New Year, New You with Luann Feehan

Personal Branding in 5 Steps

Luann Feehan

I recently led a personal branding program for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Kansas City and shared five steps on the road to establishing your best professional image. Your personal brand equates to value, and validates the skills you bring to the table. Whether you’re looking for a new position in 2015, or working to establish yourself in an existing role, you need a personal brand!

1.  Research. Since perception is reality, the first step is to be aware of the brand you may already have. How do people perceive you and your talents? What are you known for? The easiest way to gauge your personal brand is by paying attention to your online presence. You’ve been told to Google yourself, but I suggest taking the time to actually check out what comes up under your name. If your name is common, consider adding a differentiator. Do your Google results convey a personal brand that you’re happy with? Do you even show up? A non-existent brand can be just as detrimental as a poor brand.

2.  Define. After researching your existing brand, the next step is to define what you want your brand to become. Think about the three things that you want to be known for. Are you the person that your colleagues come to for event planning advice? When your network thinks about media connections, do they think of you? Then think about where you want to be in the next five years. Consider if your personal brand aligns with your personal goals. Creating your personal brand is your opportunity to write your own narrative.
Be specific. If you want to be known for everything, you won’t be recognized for anything.  And remember to keep it authentic. It’s not just about building an image for the outside world, but emphasizing what’s genuine about you and your passion. It’s important to align who you are with what you do. The more you are personally invested in your industry and career, the more in synch your personal brand will be.

3.  Execute. Once you’ve defined your brand, it’s time to make it happen. If you’re in the market for a new position, thread your brand through your cover letter and resume. Surround yourself with a network of experts in your field, and never miss an opportunity to learn. You should be constantly reinforcing your talent, skills and abilities online as well. Try to keep all of your online profiles consistent with your brand. If you only have time for one social media platform, make it Linked In. Even if you aren’t searching for a new position, Linked In leads to business relationships and peer networks. Take the time to fill out and update your profile, keeping your brand in mind.

4.  Cultivate. As you develop your brand, make sure to reinforce it regularly and creatively. Updating your online profiles once per year doesn’t speak to your engagement.  If you are pursuing a career in fundraising, post articles on your Linked In about the latest philanthropy trends. Retweet interesting statistics from a financial expert to show your interest in finance. Passion is a great way to compensate for limited experience. Be intentional with your connections online. It’s better to have a smaller number of quality connections than over 500 connections that you don’t personally know. If a friend asks you to connect them with one of your connections, make sure that you are familiar enough that you can make the introduction! Consider if your personal style is in line with your desired perception. It’s about aligning every piece of your image with your brand.

5.  Connect. The final step to brand awareness is building a network of brand ambassadors. Start building a following of passionate fans that love your advice, suggestions and ideas and will spread the word. Create and sustain connections with varied people from several walks of life. Make yourself the first name your network thinks of when they ask who might know a good expert on a certain subject. Nurture your network by sharing good information and resources with them. When you leverage your character and expertise and relate to people in a way that satisfies their needs, your friends and colleagues will unwittingly become your brand ambassadors.

My final advice on personal branding?  You get what you want by helping others get what they want. Connect with me on Twitter @SmartConnectKC!

Luann Feehan
Executive Director, Nonprofit Connect

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