There’s a saying that your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what Google says it is.
That being the case, if you Googled your name, what would you find? Two things to consider here:
1. Would your name come up early in the search engine results?
2. And if it did, would whatever the search engine results pointed to do the professional ‘you’ justice?
We’re heading down a path that, professionally, if you can’t be found online, you won’t ‘exist’.
Let’s face it, more often than not we check out someone online before meeting them for the first time, or engaging them for a commercial assignment, or potentially partnering with them on a project or venture; if you’re a leader or subject matter expert, journalists, bloggers and podcasters will also check you out before requesting an interview or asking you for a quote.
All of which makes it imperative that our credentials stack up well if anyone goes digging for professional purposes. After all, we do business with people that we know, like and trust – some quick research online will often give us an intuitive feeling one way or the other, providing of course we can find what we’re looking for!
Thus it’s becoming imperative to be easily found online; indeed it’s a must in some quarters, especially if you’re a startup entrepreneur, a subject matter expert, a solo professional or a senior (or on-the-way-up) executive in a larger organisation.
But more than being found, increasingly having an obvious body of work that demonstrates your skills in, and enthusiasm for, a particular niche or area of expertise counts for a lot, especially if the person wanting to do business with you is also sounding out other potential suitors. Ditto for the journalist on the trail for an interview subject or a conference organiser looking for a keynote speaker to present at their next event or a publisher sniffing around for some up-and-coming author talent.
This is where you can start influencing people’s perception of you in a real and meaningful way, to build your professional reputation and trust in your personal brand.
What do I mean by a ‘body of work’?
THINK: An active blog, podcast or series of online videos; are you on Twitter, and do you participate with enthusiasm? Are you an active photographer, curating and/or posting images on the likes of Pinterest, Instagram or Tumblr? Do you have any presentations on SlideShare that demonstrate your knowledge and ideas? Are you publishing on LinkedIn’s new blogging platform?
At the very least you should have a presence on LinkedIn so you come up in online searches allowing people to check out if you’re really who you say you are from a professional standpoint, and whether you share any common connections with others in the business community.
Does your LinkedIn profile help or hinder you?
Ensure your LinkedIn profile page truly encapsulates who you are, your strengths and experiences – include a professional headshot, write your summary so it crackles with purpose and personality, include links to relevant websites and social media channels, and potentially incorporate a SlideShare presentation or two. Or consider using LinkedIn’s blogging platform to share your knowledge and ideas.
Also, make a genuine effort to build up your network of connections on LinkedIn; I don’t mean invite every Tom, Dick or Harry to connect with you simply to bolster your numbers, but rather judiciously build your base of connections steadily and organically, by connecting with people whom you’ve met at an event, or that you follow online on Twitter, for example. Join LinkedIn Groups relevant to your business and participate, connecting with fellow group members that you follow and admire.
Establish your home base
With LinkedIn sorted, the next step is to build a ‘home base’, a content hub as it were, for your thoughts and ideas. A blog is your best bet here, for example a WordPress site that you host on your own domain name. Alternatively, if you’re trying to keep things simple, you might consider a free Medium account, or if you want to take it up a notch, a paid Typepad blog is also recommended.
Contribute to your blog on a regular basis – at the very least once a week, although to gain momentum you will probably need to post more frequently than that, particularly in the early days e.g. two to three times a week.
Not sure what to create content about?
What do you want to be known for? What conversations do you want to start/be part of? What issues do you want to ignite debate around? What ‘spins your wheels’ and gets you excited?
The great thing with developing a body of work is that you’re not confined to writing simple text posts – consider recording videos on your web cam or using your smartphone (then upload the video to YouTube and subsequently embed on your website); perhaps you might like to try recording an audio-only interview with an expert in your space, someone you think others would be interested in listening to – record via Skype or if in-person, use a recording app such as iTalk on the iPhone – upload the audio file to SoundCloud then embed the ‘player’ on your blog. Add photos to your articles; perhaps record a 15-second Instagram video and embed in your post. Or maybe create and publish a series of presentations on SlideShare.
We have so many options when it comes to creating and publishing content today. It’s a matter of finding the medium that you’re most comfortable with. And then you have the myriad social channels through which to distribute said content to your personal and professional online networks, and beyond.
Explore, have fun – but most of all, contribute to a body of work that over time builds your profile beyond your immediate network of friends, family, colleagues and peers, as well as trust in your personal brand.