As a public relations student, several of my professors have put emphasis on developing a brand for myself. For a company or organization, a brand may be commonly identified by physical things such as slogans, logos and products. But more accurately, a brand is how consumers view an organization (emotivebrand.com). Just as we as consumers prefer one company over another based on their brand, we do this with people as well.
From what I’ve learned, the way we present ourselves to others, and how others view us, is our own personal brand. I’ve also learned that being conscious of how you present yourself, knowing it will affect people’s view of your professional brand, can be extremely beneficial for building your reputation. From my time at EKU, I’ve been taught that when it comes to applying for jobs, knowing your personal brand will help you market yourself and set yourself apart from other applicants. But how do you know what your brand is?
I hadn’t thought about actually developing my own brand until recently when I was asked by one of my professors to identify my brand, and to be honest, I had no idea where to start. As I began to think on it, I realized I already had a brand, and so does everyone else. Our personalities, our hobbies, our strengths and weaknesses, all are part of our personal brands. Looking at ourselves from another’s perspective is how we can identify what our brand has already begun to shape into, even if it was done subconsciously.
According to Karen Freberg, author of Social Media for Strategic Communication, the first thing to do when establishing a personal brand is to “conduct an internal audit of who you are and where you want to go.”
Figure out what sets you apart from everyone else. Establishing these things will be the foundations of your brand.
After this you can begin exploring more specific details such as where your expertise lies. When establishing your brand, learn to advertise your strengths, but don’t be afraid to admit your shortcomings either. Identifying weaknesses that you can work on will help you grow and strengthen your brand as a whole. As mentioned earlier, try to identify where it is that you want to end up. Doing this will help you to recognize the skills you need to be confident with to better promote your brand.
For example, for someone like me who wants to enter the world of public relations, I need to focus on skills that I believe will be sought after in that field. Social media expertise, research abilities, communication, and a knowledge of visual content creation, are all great skills for me to explore and to continuously build upon.
Consider what you find valuable in others and question why you value it, then apply it to yourself. In branding myself, I want to be sure that I come across as professional and serious about my goals but also be very easy to talk to in conversation. I care a lot about what others think, which I sometimes think is a weakness, but it does keep me mindful of how I treat others by being conscious of what I say and how it comes across. For me, being down-to-earth is crucial for my brand and something that I want to be certain is conveyed.
Just as important to finding attributes of your brand is being sure to remain truthful about yourself. When applying for a job, we all tend to present ourselves as close to perfect as we can get. However, be careful not to alter your brand to be the person you think is wanted by an employer. Your personal brand is your true self, not the person you think someone wants you to be.
This goes for your opinions and values as well. Rather than changing your views to suit someone else’s, stand by what you believe in. A genuine individual who is open to improving themselves and is eager to learn new things is much more appealing than a fake individual.
I am no expert, but these are all things that have helped me in my journey of personal branding. For EKU students, there are resources available to help students to stand out from other applicants when applying for jobs. For example, the Center for Career and Co-op on campus offers workshops for career development. The College of Business and Technology also offers a speaker series for students to learn from real individuals in the professional world.
For me, on the surface, my brand goal is to present a young, professional mind with various skills across the public relations field, who is always eager to learn and build upon those skills in order to become an established PR professional.
Remember that establishing your brand won’t happen overnight. It’s something you have to constantly be mindful of and work on. But working to gain a better understanding of yourself and how you wish to present yourself to others is the best place to start. Once you’ve identified these things you will not only have an in-depth branding of yourself, but also a surface version to keep in the back of your mind when you go into interviews for a job, or even when you are simply meeting someone new.