It used to be pretty straightforward: You wore the right outfit, showed up on time, spoke clearly, and gave a firm handshake. The first in-person meeting was quick and by the time it was over you had presented your brand. Today things are a bit more involved, but how you present yourself to the world - the brand you build - is as critical to your success as ever.
Plus, I love to help people do it! So, let’s talk about finding your voice when building your personal brand.
First, let’s cover some main points:
What is personal branding?
Much like presenting a well-planned resume to a potential employer, personal branding for the digital realm is all about making choices about the information you put out in the digital sphere. This ranges from the things you write on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and your website to the design and images used in all of those mediums and further to what others are saying or posting about you that others can see and read. If your success relies in part upon how you present yourself (and believe me, it does!), you want to have a cohesive plan for how to do it.
Why create personal brands?
Personal branding for the digital realm comes into play in several scenarios. It can be as lighthearted as how you present yourself on a dating site to as serious and professional as you would want to be seen when you are seeking a job. How many times have you heard about polishing up your social media sites when applying for a new job? It’s no joke!
These are the new avenues by which interested people look for insight on who you are and how you will behave or perform. They apply just as strongly once hired to keep your clients (or your bosses!) feeling secure about their choice so that they will be more inclined to keep you around.
So, Dawn, how can I find an accurate voice for my personal brand?
Oh! I’m so glad you asked me that! I have ideas that have helped my clients (and myself) find their voice and express the best of themselves so that the image you wish to portray matches the information you release into the digital world. When they don’t, your audience can get mixed signals about who you are, what you do, and how you do it. That misalignment is no way to brand yourself! So here’s one of my favorite exploration exercises for finding your voice in order to build your personal brand into a cohesive expression of who you are and what you can offer.
Finding Your Voice
Put yourself in an environment where you feel like you are the most like yourself or who you want to be. For me, I’m one of those people that already spends time reflecting on my life and where I’m taking it (yes, I meditate daily!), but when I go to the beach I feel like I’m connected to something deeper in myself than I can reach in my typical routine.
If you don’t have time to go to “your spot” try to recreate those feelings where you are. Just make sure you are in a place where you won’t be interrupted or distracted.
Grab three pieces of paper and set a timer for 5 minutes. On your first piece of paper, make a list of adjectives, words, drawings, and phrases that you or others have used in the past to describe yourself. Don’t stop until you hit the 5 minute mark. Here’s an excerpt from my list:
Believe me, the real thing was much longer and super sloppy. Luckily, our designer, Frank, came to my rescue to make my list much more presentable to the world. If you find you think in words, write your list in words. If you think in images, draw your list. Do both. The important thing here isn't beauty, poetry or art.
- Once you’ve exhausted that list, take a 2 minute break. Get an apple, take a walk, or do whatever you need to do to clear your head. Rome wasn’t built in a half hour and this can be challenging for people who aren’t in the habit of focusing on themselves.
Set the timer for another 5 minutes. On the second piece of paper, make a list of everything that you are now.
- Take a look at the two pieces of paper. Do you notice any trends? Does it sound like you? For me, it’s pretty clear that I’ve been defining myself by the work that I do (and I love - love); however, when I think about who I am - who I really am - well, that person is more than than just my job, isn’t she? That ladies and gentleman, is misalignment that needs to be addressed!
- Now, look at your current digital platforms if you have any. What are you talking about on Facebook? Twitter? Your website? When I did this exercise a couple of months ago, it was all Rise-Rise-Rise. I could have been a billboard for what we do at work...but my website hadn’t been updated since a project I did in India years ago. The question is, “Is this the sum total of who I want to be?” If you’re looking for answers to finding your brand voice then your answer is more than likely going to be, “Nope!”
Now, pull out the third piece of paper and list everything you want to be. It’s okay if there is overlap with who you have been and who you are! In fact, it might be a little more disconcerting if there isn’t overlap. In more fact, if you find there isn’t any overlap at all, make sure you put some thought power into what you’re doing right in your life - force yourself if you have to.
Notice that there are still several things on that list that are related to work? It’s because the work I do at Rise is more than just a job to me. I’m lucky that my job is in alignment with who I am and who I want to be. That said, I am more than just a brand manager at Rise which is why I’ve included more “me.”
When I’m at this point in the exercise, I’m ready to start making plans. I know that my goals start getting pretty lofty and I already know that I have a pretty big love affair with big ideas (points to the “know everyone” goal) BUT I’m thinking in the right direction.
- Look at that last list and think about what kinds of things that person would talk about on Facebook and/or Twitter. What would their website look and sound like? Make a list of potential status updates and topics you’d write about. I call it my “cheat sheet.”
- Start doing it. If you can’t afford a website redesign or don’t have the time/skills to do it yourself, that’s okay! Start small with status updates on your social spaces. When that feels comfortable, start working on the big stuff.
- To make sure you keep up with this, put in your calendar - right now - a time (once a month or once a quarter) to review how you’re doing. Your voice is going to evolve. Your design is going to change. The important thing to look for in this review is to see if you’re still staying in alignment with who you want to be.
- It’s not critical to that you redesign everything all at once. It’s more important to start putting a stake in the ground. Your voice will evolve and every step is closer to your goal than the one before.
- Make sure that who you want to be is someone that your employer doesn’t want to fire. Unless you want to be jobless or work someplace else, put the best of your personal brand out there and you’ll get the best response!
- Last, but not least, share your results! Let me know if you gave this a shot and how it worked for you. Feel free to reach out to me via Facebook, Twitter, or email.