Your personal brand is what makes you unique. It is what distinguishes you, and how people remember you.
Your personal brand comprises your entire image: It’s how you communicate to the world online and offline to your citizens, your colleagues and your network. Phone conversations, emails you send, the way you conduct meetings—these are all part of the larger message you’re sending about who you are.
Your brand needs to be authentic and play up your true strengths. Once you have an idea of what you want your personal brand to be, how do you actually put it all into action? Here are some tips.
No. 1: Be Authentic
Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive. What have you done lately to make yourself stand out? What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? Your most noteworthy personal trait?
Rethink the way you view your career. Don’t think of yourself as an employee but as an asset. Forget your job title. Ask yourself: What do I do that brings value? What I am most proud of?
Be honest about who you are, your attributes and your best (and worst!) qualities. If you know yourself, you can promote an honest brand.
No. 2: Control Your Personal Narrative
Your story is the most powerful tool you have to connect with others. As a leader, you must learn to identify your brand story and share that story in a meaningful and relevant way. A little personality goes a long way, especially when you’re trying to build influence in the workplace.
This is especially important when you’re in management or an executive position. If you isolate yourself, or try to build your perceived authority by distancing yourself from the others, it might only serve to alienate you and put you in a position where you’re viewed with distrust or resentment.
Instead, go out of your way to have personal exchanges with your employees and co-workers. You don’t need to force friendships, but there’s no reason why you can’t get to know others. Personal working relationships are important for cultivating a sense of team, and if people see you as another person on the team, they’ll be more receptive when you disclose your ideas or opinions.
No. 3: Get Your Name Out There
Build visibility internally. Sign up for an extra project inside your organization, just to introduce yourself to new colleagues and showcase your skills—or work on new ones. To build visibility externally, try:
- Seeking out guest post opportunities: Look for well-known blogs in your industry—like GovLoop!—that give guest authors the chance to publish their own articles. Seeing your name on these external sites immediately increases your perceived authority.
- Writing for print publications: Don’t limit yourself to writing guest blog posts. Look for opportunities to contribute to print publications for an even bigger reputation bump. Try contributing a column or opinion piece to your local paper or professional newsletter.
- Speaking at conferences and tradeshows: Make a list of every major event in your industry and then submit presentation proposals to all of them. Every time you have a chance to speak in public, no matter how small the event, you’re giving people the opportunity to connect your face with your brand.
- Teaching a class: Try teaching a class at a community college, in an adult education program, or in your own organization. You get credit for being an expert, you increase your standing as a professional, and you increase the likelihood that people will come back to you with more requests and more opportunities to stand out from the crowd.
When it comes to promoting yourself, the hardest part is getting started. But once you get going, you’ll find that opportunities to increase your visibility naturally build upon themselves.
No. 4: Build Executive Presence
According to research from Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the founder and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, executive presence is composed of “how you act, how you communicate, and how you look.”
A Business Insider article describes it with 7 Cs: composure, connection, charisma, confidence, credibility, clarity and conciseness.
Being physically comfortable goes a long way in radiating the right presence. If you are fidgeting, that detracts from the message you’re trying to deliver. Sitting and standing with excellent posture conveys a different message than slouching. And, although it is superficial, appearance affects the way people perceive you. Remaining calm and composed helps express confidence.
How you speak is equally important. Do people want to listen to you? Are you clear, convincing and compelling? Do you make yourself heard? If you’ve identified this as an area for improvement, consider presentation training to make your message stand out.
Whether you’re dealing with a coworker, an employee, a citizen or a councilperson, people don’t enjoy working with someone they don’t connect with. Cultivating executive presence can build a persona people relate to.
No. 5: Build and Manage Your Network
What your friends, colleagues and citizens say about you will determine the value of your brand.
Make yourself available to others, whether they are your clients or your peers. Make sure you have active accounts on social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Keep a balance between business-related updates and personal updates, so that others will see you as being both professional and personable. No one needs to know what you ate for breakfast, but a picture of your cat posing next to a promotional poster for your city 10K race will probably get some buzz. If you need help with what to post on social media, reach out to your municipality’s public information officer. Don’t have one? There’s plenty of information available online, including this tutorial on Lynda.com.
Remember, personal branding isn’t bound to the internet. When you leave your house and interact with people around town, make sure you maintain a positive and professional appearance aligned with your brand. Carry business cards, and watch for potential connections.
A Personal Brand Builds Influence Power
Getting and using power—intelligently, responsibly, and yes, powerfully—are essential skills for growing your brand. One of the things that attracts us to certain brands is the power they project. As a consumer, you want to associate with brands whose powerful presence creates a halo effect that rubs off on you.
The more you believe in the people around you and incorporate their ideas into your vision, the more they’ll believe in your ideas and incorporate them into their work. The reality is that people are more likely to like someone who likes them back—and work harder for those people as well. Even small gestures like smiling or greeting a colleague by their name go a long way.
Oftentimes, that’s the essence of building influence: positivity, supporting others and paying attention them. If you’re the one spearheading the initiative to build this environment, your colleagues and those you serve will come to see you as a leader, and your opinions will naturally be heard, acknowledged, and respected as a result.
Melissa Henley is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is Director of Customer Experience at Laserfiche, an enterprise software company that has served the public and private sectors for over 30 years. Customers are at the heart of all Melissa does, and her passion is around connecting people to content that can have a genuinely positive impact on their lives. Melissa brings over 20 years of marketing experience across multiple industries, including government, finance, and higher education. Read her posts here.