Are you looking for career-advancement opportunities, or do you just want to stand out in the sea of “AV sameness”? You’re not alone. Personal branding has become more than just a buzzword or trend; indeed, it has become a silver bullet to advance in your career and your life.
By definition, personal branding is the intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning him or her as an authority in his or her industry, elevating that individual’s credibility and differentiating that person from the competition.
Across all specialties in commercial AV, personal branding is driving decisions—from sales, to marketing, to human resources and hiring. Every week, Twitter is flooded with #AVTweeps who are sharing knowledge and expertise to help build their personal brand.
Branding shouldn’t begin and end on Twitter, though, hanging on one hash tag. Your personal brand should be omni-channel and multi-dimensional; one size certainly does not fit all. Our target audience, influencers in industries we’ve yet to break into and possible future collaborators whom we’ve yet to meet are buzzing all around us, like lightning bugs in summertime. When we do meet them, what are we bringing to the table? How are we sharing our influence?
There are myriad options when building your personal brand, but the following is meant to serve as a launch pad. This playbook is meant to be leveraged, expanded upon, and—in true startup fashion—tested and iterated upon until we figure out the perfect formula.
Know Your Why
Think about building a house, whose foundation must be solid; so, too, must your personal brand’s foundation be. Understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing—your “Golden Circle,” as Simon Sinek refers to it—is essential if you’re going to establish and grow the brand of you. If you know your why, you should have a clear way to articulate your one-liner, which is another core tenet of a strong personal brand.
Developing your one-liner (or elevator pitch) is as much an art as it is a science. In its simplest form, it can be looked at in the following way: (the problem or pain point you solve) + (your unique solution to eliminate that pain point) + (the reward your customer receives after having worked with you).
With these tools in your utility belt, there’ll be no more fumbling when you’re asked the question, “What do you do?”
Own Your Real Estate
Like having a good screen name back in the AOL days, owning your digital real estate is essential so you can control as much of your personal brand as possible. Depending on your name, this might prove challenging. (Being creative with the spelling or using a nickname is one possible way to get around this.) Whatever name you lead with, though, your goal should be consistency across all channels.
Make sure you obtain all formats, including .com, .net, .co and others, as well as any country-specific or vanity URLs that might be relevant. Even if you’re not planning to build an actual website in the future, you can do a lot simply by utilizing URL redirects.
The same is true for your email and social-media accounts. For email, even if you’re using an email address tied to a URL that you own, make sure to pick up the generic email accounts (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org), too. After all, the goal of owning your real estate is, like monopoly, to own everything—all different variations of your name. That way, no one else can.
A great tool is www.knowem.com, which will help you determine which handles are available.
Publish Content & Share Your Knowledge
Once you know your why and you’ve staked out your brand’s position, the next step in personal branding is to begin to establish authority. Today, we all have to be content publishers. To begin to realize your personal brand more fully, you have to build influence; the best way to do that is to publish.
Now, let’s be clear: Content can be overwhelming, and there are thousands of ways to produce it and distribute it. That’s why I recommend choosing one or two platforms for your content output. You don’t have to create for every platform. (Actually, there are even ways to syndicate your content, if you want to.) But, when getting started, it’s best to work toward small milestones.
Often, when creating content, the hardest part is getting started. A trick I use is to begin to log all the questions customers and colleagues ask me on a regular basis. You can do the same! Use those questions to fuel the content, sharing your knowledge and expertise. In fact, go ahead and overshare. Often, the value you offer is directly related to your personal brand’s success.
It also helps to use content templates, which enable you really just to fill in the blanks. I usually like to use list templates (e.g., top-10 lists, five reasons why), head-to-head comparisons (e.g., hardware versus software, installation versus rental), or round-ups (e.g., best microphones for podcasting, best displays for digital signage). Looking at your content through these prisms helps break it down into smaller chunks, making the process more manageable.
Choose Your Channels Wisely
Twitter is an obvious choice, especially in the commercial AV world. There’s a tremendous user base, and hashtags make it easy to jump right in. The barrier to entry couldn’t be lower. I’d recommend starting with #AVintheAM, hosted by Chris Neto, which begins every Sunday morning at 8am (Eastern). Also, you’d be wise to follow the #AVTweeps hashtag. As conferences, virtual events and trade shows occur, monitor that hashtag and engage in the conversation.
I also recommend becoming active on LinkedIn. (And use it for more than just your résumé or curriculum vitae.) Today, LinkedIn is a content-publishing platform, in addition to being a professional social network. Use it to connect with colleagues and those with whom you’re aspiring to surround yourself. Share content regularly. Be consistent, and always strive to provide value.
It helps to ensure that your profile is optimized and “open for business.” That includes having a professionally done headshot, a cover photo, an attention-grabbing title, a personal summary and all your relevant work experience. Plus, you should have endorsements from colleagues, in addition to giving and receiving recommendations.
All of us are under the microscope these days. LinkedIn is a great channel to grow your network and create opportunities in a professional setting. Personally, I use LinkedIn and Twitter for my professional life, whereas I keep Facebook and Instagram a bit more on the personal side.
Be Consistently Disciplined
Thinking about your personal brand and living your personal brand are two different things. Often, the difference between the two comes down to discipline and consistency. You can’t just do something once and expect it to stick and catch on. As with exercise, you have to work at it every day to see real change.
With personal branding, there’s no finish line and no destination. Walking through life, your personal brand has to be ingrained in your day-to-day activities, touching everything you do. By knowing your why and your core values, you can begin to align those ideas with your daily activities, thereby ensuring you’re attracting the right attention from the right audience.
Personal branding can seem like a Rubik’s Cube stuck inside a spider’s web. But don’t over-think it. Often, the best personal brands are less deliberate and more authentic. They are dedicated to providing value, rather than generating praise or a producing paycheck.
As a New York Yankees fan, I’m reminded of a Derek Jeter versus Alex Rodriguez analogy. But I’ll leave that out of the conversation for now.
[This post originally appeared in the September issue of Sound & Communications Magazine]