Written by Terri Stephan
CEO, Brand One | VP, Marketing Communications, WECAN
Terri is the founder and former CEO of Ecuity Edge, the creator of the WinningEdge365 platform, now powered by Microsoft. She built the company from the ground up, earning Microsoft Gold Partner designation in less than two years. Her journey took her through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, underscored the value of relationships and exceptional service, and reinforced her sense of self.
Her visionary mindset and brand insights have enabled Terri to sell into companies Fortune 500 and various organizations alike hundreds of times her size; brand has served as the persistent anchor for her customers at times of rapid transformation; brand has opened doors to coveted new relationships. Brand has allowed Terri and her team to disrupt the status quo, time and time again. Now, Terri is taking her extensive brand acumen and hard-won strategies and applying them to support extraordinary executives through Brand One.
When you Google yourself, what pops up? What is the first impression people have of you when they search online? As you read on, give some thought to where your personal brand stands today.
Developing a great personal brand is crucial for today’s executives. The executive who can confidently and authentically share their personal brand message will connect, motivate, and influence their audience. Just like any corporate brand has unique features and benefits, your personal brand is your unique combination of skills and experiences that give you authority in your industry and differentiates you from the competition. Your personal brand is when you craft your message, develop your image and guide your reputation. Your personal brand is not something that is strategically conceived, it’s authentically discovered. You have to dig deep to discover your value and brand truths, leveraging the exact same approach you’d apply to full-scale enterprise brand development. It takes time, but well worth the effort and there are tangible benefits. As you provide clarity and generate influence of your personal brand, the more visibility you will give to your business.
The Bottom Line
Whether you have done the work or not, you have a personal brand. The question is whether or not you control it. Developing a great personal brand doesn’t just happen. It’s a purposeful act that is cultivated over time. It’s imperative to be able to communicate your unique brand purpose to your audience in a credible way.
Why Develop a Strong Personal Brand?
We live in a world where your online reputation can be your strongest asset or your biggest liability. A world where sales and marketing are better executed by employees with strong personal brands than by the brands themselves. A world where companies hire not based on resumes and cover letters, but on information they find online.
Before people buy, they search online. Before people hire or partner, they look you up on social media. And long before that first phone call or in-person meeting, your audience has formed an idea of who you are and what you’re all about. It’s up to you to control that narrative and take charge of that perception.
You can do this through a strong, defined, authentic and well-articulated executive brand. A well-shaped brand isn’t fluff and it isn’t soft. It’s a smart business strategy that delivers ROI in spades.
Employers use web searches and social media for the entire process of fulfilling an employment role: research, recruitment, screening, and interviewing. If you have already put in the work, through cultivating your message, image and presence, you have already showcased your value and worth as an expert and proven your value to your industry. You’re giving insights into the asset you will become for the company. It’s your competitive advantage when more than resumes are needed in today’s market.
Do You Have to Be on Social Media?
People with strong personal brands present a comprehensive package. This includes visually as well as messaging. People with strong personal brands get access to great opportunities. They stick in people’s minds and are the first considered when someone needs an expert in their industry.
The hard truth is that if your audience doesn’t see you regularly, they forget about you. And yes, you do have an audience: your current employer, potential employers, keynote or event recruiters, and more. If you aren’t visible, then you are not standing out against your competition or proving yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Let’s take a step back. This doesn’t mean you have to be on every social media platform. Identify the platforms that are most relevant to your mission (LinkedIn, Twitter, Discord, etc) and build your presence on those select few.
Claim your name across all digital platforms: website and social media handles. You want to carve out your own personal Internet real estate. You have to start building an online presence to build brand awareness.
Use social media as an opportunity to prove value to your industry. Share your brand purpose , write content, and promote other leaders. Post consistently, use the same photos, colors, and style across all platforms. Image consistency builds a stronger recognition of you and your brand identity.
When executives build a strong brand identity, they create a clear and consistent message across channels. When you post, remember to stay on message and promote qualities and knowledge that you want people to associate with your personal brand.
Building lasting relationships on social media is important to forming strategic relationships with your audience, business partners, and potential employers.
Your personal brand is a smart business strategy and your audience expects it. Your personal brand should create a strategy around your thought leadership pillars and expertise through continually curating your digital presence.
Your personal brand should exhibit your authenticity, credibility, and your investment in the relationships in your industry. You never get a second chance to make a first impression—make it one that will set you apart, build trust and reflect who you are.