarly, as certain mediums for promoting your brand fizzle, invest in new ones. Your personal brand should be consistent, yet constantly evolving to reflect the most current, accurate representation of you.
6) F: Focus
Rome wasn't built in a day -- and you shouldn't expect your personal brand to be either. Establishing yourself as an expert in your industry or a noteworthy resource for any given subject requires a focused approach to delivering value to your audience while upholding your unique values.
In other words, don't expect overnight results. Instead, focus on what you can do today to strengthen your personal brand tomorrow.
7) G: Growth
Consider the skills you already posses and the skills you want to build to advance your brand. If you have a fairly large skill gap to fill in order to achieve your desired outcome, it's important to have a plan for prioritization.
As you move towards mastering the skills on your "to-do" list, start by ranking each one by highest growth potential. In other words, which skills do you need to tackle first to make the biggest impact on your overall brand? Which skills are going to help you grow the most?
8) H: Human
Think about the last time you scrolled through Twitter. We're willing to bet that for every profound, original post from one of the folks you are following, there were about 20-30 automated tweets with a blog post title and a link.
While there's nothing wrong with automating aspects of your online presence -- social, email outreach, etc. -- it's important that you're strategic about how you go about it.
Here are a few rules of thumb to help you strike the right balance:
- Don't: Share just a link to an article. Instead, add color commentary. Share the article and share your thoughts on it.
- Do: Ask questions of your audience. No matter what the platform, inviting your audience to participate in a conversation with you will help you get to know them and better position yourself as a trusted authority.
- Don't: Send the same pitch to everyone. Take the time to do some research. The more personalized your outreach is, the more willing folks will be to give you a shot -- whether it be a guest post, a consultation, etc.
Looking for an example of someone with a human social media presence? Give Ann Handley a follow:
9) I: Interviews
Here's a piece of sage advice: Say 'yes' to every single interview you're offered -- whether it be for a potential job, a podcast, an article, etc.
Depending on the nature of the interview, there are a few potential personal branding wins to gain by simply saying yes.
For job interviews ...
Even if you're not interested in the position on the table, going through the interview process can serve as a great exercise for refining and practicing your professional pitch, as it provides you with an opportunity to sell yourself and your skills.
What's more, the feedback you receive from the interviewer can be extremely helpful in improving your personal brand. For example, if the interviewer questions a particularly weak part of your resume, you may identify an opportunity for improvement or clarity.
For podcast or written interviews ...
If you're comfortable talking about your industry or area of expertise, landing an interview -- whether it is audio or written -- is a really smart way to gain exposure for your personal brand.
Depending on the spot you land, an interview can help you get your name in front of a large audience -- one you may have not had access to otherwise. And in many cases, one interview can open the door for another. Momentum for the win.
10) J: Join
Thanks to the internet and social media, there is no shortage of professional groups to get involved with. And aside from the obvious networking aspect, joining these groups can be extremely beneficial when it comes to growing your personal brand.
Joining a community or group centered around something you're passionate about and want to be known for can help you:
- Develop new skills
- Improve ideas
- Establish yourself as a resource
- Gain inspiration
Don't know where to start? Here's an overview of how to find and join a group on LinkedIn.
11) K: Knowledge
In many cases, your personal brand is rooted in your knowledge in any given area. And knowledge can go a long way in helping you establish credibility with an audience.
If you have a personal website, which we recommend for anyone looking to advance their personal brand, use that as a platform to highlight your expertise and share information with others. By volunteering your insight through blog posts, ebooks, or case studies, you are demonstrating your willingness to help.
Marketer and entrepreneur Sujan Patel runs an inspiring blog where he gives away a ton of professional advice for companies focused on scaling growth. As a result, he's become known as a trusted resource with a "mind for marketing."
12) L: Leadership
Anyone in a leadership position will tell you that personal branding comes with the territory.
Think about it: It's important that you are committed to developing yourself before you can prove that you can help others develop in their careers, right?
This means knowing your strengths and weaknesses, honing your emotional intelligence, understanding how you like to receive feedback, and so on. All of these aspects contribute to your leadership style, which ultimately plays a role in defining your personal brand.
13) M: Mission
It's a best practice for companies to define a mission statement that sets the stage for what they do and, perhaps or importantly, why they do it. This statement serves as a guiding light, pushing those in the organization to uphold the company's values and purpose.
When it comes to personal branding, defining a statement that is specific to your professional development can be equally as effective.
Before you sit down to write yours, take some time to reflect on the following questions:
- What are your personal career goals?
- What core values do you hold?
- What does success look like to you?
- What are you most passionate about? Why?
14) N: Network
Want to earn guest posting slots? Speaking gigs? Awards and recognition? All of these personal branding milestones require you to start by doing one thing: meeting people.
By networking and building relationships on a regular basis, you're constantly inviting new people in that have the potential to shape your brand by offering new opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Need help kickstarting your networking schedule? HubSpot's Chief People Officer Katie Burke suggests playing "Evenbrite Roulette."
"Search for events happening in your area in the upcoming week and attend the third event that shows up on the page," she advises.
15) O: Opinion
A lot of people shy away from infusing their opinion into their personal brand, as they worry they might alienate part of their audience or say something offensive. While this is a valid concern, sticking to sweeping generalizations and careful word choice can actually hold your brand back.
After all, part of establishing an influential personal brand means that you owe it to yourself to take a stance on the issues that matter most to you. And depending on your line of work, there is most certainly room for your opinion as a defining aspect of your personal brand.
The key to success here? Share your opinion -- but share it alongside your experience. This communication technique will help others understand where you're coming from and opens the door for conversation around the subject.
16) P: Public Speaking
Whether you're comfortable with it or not, public speaking is a tried-and-true way to extend your personal brand. Speaking engagements help to position you as an authority, grow your network, and earn the trust of a new audience.
Feeling a little shaky? Here are a few tips to ensure that your next speaking gig serves as a positive reflection of your personal brand:
- Speak about something you know inside and out. The more comfortable you are with the subject matter, the more conversational things will feel. Speaking about something familiar lends itself well to personal stories and experiences, which helps to humanize you.
- Know your audience. While you should always focus on being your authentic self, recognizing who your audience is will help you better direct your content. For example, your humor might land with one group, but not another. Know when to pull back.
- Get feedback. Practice your talk in front of a group of coworkers you trust before taking the stage. Running through your talk in advance will help you feel more confident in your delivery and also bring to light any areas you need to work on.
17) Q: Quirkiness
One way to infuse your personal brand with a little individuality is to lean in to your quirks -- the little things that set you apart from others. For example, maybe you're known for calculating complicated math in your head, or doodling your notes, or being particularly clumsy.
Whatever your quirks may be, don't be afraid to incorporate them into your personal brand. While they may seem senseless, they make it easier for people to relate to you, as they provide a level of interest and intrigue.
Leandra Medine Cohen, founder of Man Repeller, provides a great example of how to play up your quirks as part of your personal brand:
18) R: Reputation
When it comes to reputation as part of your personal branding efforts, there are two key areas you want to focus on:
1) Your online reputation
The process for making most major decisions starts with a Google search. And when it comes to your personal brand, your online presence can and will reveal a lot about you, your work, and what it's like to work with you.
To keep tabs on your online reputation, set up a Google Alert for your name so you receive a notification every time you appear in a piece of content. This is a great way to track positive mentions of your name and your brand, while keeping a close eye on fires you may need to resolve.
2) Your offline reputation
Your offline reputation is determined by several factors including, the quality of your work, the way you treat other people, the way you respond to feedback, and the impact you've made on others.
To achieve positive outcomes in all of these areas, you need to be committed to constant improvement by tapping into your self-awareness and self-regulation to ensure you're putting your best foot forward.
19) S: Social Media
For many people, personal brand and social media go hand in hand. In other words, if you want to establish a personal brand, you need to establish a social media presence to support it.
That being said, simply having social profiles that you post to regularly isn't enough. You have to be strategic about your social output -- what you post, when you post, and why you post -- to ensure that it reflects the behaviors and values that anchor your personal brand.
Here are a few of our favorite tips for using social media to advance your brand:
- Follow people you admire. What types of content are they posting? How frequently? How do they engage with their followers? Make note of their strategy and look for nuggets that you can incorporate into your own.
- Align your title, username, and headshot across platforms. We mentioned this up in the consistency section, but it bears repeating. Make it easy for folks to identify you and what you do by maintaining consistent identifiers across accounts.
- Post often. Part of building a memorable brand boils down to properly setting expectations. Commit to posting at least once a day on particular channels so people can rely on your for consistent, fresh updates.
A great way to build trust and advance your personal brand is to ask those you have a strong professional relationship with to write a recommendation or testimonial that you can then use across your website or social accounts.
Here's a great example from experience marketing professional John Bonini's personal website:
Stumped on whom to ask for a testimonial? Try to capture a variety of people -- managers, folks you manage, contacts at other companies you've worked closely with, etc.
21) U: Unique Value Proposition
As a professional, what problem do you solve? What value do you add? How do you make a difference?
Asking yourself questions like the ones above will help you determine your unique value proposition -- a pivotal piece of your personal branding strategy.
Think of your unique value proposition as the key differentiator that people will use to evaluate your personal brand and determine what makes you the most qualified person to do XYZ. You can use this on your resume, in a LinkedIn summary, or on your professional website.
22) V: Visibility
Once you have a foundation for your personal brand, it's time to spread the word.
One of the best ways to increase your visibility is through a strategic content strategy, where you're focused on delivering your unique value through the mediums that matter to your audience. This could be blog posts, courses, email campaigns, video content, webinars, etc.
Allen Gannett, CEO of TrackMaven, has done an impressive job increasing his visibility on LinkedIn through his #AllenAsks video series that has helped him grow his followership from a few thousand to over 35,000.
... plus it certainly doesn't hurt your credibility when you're creating content with Mark Cuban. Nicely done, Allen.
23) W: Well-rounded
This one may seem a little confusing at first. After all, your personal brand is typically centered around the one thing you do better than everyone else, right?
In most cases, yes. You want to become known for one thing -- like being an expert in classical music or a seasoned pastry chef. However, there are advantages to knowing and owning your niche, while also maintaining a basic understanding of a variety of unrelated topics.
Why waste brainpower on broadening your knowledge? It's simple: Knowing a little bit about everything makes you more relatable. It makes it easy for you to talk to people, which in turn, makes it easier for you to build connections that can advance your person brand.
24) X: X Factor
Similar to your unique value prop, your "x factor" is the thing you bring to the table that your competitors or other folks in your industry do not.
Think of it as your very own disruptor.
Maybe you have access to an extensive network of influencers that are willing to work with you on projects, or you've been recognized as the top content marketer of the year for three years running. Whatever your "x factor" may be, it's your job to bake it in to your personal brand.
25) Y: Year
We'll admit it, coming up with a term for 'Y' was a little challenging, but this one is actually important.
Make a conscious effort to update all of your personal branding assets -- resume, professional bio, LinkedIn summary, author bio, personal website, etc. -- on a yearly basis as a best practice for maintaining an up-to-date professional narrative.
If nothing else, this will help you avoid all of those "Oh sorry, I don't work there anymore" emails.
26) Z: Zealous
If you've made it this far, well, we're impressed. Thanks for sticking with us.
You must really be really zealous in the pursuit of personal branding knowledge. And that's an admirable trait. Why don't you try working it into your professional bio?
What are your best personal branding tips? Share them with us on Twitter @HubSpot.