Why a Personal Brand Matters and How to Build Yours Virtually

by Valerie Nadi
 
 

The David Foster Wallace novel Infinite Jest describes a future where brands, in a never-ending search for greater market traction, can sponsor an entire year. It’s called “subsidized time,” and results in names like: Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken and Year of the Trial Size Dove Bar.

As absurd and harlequinesque as this sounds, it does shine a comedic spotlight on the difficulty companies face in building and sustaining a strong brand. Nor is it surprising that with social media, blogs, and other online forums, the art and science of brand building has entered the personal space.

Of course, celebrities in media, entertainment, and sports expend a lot of time and energy shaping and refining their brands. But what value is a “personal brand” if you’re not hawking a new line of fitness gear, cookware, or some other retail consumable?

Well, you might be surprised. Read on.

It’s a Comfortable Shoe; It’s a Favorite Beverage; It’s a Trusted Appliance — No, It’s Your Personal Brand!

So, just what is a personal brand? Salesforce Director of Enablement Programs Paul Wilhoit describes a personal brand as simply:

What People Say About You When You’re Not There

In many ways, a personal brand is like a corporate brand. Dr. Sean Gresh, a faculty member at Northeastern University, notes that it’s “who you are, what you stand for, the values you embrace, and the way in which you express those values.”

A corporation uses its brand to communicate those values to customers. You can use your personal brand to do the same thing — to customers, colleagues, managers, and prospective employers.

Oprah Winfrey — often called “America’s Ultimate Brand” — offers this personal branding advice: “Let excellence be your brand... When you are excellent, you become unforgettable. Doing the right thing, even when nobody knows you're doing the right thing will always bring the right thing to you.”

And, in a world where communication is increasingly digital, your personal brand may be more important across remote channels than it is face to face.

Wilhoit also offers these additional guidelines about the value of personal branding. A personal brand can:

  • Build trust
  • Create differentiation
  • Increase demand
  • Help achieve your goals
  • Enhance visibility

 He also makes the point that a personal brand is not:

  • What you say about yourself
  • An extension of your employer’s brand
  • Only your presence in social media 
  • About your title or organizational power

Three Tips for Building Your Personal Brand

There’s a lot of content online about building a personal brand. Our purpose here is to get you started on the journey. These tips — there are many more — are summarized and edited from the excellent Northeastern University Graduate Programs blog.

1. Figure out who you are

This is an obvious first step and requires some introspection. Ask yourself:

  • In which areas of work do I excel?
  • What motivates me?
  • What characteristics have others complimented me on?
  • Which projects have others had to help me with repeatedly?
  • Which roles seem to drain my energy?
  • Which projects can I spend hours on without feeling overwhelmed or tired?

It’s ok to ask the opinion of others who you trust to offer honest answers. Once you’re more aware of the facets of your personality, you can decide how best to use them for brand building.

2. Prepare an elevator pitch

Those in sales are familiar with the concept of the elevator pitch. As you begin to conceptualize your personal brand, spend some time crafting an elevator pitch for your brand — a 30 to 60 second story about who you are.

Whether you’re attending a virtual networking event or an informal online meetup, or introducing yourself to a new, geographically dispersed team or customer, having an elevator pitch makes it easy to describe succinctly what you do and where you’re going (or would like to go) in your career.

Keep it brief. After all, you want to deliver it before everyone “gets off the elevator.”

3. Embrace networking

As you refine your brand, it’s important to grow your professional circle via networking. And you can do it without traveling, looking for parking, or standing in lines! Follow blogs and comment. Attend industry events via streaming. Reach out to subject matter experts and thought leaders on social media. 

The more connections you make — and the more value you can provide in your interactions — the more likely it is your personal brand will be recognized. Networking can make it easier to find a job, advance your career within a company, and cultivate deeper relationships with customers.

How Are You Showing Up Remotely?

We could have put this one in the tips section but it’s so important we had to single it out.

It’s hard to establish rapport with someone if you've only interacted via email or over the phone. In the absence of in-person meetings, video conferencing is by far the next best thing for improving any kind of relationship: partner, team member, or customer. In fact, some research by Forbes makes a strong case that video conferencing can be even more effective than face-to-face meetings.

  • Video changes the feel and improves the etiquette of meetings.
  • Humans process visual information far faster and more capably than text or audio. As the Confucian proverb says, “I hear, and I forget; I see, and I remember.”
  • 62 percent of executives agree that relative to audio conferencing, video conferencing significantly improves the quality of communication, a figure that rises to 73 percent among high-growth companies.

Polish Your Personal Brand

Remember the episode in Mad Men where Don Draper pitches Kodak on an ad campaign for its new slide display system? Kodak called it The Wheel. Not too catchy.

But in his pitch, Draper describes something else. He says “…it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards, takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel. It’s called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Round and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.”

Draper was onto something. A brand is more than product features. Brands touch people where emotion and functionality meet. And this is just as true with personal brands as corporate brands. Your “product features” are what you can do. Your industry knowledge and technical skills. But just as important as what you can do is who you are. That’s the part of your personal brand that generates trust — a quality that never goes out of style.

Ready to put your personal brand to use? Apply for your next role at Salesforce today.

 
 

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