Your personal brand is a description of yourself, your talents and what you offer — the qualities that make you uniquely distinguishable. Your brand helps to define how you position yourself in the marketplace and how people will perceive you. It's important. It's your reputation. It's worth some of your attention.
Creating your brand
Here are some basic steps to consider when it comes to creating and promoting your personal brand.
Identify what you provide or offer professionally: Before people enter into a relationship, they ask, "What's in it for me?" If you can answer that question by explaining how you add value, you will greatly increase the chances of forming meaningful relationships and building your brand.
List the elements that differentiate you from others: It's all about niche and focus. Talk to your most trusted colleagues, friends and competitors and ask them to identify what makes you stand out.
Determine what you want to convey about your brand and create a communication and marketing plan to promote it.
Be consistent and deliver on your brand promise every time.
The marketing of you
The next step entails spreading the word. There are three specific communication arenas you need to consider.
Old school: This traditional method involves your resume, your references and a portfolio of your work.
Online: Once you have your old-school tools perfected, it's time to move online, which is the best and easiest place to build your personal brand. There are some basic products and outlets to consider when taking your personal brand online. Choose the two or three that work best for you.
Create a profile on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com). It's often the first place people go to learn about you.
Put yourself out there and create a blog. A quick tip: Before you begin your blog, write down 50 potential post ideas. If you can come up with 50, you are ready to go. If blogging is new to you, take time to learn the rules and expectations. Blogs are about teaching, learning and sharing information. If your blog comes across as a blatant promotional piece, nobody will read it.
Consider hosting a video blog on YouTube or an audio podcast series on Podcast Alley.
Many chief executives use Twitter and Facebook to promote their personal brands while also connecting with employees and current and potential customers.
Once you have made the jump to online personal branding, remember that consistency is critical. It is best when your name is the same across all online media. See if you can purchase a URL with your name.
In person: Next it's time to focus on you, the person. Your personal style should support your personal brand. The way you dress has an effect on the way you are perceived by others. So does the way you communicate. Consider how you treat people. Examine your interpersonal skills.
You, the person, should be consistent with the brand you convey on paper and online. Your personality and communication style should align with your brand. If you deliver what you promise, good things will happen.
Ken White is executive director of marketing communications at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.