BBB Tip: Building your personal brand to enhance networking success

In today’s competitive professional landscape, standing out is essential for career advancement and networking success. A powerful way to differentiate yourself is to build a strong personal brand — a distinct identity that communicates your value, expertise, and unique perspective. Similarly to major consumer brands, your personal brand should be consistent and authentic and include other fundamental elements that will help you stay true to your purpose.

A solid personal brand can open doors to new opportunities, build credibility that enhances promotions for products or services you offer, and expand your influence among peers personally and professionally. While the path forward to establishing a personal brand is dynamic, taking a structured approach provides a guide to achieving growth and individual success. Defining your purpose, vision, and goals is a great starting point.

Defining Purpose, Vision and Goals

Your vision is best thought of as your personal statement of your purpose and goals, either personally or professionally. While creating multiple versions that focus on specific areas of interest may be tempting, a single, all-encompassing vision helps reinforce your personal brand’s authenticity and consistency. A frequently used template for crafting a brand statement is, “I help ____ do ____.” For example, “I help businesses achieve their dream of sustained growth.” Once you’ve established your personal statement, your actions and messages should consistently reflect it. Think of it as your professional motto – the driving force that propels you forward and guides the decisions you make every day.

Determine Your Role and Expertise

It is vital to narrowly focus your personal brand on a specific area of interest to become a recognized authority. Consider what you want to be known for and your passion. You may want to be the go-to person for graphic design, crafting compelling narratives, or understanding the benefits of an industry practice. Whichever area of expertise you want to focus on should be tied to your brand vision. Using the example of helping businesses achieve growth, the area of expertise you may focus on is crafting compelling narratives that describe how successful entrepreneurs navigate through the first years of business operation.

Who is Your Audience?

Even the most well-known brand cannot appeal to everyone. Take the time to figure out who your audience is and how you want to interact with them. What perception do you want the audience to have after talking with you or reading one of your social media posts? How can you appeal to their values and beliefs? Are they contradictory to your own? If so, creating an authentic personal brand will take a lot of work. Creating a persona that includes a general outline of your target audience’s demographics, challenges, and pain points may be beneficial. The more you understand your audience, the greater you will be able to establish yourself as a recognized leader and engage in genuine conversations. You know them, and they know you.

Establish a Consistent Voice and Tone

Consistency is key when building brands, and establishing your voice and tone is a great way to build trust and credibility. Although related, voice and tone are two distinct factors that work together to create your personal brand’s identity. Voice is your distinct personality (insightful, helpful, witty, etc.), while tone is the emotional inflection applied while communicating (humorous, encouraging, professional, etc.). Both should reflect your brand statement. Your voice and tone should be authentic, but it is also important to consider your target audience. Using technical jargon may be beneficial if your audience is familiar with the terms, but it could confuse people who are not. Similarly, what one audience finds humorous, another may find offensive. Determining your audience can help guide the development of your voice and tone.

Build an Online Presence

In today’s professional environment, engaging in social media discussions is essential to building your personal brand. Search for trending conversations that match your brand statement or expertise and join in discussions. Try to contribute to the conversation by offering your perspective or insight in a respectful manner, even if you disagree with others involved in the debate. Attempt to spark new conversations and solicit advice from others by including a few hashtags that will help get your message in front of your target audience. Be responsive and professional to anyone who responds to your social media posts. In addition to enhancing your brand, you never know who you may meet and what you’ll learn by actively participating in online discussions. When used responsibly, online networks can open a world of opportunities for your professional development and career goals.

Evaluate and Adapt

Be flexible and willing to change. Evaluate how your target audience responds to your messages and interactions and make changes to your brand as needed. While this may seem contradictory to being consistent, brands that fail to incorporate feedback into how they interact with their audiences will quickly find themselves speaking to an empty room. Avoid becoming defensive of criticism. Instead, use it to strengthen your brand and learn from the experience. Reacting positively to a negative interaction can be more beneficial for the credibility of your personal brand than taking a defensive position.

By prioritizing authenticity and consistency in building your personal brand, you can enhance your networking success and forge meaningful connections that propel your career forward. Remember, creating a powerful personal brand is a journey, not a destination. Stay true to yourself, remain consistent in your messaging and actions, and watch as your network grows and flourishes organically.

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