Building Your Brand: How to Create an Online Presence

This semester Elliot and I are giving a three part guest lecture series at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. The series is called: Establishing Your Personal Brand: How a Strategic Online Presence Can Land You a Job Before Graduation.

This blog is an overview of the second lecture entitled, Building Your Brand: How to Create and Build a Strong Online Presence.

What is a personal brand?

Personal branding is a lot of things, but it’s exactly what it sounds like. Personal branding is the practice of marketing yourself and your career as a brand, or the ongoing process of creating a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual.

In order to create a personal brand, you have to take a hard look at yourself and figure out where your strengths and weakness lie so you can play up the strengths and downplay your weaknesses. Your skills, creativity, personality are all marketable traits, if you know what you’re doing.

Establishing a Foundation

Think of the stereotypical situation of being stuck in an elevator with someone who can give you your dream job. What the hell do you say to them? Having a 30 second pitch about yourself is the first step to creating a personal brand (it’s also really helpful for interviews and networking). Any good pitch should answer these three questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What are your major accomplishments, skills, passions?
  • What are your goals, what do you want, where are you going?

Here is the example I came up with (bare in mind this lecture is for college students, I wouldn’t lead with university information as a professional.)

Hi, my name is Alex Stevens. I graduated in 2011 with a duel degree from Boston University in Political Science and International Relations. I am currently applying to MBA programs and hope to start Fall 2014. I am the President and Co-founder of Digital District, Partner at EVAS Digital and during the day I am the Social Media Strategist at Zippy Shell USA. I am looking to take my business full time. I’m here to expand my network and gain experience.

Crunch for Social

Once you have your 30 second pitch in place it’s time to crunch it down even further. On the internet you don’t even get 30 seconds to catch someone’s interest, you have more like 5. Your twitter bio is a great example of how to format your life in 140 characters for social media. When writing a twitter bio, I like to think about a mullet: formal upfront and party in the back, or in this case, personality in back. You also want to make sure you are linking yourself to search by using handles and hashtags when appropriate.

Here is how my twitter bio reads: Entrepreneur. President of @DigitalDistrict. Partner @EVASDigital. Jersey Girl. Pit Bull Owner. Pink, Pearls and Monograms #bipartisandoggy #demsthatdaterepublicans .

You can view it here. It’s important to let your personality show on social media, especially if you’re a communications professional. A lot of companies hire based on if you’ll fit in with the company culture. Taking a look at your social networks is one way of determining fit before they bring you in for an interview.

Building Your Blog

You should always have your social media up to speed before building a blog. For many people, social is going to be how they find your blog in the first place. Before you even put your hands on the keyboard to start blogging, you need to think about what you’re blogging about, who you’re targeting and why you’re blogging in the first place. Here are some questions you can ask yourself when you start to build your blog:

  • What are you going to write about?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What can you write about with authority?
  • Who are you targeting?
  • Who do you want to read and comment?
  • How do you want your readers to feel when they visit your blog?
  • What layout makes sense for your content?
  • What colors? Graphics?
  • Blog title?

Everything Needs a Mission Statement

Everything, even your blog. A mission statement will not only help steer you when you’re writing content, but it will help inform your audience of what they can expect from your blog and how it will help them. Here are three questions which a good mission statement should answer:

  • Why are you writing?
  • Who you are you writing for?
  • What can readers expect to read/accomplish?

Example:
Welcome to Inc.com, the place where entrepreneurs and business owners can find useful information, advice, insights, resources and inspiration for running and growing their businesses.

Writing Content

Be Original
Yes, there are a ton of blogs out there just like yours, but none of them are written by you. You are what makes your blog different; it’s about your perspective, your creativity, the value that you add.

Be Interesting
Write epic, awesome things, always.

Be Yourself
People click on your blog link because they want to learn more about you. Become a great story teller, be honest and transparent with your writing.

Add Value
Your content must add value to the reader’s life, otherwise why would they come back?

Keeping Organized

Blogging is time consuming. The more organized you can be the better and easier blogging will become. Remember, nothing looks worse to potential employers than dead, inactive networks. Try keep content as fresh as possible. New content will also help drive traffic and improve search rankings. Help yourself out by setting goals for your blog.

  • How often will you write?
  • When will you write?
  • When will you publish?

Content Calendar
A content or editorial calendar will go a long way in keeping you and your promotion schedule organized. You can see a sample content calendar in the downloadable worksheets. There are also great plugins for wordpress which will allow you to create a virtual content calendar, if excel isn’t your jam.

Promoting

Assuming you utilize WordPress, which is one of the most popular blog CRM tools out there, there are tons of built in features that will help you promote and optimize your blog. Two great tools already built in are tags and publicize settings.

Tags will help optimize your content for search engines. You can even search through popular tags right on WordPress.

Publicize allows you to connect your social networks directly to WordPress. Every time you hit publish, your blog will be instantly posted across: Facebook, twitter, G+, LinkedIn etc. You can even add text! Both are located on your blog post dashboard.

As far as plugins go I utilize WordPress SEO by Yoast which is pretty much the easiest SEO tool I’ve ever seen, think SEO for dummies. And of course every blog needs to have social share buttons to encourage readers to share posts with their networks. I use ShareThis, but there are tons of options out there.

Google Authorship
Google+ maybe a terrible social network, but it is amazing for search! Always establish authorship for any blog you contribute for. This way when people search for you, or certain keywords – your article AND photo show up! It’s super easy to set up, you can find a simple authorship tutorial here.

Average Cost

Blogging, while time consuming, isn’t that expensive of a habit. It costs me roughly $100 to maintain a domain name and domain host each year. I host this blog on JustHost.com but there are plenty of other cheap hosting options that have one-click WordPress installation, such as:

Branching Out

After creating your personal brand, allow people to easily view what you’re about and apply to everything:

  • Business cards
  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Reference documents
  • Portfolio showcasing your work
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Facebook profile
  • Twitter profile
  • Google+
  • Wardrobe

Want the full presentation? You can download my powerpoint presentation and the personal branding workbook here! You’re now one step closer to establishing a kick ass personal brand.

Questions about personal branding? Drop me a comment!

Photo via personalbranding101.com

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