How to Build Your Brand Working For Someone Else
This is a guest post by Lisa Barone and part of a series of guest posts that will be featured on the Bruce Clay, Inc. blog all week long. Lisa outlines the benefits and how-tos of personal branding within an organization. Read on and enjoy!
Photo by vauvau, CC-BY
Don’t adjust your monitors; Lisa really is back blogging on Bruce Clay, Inc. If you listen closely you can almost hear the sounds of Bruce having a heart attack. Weee!
If you’re new to the Bruce Clay, Inc. blog or me (hi, I’m Lisa), you may not know that this blog served as my stomping grounds for nearly three years. It was my baby and where I formed my own personal brand, a brand that allowed me to move from LA to New York, write for some well known marketing blogs, and eventually, start an SEO consulting company called Outspoken Media.
That’s right. My name is Lisa and I built my personal brand on someone else’s dime. And you can do it, too.
Branded employees sometimes get a bad rap for being time-wasting job hoppers, but the truth is forming a strong personal brand while working for someone else benefits both the employer and employee when done correctly.
- When there’s more interest in you, there’s more interest in the company as a whole.
- Your personal success and connections can be leveraged by the company you work for.
- You become a more efficient worker thanks to quicker access to information and contacts via your network.
- A company with two (or three. Or four!) A-listers is more interesting and worth more than a company with 1 A-lister.
- Today’s market place is social. Users want to connect with people, not logos.
How can you go about building your personal brand while working for someone else? Here are a few suggestions.
Before you start a campaign to create a personal brand, talk to your employer. You don’t want to start putting yourself out there only to accidentally brand yourself “unemployed”. When you have “the social media talk”, you want to show how building the Brand of You will directly benefit the company. Stress how it doesn’t make you a flight risk, but instead will allow you to bring more value through increased brand awareness, speaking opportunities, press mentions, and a larger network that the whole company will be able to utilize.
When you get the okay, you also want to have in writing who the owner of the social accounts will be. You’re going to be building your name accounts (at least partially) on their time, but you want to make sure you own it, if possible. Stress how much more authentic this will make it feel for your audience. Obviously you hope to be with your employer for a really, really long time, but things do get messy when you break up. You want to prevent mess down the road.
Work like an asset.
When you’re building a personal brand, you stop being an employee. You’re now an asset, both to the company and to yourself. This realization changes how you work. It’s not about being there 9 to 5, it’s about figuring out how you can bring the most value to the company you work for and then putting that idea into action. For me, it meant working overtime to create an engaging blog that the search community wanted to interact with. It meant differentiating myself at conferences by NOT being the drunk girl at the bar, but instead being in the front row of a session an hour before it was even set to start so I could liveblog. It meant responding to comments at midnight if that’s when people were talking. It meant working like an entrepreneur even when someone else was still signing my paycheck.
Whoever you are, you have some skill that no one else in the organization has and something that you can use to build a name and provide value back to the company. Figure out what that thing is and change how you work to leverage the hell out of it.
Pick your character.
I’m of the mind that you shouldn’t be basing your personal brand off exactly who you are. Your personal brand should be a heightened, slightly exaggerated version of who you really are. This will help you to exaggerate the trait and qualities in you that will attract others. Because you’re basing the brand off traits you actually possess, you don’t have to worry about it not feeling authentic. Remember that entrepreneurs (and brands) are created to be respected, not loved.
Putting yourself out there is going to expose you to people who want nothing more than to kick you in the face. It may sound harsh, but it’s a truth we need to accept. There’s a dark side to being the face of a community. The character you create becomes your shield. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows out there in personal brand-land. You’re going to need it.
What you do is just as important as how you do it. So once you get your character figured out — start being it. Start that exact moment.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with personal branding is that they wait for permission. They know what makes them different and how they can stand out, but they convince themselves they “can’t” act that way.
- No one’s watching yet.
- They don’t have enough authority to say that.
- They need more followers first.
- No one challenges that Social Media God.
- They don’t have the readers they need to write that.
Listen: You find your readers and your following by BEING your brand, not by waiting for permission to be it. Or, as Justin Kownacki once wrote: Don’t wait until you’re popular to start being relevant. You don’t become popular asking for permission and you definitely won’t attract an audience that way.
If you want to create a brand, you’re going to have to work for it. And that may mean setting aside otherwise good sleeping or TV watching time to put things into action, because personal branding is more than just building an active Twitter account. It’s about differentiating yourself by busting your ass.
Look for opportunities to promote your company by bringing what you bring. If you’re a strong writer, then that may mean picking up some extra guest writing opportunities to portray you as an expert within your company. If you’ve got the verbal thing down, maybe it’s speaking or providing training services to people inside and outside your organization. Maybe it means going off the beaten path for what your company typically does, creating something new that you can use to go rogue. Virginia created Bruce Clay’s SEM Synergy podcast. Susan co-authored the SEO for Dummies book. It’s up to you to create opportunities to build your brand and the company. The more opportunities you create, the luckier you become, and the bigger your brand grows.
[If you’re seen working your ass off, you’re also likely to get less resentment from your coworkers who haven’t hopped on the brand wagon and actively hate their lives. Actually, no, they’ll probably still hate you.]
Be everywhere, loudly.
This is the part of personal branding everyone always thinks of. It’s when you’re on Twitter during the day and afterhours talking to people. It’s when you’re sharing what you’re up to, the problems you’re facing, what you’re working on, what you love, and answering their questions to help lighten their load. It’s when you’re making connections by having real conversations and showing the person behind the company. It’s the chatty side of brand building.
This step is important. It’s important that you’re visible, accessible and that you create as many touch points as you can for your brand. The more out there you are, the more you help yourself become the “go to” person for a specific topic. People have to know that you exist to care about you, but don’t get stuck here. Twitter can only help your personal brand if you have something else to bring to the table. Remember that.
You can build a personal brand while working for someone else and you can do it in a way that benefits not only yourself, but also your employer. Focus on that value.