New Personal Branding Expectations for Public Relations and Communication Professionals

CS: New Personal Branding Expectations for Public Relations and Communication Professionals

Public relations and the communications field as a whole has seen a lot of transition over the last few decades, and the skills and necessary experiences that are needed to be marketable in today’s landscape have evolved. More channels and types of social media are coming into play for campaigns, content creation, and storytelling for brands, which is showcased in the latest version of the Conversation Prism.

While it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming to deal with all of these trends, new channels, and growing expectations, there is an area that hits home for many of you. Expertise and experience are fundamental to have as a public relations professional today, but having a strong personal brand is essential today.

Any person, brand, or community can create an image online, but it does not mean a thing when the personality, voice, and person behind the screen does not match what you see in front of you. Effective alignment between reality and online presentation, along with establishing a clear, consistent, transparent and authentic voice, shapes how we see ourselves and how others perceive us.

While there have been much written and discussed on the topic of personal branding, this continues to be an evolving area of focus for public relations and communications professionals. Personal brands that are frequently mentioned and highlighted as strong examples to note would be Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”), Gary Vaynerchuk, Mari Smith, and Sheryl Sandberg to name a few.

Here are some tips on what you need to consider when it comes to personal branding.

Do’s for Personal Branding

Be comfortable in putting yourself out there for the world to see.

One of the great things about personal branding aspects is the fact we are able to showcase our unique experiences, characteristics, and brand voices.

  • What is going to be your particular point of view for the community?
  • What areas within the community or industry do you want to be known for?
  • What do you like discussing with your fellow colleagues in the industry, and what are some topics people come to you naturally for?

One exercise is to do some informal research with close colleagues and friends to determine some of their perceptions of your personal brand and voice, and on what topics they feel your perspective is one they trust and value.

This also means being comfortable in reaching out to people in person as well as online. Sending out a tailored (yet concise) message on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or other channels based on specific reasons (e.g., connecting after meeting up at a professional conference, participation in a Twitter chat) is one way to approach this. The worst thing to do is not taking advantage of a professional networking opportunity because you are afraid to put yourself out there. You may not get an answer, but at least you learn from the experience. In many cases, it will be another step toward establishing a proactive relationship with an industry contact.

Know your own brand voice.

Public relations and communication professionals spend a lot of time ensuring the brand’s voice comes across on all channels in a consistent and authentic manner. The same goes for personal brands as well. What makes a personal brand stand out is being consistent and authentic with the community in person and online.

Jeremy Darlow (founder of Brand Food ThinkTank and former Global Brand Marketing Director for adidas) mentioned that it is very tempting to jump on a new trend or try to be someone who has a dominant presence in the industry based on their personality and content, but it does not mean you have to be everywhere all of the time. What is important to recognize the space, communities, and areas of experience your brand voice and expertise is valued as being trustworthy and authentic.

This also means not only finding your own brand voice, but creating a hub for it so you (and no one else) can control your own narrative. Social media accounts are important to have as part of your extension of your personal brand, but having a website or blog that you own helps in creating a hub for your personal brand.

Make each conversation and action you take mean something.

Take the time to not only share what is going on in your industry on social media, but talk about WHY you care about sharing and creating the content that would be important for others to notice. Being a resource and taking the time will not only help others in the industry you are working in, but also will help contribute to your overall personal brand and influence.

Use your own data to your own professional branding advantage.

Consider exploring the various analytics platforms like Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, Google Analytics, and LinkedIn provide to users. Ask yourself these questions and use the data to help answer them:

  • Who is reading your content?
  • How could this be integrated and used to create a personal brand content campaign for yourself?
  • What types of blogs or LinkedIn posts are getting the most engagement?
  • What tweets or updates have generated the most interaction with other colleagues in your network?
  • What makes you different?
  • What is your competitive advantage in the marketplace?

In campaigns, communication professionals do SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities, and threats) analyses all the time. It may be a good idea to do one on your own personal brand. Plus, evaluating each of these platforms on a consistent basis will help determine what to share specifically on each platform, but also serve as a way to brainstorm future content.

Be willing to be open to learn, grow, and share new perspectives with others.

It may be challenging to offer new perspectives publicly but this is how the field continues to grow. Having the confidence to write, create content, and share it with the community will help establish your point of view and place within the community.

Investing the time to continue to learn about new tools and trends is just part of what is expected in today’s landscape. Learning does not stop after earning a degree. Take the time, along with seeing what is happening in the news and in the community, each day on a new trend. Invest in certification programs that can help extend your knowledge base in your area of interest.

Also, you never know who you will meet and where they will go, so being willing to meet and connect with new colleagues is always important. Whether it is a student reaching out about a question related to a school project, or a colleague that is getting their start in the area. Everyone today is essentially their own media outlet, and taking the time to help someone could be shared and extended to others. Mentorship is one way to pay it forward in the industry. Plus, this helps in adding to your personal brand as a resource. However, mentorship should be a win-win situation that also brings you value. Look for candidates and professionals who can teach you something as well.

Keep in mind, like any job or client relationship, a personal brand is not built overnight. It may take some time, perhaps years, to help cultivate the relationships needed.

Don’ts for Personal Branding

Don’t be fake or inauthentic.

A personal brand is all about being true to yourself. While it may be tempting to take on another persona, your personality, community, voice, and brand are all of the components that truly make you unique and memorable. Personal branding is not all about you, it’s also about your community and helping others in the process. It is very tempting to try to gain “influencer” fame on social media, but if you are focusing too much on the shares, influencer lists, attention and other vanity metrics, you will lose out on the value and impact you have on your community. Be aware of falling into the trap of vanity metrics on social media as well. There are many people in the industry who may have 100k followers, but the true picture behind these numbers may tell a different story. Do not buy followers, likes, or establish fake bots to promote and elevate these numbers.

Don’t go for the hard sell when engaging with potential connections.

You do not want to approach people when you first meet them in person or virtually and go for the hard sell. Whether it is sharing one of your tweets, videos, or even connecting with them for the purpose of getting another introduction or opportunity for a job offer, these actions will not go over well and may impact your own personal brand negatively. Reach out to people you want to know based on their own experiences, stories, and expertise, but not for what they can do for you immediately. If you are networking with people just for the sake of their job title or where they work, this is a short-term view. Focus on quality engagements and find out how you can help them in their journey and community. This way, you are able to be a helpful resource and establish a proactive and positive relationship built on trust rather than pure ambition.

Don’t just have a personal brand for the sake of having one.

You can’t just “wing” a personal brand. You have to have a strategy in place for what type of content you want to share, how you want to present yourself, and what your personal brand stands for. Walk the walk with your personal brand, but have a plan in place for the long term. Don’t take action until you have thoroughly evaluated all of the options and come up with a game plan.

Don’t think social media is all about numbers and not quality of engagements.

If you only promote your voice without listening or engaging with others, you will have a difficult time building a community. This means not automating your messages or signing up for services on Instagram to comment and follow accounts, and then unfollowing people.

Establishing a personal brand on social media is one of the hardest yet most important tasks to do for a public relations and communication professional. Your personal brand is your most valuable asset to protect, invest in, and maintain for your community and professional career. A personal brand can be the deciding factor for public relations professionals when it comes to applying for jobs, getting a client account, or getting invited for a professional consulting or speaking opportunity.

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