Break Through with Your Personal Brand
If perception is reality, what do people perceive about you?
- Answer honestly.
- Now magnify that answer 10x.
I recently gave a talk where I shared from anonymous comments from past coworkers on what they thought about it.
“Can be dismissive, arrogant, disrespectful, and withholds relevant information.”
Ouch. This is someone’s perception of me… and they’re right. The reality is, it’s my responsibility to change that narrative.
“We are all the chief branding officers of our own personal brands. We have the power to determine and control our own reputation, whether through our actions at the workplace or through what we decide to Tweet.” — Ron Ashkenas 
More than ever, our tweets and all other forms of communication, add up to our personal brand. This extends to also our texting and emails. What is the typical tone in your texts and emails? Friendly? Angry? Gossiping? What does that say about you?
According to this HBR article, “brands succeed when they break through in culture. And branding is a set of techniques designed to generate cultural relevance.” 
I feel like I’ve struggled with certain people to convince them that I’m being authentic. It feels like they’re assuming I have more hidden intent or that there’s something more that I’m not saying. Truth is, depending on how “polished” you are or how easily you wear your emotions, it could be hard for others to connect with what they think is the real you. Yet it’s crucial that people feel like they know the real you. Here’s are some thoughts on how.
Raw Presentation of Self
“Unlike former president Barack Obama, who primarily used social media to mobilize supporters en masse, Trump uses Twitter to address his audience directly as individuals. Trump’s tweets are unfiltered, spontaneous, and reveal his personal feelings and emotions about everything from the media to L.L. Bean, creating the impression that a relationship is in play. Like or hate the approach, people believe they know the real Trump. This seemingly person-to-person disclosure of the man, warts and all, grants coveted authenticity and a stronger base of influence (and backlash) than mass communication ever could.” — Barbara Bickart, Susan Fournier, and Martin Nisenholtz
The takeaway? Authenticity matter and that’s how you create a more intimate one-on-one relationship. And you do that by communicating and admitting to the full you.
Just be careful, “extreme provocation may be advisable only when [there’s] nothing to lose, which was was true for both Trump as a long-shot candidate during the election.”
How Social Media Can Help or Hurt Your Personal Brand
How much do you care about your personal image on social media? Are you intentionally showing only the good moments or are you keeping it too real and honest? Maybe a good approach is to treat your posts like as if you’re trying to build a relationship with someone face-to-face. You would include the high level, good stuff going on in your life, but as you get closer to someone, you start sharing some of the struggles as well. Post and share your happiness, but don’t be afraid to be controversial either.
“But, the more your interactions are modeled after genuine, in-person connections, the better.” — Camplejohn, VP of Product Management at LinkedIn 
Recent Studies on Posting
In researching the effectiveness of social media in crafting a personal image, I came across an article by Sarah Peck, who “Ran 4 Experiments to Break My Social Media Addiction. Here’s What Worked.” I loved how in experiment #3, she did something called the social “happy hour” where she allowed herself only a specific hour in the day to catch up and respond to everything social media-related. She found by having a dedicated hour… the lure of social media grew tiresome quickly and ultimately didn’t use up the whole hour. Not surprisingly, one big result of hers is:
Keeping the mornings social-media and news free was a game changer. I got so much more done on my biggest projects by having dedicated focus hours, and also knowing that there was a scheduled break in my day coming up.
From “A Study Shows the Best Times of Day to Post to Social Media,” here are some key takeaways for you :
- Don’t have a strategy of “spray and pray,” an approach that litters social media with firm generated content in the hopes that one or more of those posts draw in customers.
- All else equal, posting content in the morning results in higher engagement.
- Assuming most start their day in the morning, it is ideal to post content conveying high-arousal emotion (i.e., angry or worried) in the morning and “deep think” content in the afternoon.
Useful Advice for Personal Branding
Awhile ago I was giving some advice to some early careers folks at work. One of my biggest advice was to take a really hard look at yourself and ask, “what do you think people think about you?” In other words, do you have an honest grasp on your true reputation? If you don’t know this, then you don’t know your brand. And if you don’t know your brand, then how are you going to change it? For me, I’ve heard people use the words “innovative” and “energetic,” but also “withholds information” about me. Although I may not believe it myself, it’s all true and that’s on me to move forward with.
In Your First Message, Do This.
Here’s advice you can use immediately. In your very first contact with someone…be brief but personal! 
- People don’t have the patience to read long messages that look and feel spammy. Our InMail analysis found that messages under 100 words perform best, and response rates decrease significantly as word count increases beyond 500 words.
- The pros who get the best response rates treat their messages as handwritten notes with a personal touch. According to research, referencing a mutual connection boosts the acceptance rate of these messages by 51%, second only to attending the same school at the same time (53%).
According to Dorie, who teaches at Duke University, here are 5 steps to redefine your brand: 
- Define Your Destination — Write down a clear, concise description in just 3–4 words what is your new brand.
- Leverage Your Points of Difference — “Use distinguishing characteristics to your advantage, even if they’re not strictly relevant to your work. Robert Reich, the former U.S. secretary of labor, is under five feet tall. He knew that people seeing him for the first time would be surprised — and he didn’t want his height to be a distraction. So he’d loosen up crowds with a joke or two about his stature and, in the same vein, titled his campaign book I’ll Be Short. Like it or not, “short” was part of his brand — and he shrewdly leveraged it.”
- Develop a Narrative — “Focus on the value your prior experience brings. Successful rebranding doesn’t involve inventing a new persona.”
- Reintroduce Yourself — Think strategically about your “unveiling.” Are there projects you can get involved with that will showcase your new interests and abilities (or help you develop them)?
- Prove Your Worth — Every art student has a portfolio ready to be shown at a moment’s notice. It’s no different in the business world.
Next Level Mastery in Personal Branding
Why is it that the most popular YouTube content is usually somebody you’ve never heard of, whereas big brand with deep pockets struggle to become viral? In analyzing YouTube sensations, we can notice not only is their content niche, but they’re subverting that niche culture.
How does that relate to us and in creating a personal brand? I believe, as the article below will illustrate, the next level mastery in branding is understanding the current culture of the industry you work in, and then coming up with something that flips it in a way that only you can do.
I’ve taken this advice personally and will be using it to redefine what the Venture Out will be in 2020. You can get excited now. 😉
Beyond Personal Brands is Cultural Brands
According to Holt, who taught at Harvard and Oxford, here are 5 steps to achieve not just personal branding, but Cultural Branding.
- Map the cultural orthodoxy. — “In cultural branding, the brand promotes an innovative ideology that breaks with category conventions.” In other words, what is the current culture in your industry?
- Locate the cultural opportunity. — Chances are, the current culture of your industry has been there for awhile. People in that niche are craving something new and interesting. Can you come up with that something
- Target the crowdculture. — The example in this article talks about how in food culture, there has been an entire revolution around non-GMO, farm raised, small farms, cage free, etc. The idea is instead of mass produced foods, people should want back to basics, preindustrial style food.
- Diffuse the new ideology. — ‘Nuff said.
- Innovate continually, using cultural flashpoints. — “A brand can sustain its cultural relevance by playing off particularly intriguing or contentious issues that dominate the media discourse related to an ideology.”
- The Best Ways to Use Social Media to Expand Your Network by Doug Camplejohn
- I Ran 4 Experiments to Break My Social Media Addiction. Here’s What Worked. by Sarah K. Peck
- A Study Shows the Best Times of Day to Post to Social Media by Vamsi K. Kanuri, Shrihari Sridhar, and Yixing Chen
- The Basic Social Media Mistakes Companies Still Make
- What Trump Understands About Using Social Media to Drive Attention by Barbara Bickart, Susan Fournier, and Martin Nisenholtz
- Using Social Media to Build Professional Skills by Alexandra Samuel
- Branding in the Age of Social Media by Douglas Holt
- 10 Cheap Social Media Marketing Tactics That Work
- 10 Pro Tips on How to Become a Social Media Manager by Samantha Bonanno
- Three keys to Coca-Cola’s success on social media by Sean Cole
- Define Your Personal Brand With Simple Questions by Ron Ashkenas
- Reinventing Your Personal Brand by Dorie Clark