Strategic communicators spend a great deal of time developing, polishing, and communicating their clients’ brands. From focus group facilitation and media relations to message development and social media tracking, strategic communicators play a pivotal role in an organization’s public perception and overall success.
The problem is, many professional communicators do not have a strong personal brand that effectively communicates their own mission, vision, values, strengths, talents, and differentiators.
Why is a personal brand important?
First, consider the competition. Graduate communication programs in the US alone award degrees to thousands of students every year, meaning the pool of graduates is becoming exceptionally large. Without a strong personal brand, it may be very difficult to stand out from the crowd.
Second, the process of developing a powerful personal brand requires a significant amount of self-reflection and analysis, both of which will force you to really get to know yourself. This is important because if you want to sell yourself to employers, you must have a clear and authentic story to tell.
Third, your personal brand can work for you 24/7. Tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Indeed and, of course, your own website can successfully market your brand even while you’re sleeping. The key with online personal brand development is having a clear, fresh, and consistent message that accurately conveys your personality, skill sets, experiences, and unique perspectives. Employers and clients want to know how you’ll approach their issues differently, and it’s your job to tell them.
So what makes up a personal brand?
- Visual image. How you present yourself nonverbally is absolutely critical. Within the first few seconds of meeting, people make powerful assumptions about your income, competence, education, intelligence, social status, trustworthiness, likeability, and professionalism. How you dress matters. Wearing styles and colors that complement your body type and personality will help you convey confidence – and develop positive audience perceptions.
- Your value system. The things that are the most important to you are the foundation of your brand. For example, your values might include creativity, integrity, faith, family, sustainability, generosity, compassion, travel, teamwork, lifelong learning, and so forth. These values can be translated into stories and other messages that will differentiate you and your individual worldview. So, even if your education and work experience are similar to other strategic communicators, your values and worldview will always be uniquely your own.
- Your presentation style. How you speak, interact, and conduct yourself with others reveals a wealth of important information about you, including your level of confidence, your fund of knowledge, and how you react under pressure. Many leaders with whom I’ve worked believe their employees (particularly new graduates) do not speak or perform well in meetings. This is useful feedback because you now know of a specific skill that you can master to help boost your brand.
Remember that building your personal brand isn’t about self-aggrandizement or shameless self-promotion. Instead, it’s a professional, ongoing process for distinguishing yourself and the special skills and attributes you bring to the table.
Debra Davenport Ph.D. is a member of the online faculty of Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.
*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.