Table of Contents
If I’d have to summarize, I’d say that Personal Branding is the telling – and above all editing – of your story. The reason it’s gained a lot of attention of late is that while in the early days you could get away with not editing your story, as it didn’t often leave the community you hung out with, nowadays with social media, the internet, and everything being recorded that has changed. The simple truth is things can live a long time online – much longer than you’d like them to.
What’s more, it matters. When people are trying to decide if you’re a suitable person to work for or with them, they will Google you. And what comes up can have a severe impact on whether they’ll continue the conversation with you or not, particularly if it’s overly negative or positive.
And so, suddenly it isn’t just politicians who are working on projecting their image. It’s anybody who wants to build an online presence. Especially if this online presence is based upon whom they are and what they do.
Everybody has a personal brand
The first and most important thing to realize about a personal brand is that everybody has one. If you’ve got an online presence, whether it is being mentioned in a soccer tournament as a little boy, or a YouTube video of a drunken stag night, it all becomes a part of who you are – or rather who you project yourself to be.
This matters, because it means that you can’t decide if you have a personal brand, all you can do is decide whether you want to work on it or leave it as it is. I guess it’s a bit like mowing your lawn and trimming your hedges or letting your garden grow as it will.
If you do decide to care about projecting an attractive brand, then the first step you’ve got to take is to start thinking about what you’re projecting when you do enter (or are entered) into the digital realm. This is a conscious shift in attitude. It means realizing that getting into a drunken argument with a friend on Facebook probably isn’t a good idea. It also means avoiding the people at parties that go picture crazy.
You can’t delete the information, but you can steer the conversation
The fact is, it’s very hard to get information about yourself scrubbed from the internet. If somebody put it up, then it’s probably going to stay up. That can be a toe-curling thought. Fortunately, it isn’t quite as bad as you think it is.
Most people do not get past the first page of internet searches. So, all you have to do to start forming your brand is to start taking steps to make certain what you want to be heard is getting said more often.
If you don’t correctly understand what I mean, then look at Donald Trump. Now, whether you agree with his politics or not (I don’t), you have to admit he’s superb at steering the conversation. He realizes that the only way that he can move the topic on from something he doesn’t like is by saying something that people will pay even more attention to.
If you’re getting as much attention as he is, that means your statements have to be pretty outrageous to distract the crowds from whatever outrageous thing you said last time. Fortunately, most of us aren’t that famous, so we can steer the conversation without having to resort to quite such drastic messages.
Establish what your image is
The first step you should take is to find out what image you’re presenting online. That means Googling yourself. Now, don’t pretend you haven’t done it before! This time, however, doesn’t just bask in the glory that is you (or cringe at the stories that appear) but instead perform an audit.
Which stories do you like? Which don’t you? What image are you projecting? Can you tweak that to more correctly fit who you are or will you need to do a wholesale do-over? How easily is the story pushed down? Are we talking about a mention on a friend’s blog, or are we talking about a story in the New York Times? (The former will be easy to push down, while the latter is probably something you’re going to have to live with).
Once you’ve done that you’ve got a good idea of whether your band can easily be tweaked or if you’re going to think about getting your name changed.
Create a new narrative
The next step is to start working on the new narrative. This means creating new mentions of yourself that present you in the light you’d like to be presented in. The first step down this road is pretty easy. You should begin with:
Creating a web page
Most search engines are going to rate your name being mentioned several times on a website, particularly if it’s front and center, as a mention on somebody’s blog. And so, this will probably push down a few of your stories.
It doesn’t even have to be a crazy website, either. Just a resume, some contact information and some links to stories that are positive about you can be enough. That last point, by the way, is imperative. Creating more links to material that has positive things to say about you helps push them up in search rankings.
Help a Reporter Out
If you’ve got a lot of negative publicity and you’re in a position of authority, it’s a good idea to sign up for HARO. On this fantastic website, you sign up as a source and respond to reporters looking for sources. If they think you’re in a position to give them valuable information, they’ll approach you and ask you for quotes.
This is a great way to get mentioned on news sites and, as news sites often have a high authority in SEO ranking, this will probably push down stories that you don’t want to be found about yourself further down (well actually it will push all the stories down, but then you can’t win them all).
Now, there have always been a lot of reasons to work as a writer, but in recent years shaping the story out there about you has certainly been added to the list. If you write enough, and you add enough high-quality content in your name, some of those articles will climb in the ranking and push down other content. Don’t want to build up your website? That’s fine. Then consider writing only as a guest blogger for high-quality websites. You don’t even need to write the content yourself. You can pay other people to do so. All you need to make sure of is that your name is on there.
Of course, you don’t have to write. You can also try to create other forms of content. Anything that people are likely to share and backlink to will do the trick. So if you want to design logos, create graphics, build web pages or anything like that, you should be alright. What matters, of course, is that your name is up there.
Because if you don’t put it on your work, then whatever else it’s on (like your play and your debauchery) will get all the attention when people start doing background checks on you.
Do not neglect your personal brand
The problem with neglecting your brand is a bit like neglecting the dishes. The stuff gets caked in there after a while and what could have been scrubbed away with a little bit of soap on day one, will take a metal grinder on day 30.
After all, if people start writing up stories about you and the only thing they can find is that embarrassing article where you’re dressed like a giant penis, well that’s what they’re going to link to. And that will cement that story ever more into place.
Don’t let that happen to your personal brand. After all, you can throw those dishes away. You can’t do that with your brand (unless you’re really serious about changing your name).
I suspect in years to come there will be professional companies who will manage your brand for you. PR agencies with AI software that even spin the image of the every man. We’re not there yet, however.
We’ve still got to do all of that ourselves.
Fortunately, it’s not that much work. Buying an unclaimed domain costs you a few dollars a year. Putting up a web page doesn’t have to cost anything if you don’t want anything fancy. Word Press will help you do so for free. Or you can read up on how to build a good Word Press website, spend a bit of money on it and start not just building your brand, but marketing it. Who knows what benefits that will have down the line?
I see it as an investment. If you only put in a little bit of effort every month, then it will grow, push negative content out of the way, and be there for when you need it. In that way, you get to be safe rather than sorry that your mates got you that drunk, drew all over your face and put up those pictures all over the internet.