Wednesday, 14 November 2012

What does your online presence say about your personal brand?

So I wouldn't describe myself as vain, but from time to time, I do check out my Google ranking. I found myself doing this today.

Flickr: Aray Chen

Firstly because I've just spent most of the last week out at meetings and conferences, which provide an amazing opportunity to meet new people who share the same fields and passions as me. Several people I met at a conference at the weekend are now connections on Twitter. Assuming they do the same thing I do when I am about to make a new connection, they would have checked out my online presence by either looking at my Twitter feed or blog.

Secondly because I just realised today, when I was researching some potential interview candidates for a job opening at SAGE, that you can no longer (could you ever?) view third-degree connections on LinkedIn unless you have a premium account. I'm not sure how long ago LinkedIn introduced premium accounts, or whether this has always been the case, but it was news to me. It made me wonder what the real value of a service like LinkedIn has for me, when what I really want to do is be able to quickly look up people that I've met at an event (or in this case that I'm about to meet), remind myself of who they are, then connect with them. So if someone is looking for that information about me, if they can't check me out on LinkedIn, where are they looking?

And thirdly because the topic of personal brand has been playing on my mind over the past few days. It started at home when Dan and I were chatting about the rise of the individual employee brand. This is a particularly hot issue in organizations driven by experts, like tech guys in start ups. They each have a personal brand tied to their expertise, which makes them credible within the tech community. But they can also use this brand to enhance that of their companies by leveraging that personal brand. As this article points out, this can be taken even further if you use the voice of your employees to create a personality for your business brand. Blog networks have been a great way to show the people behind a brand, build trust and advocacy. This in turn was fed on by conversations I had with fellow PRs up in Newcastle last Friday. We were talking about the rise of the 'CEO brand', and the power that good management of that voice can have on the broader business brand. I'm not even really talking about the much discussed 'Celebrity CEO', aka the Steve Jobs character. Rather, there are very charismatic figures at the head of organizations who use their social profiles to humanise their corporate brands. Now not everyone believes it's a good thing for CEOs to be building their social media profile, and I would agree it isn't right for every business or every industry. This Forbes post goes as far as to claim CEOs don't need to be strong communicators at all. I'm more inclined to agree with George Anders, who posts on what has worked successfully for CEOs on Twitter.

Somewhere between these three strands, I found myself wondering how sound my own personal brand is right now online. As the above shows, people are looking at your online profile. So do you know how yours looks? This Mashable article reminds us to apply what we know to be effective in PR and Marketing to our own personal identities. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Be consistent.  I have to say, in the last three years having a strong online brand has been significantly easier than it had been prior to July 2009 for me, simply because I now have a much more unique name. I'm almost 100% certain that I am the only Mithu Lucraft in the world. That makes my search ranking almost immediately more likely to be accurate. But it isn't just about a name: having a clear naming convention across social channels helps too.
  • Keep an active public profile. Regardless of whether it's just on Twitter, or using a variety of mediums, keep an active channel publicly available. Not only does this benefit search rankings but it also helps to clarify what your area of expertise and interest is. For a PR professional, being active on social media feels like a must: how can we advocate for social media if we don't understand how to use it ourselves?
  • Be thematic. The best blogs I read have one consistent thread that runs through all posts. Readers then know what to expect from that blog. As this post sets out, an online presence should clarify who you are, what drives you, what your strengths are, how you're unique, and what value you bring.
  • Be engaged. Don't just put messages out. Engage. Listen. Join in. Again, Twitter is such an easy channel to use for engagement: follow people that you relate to, respond to what they have to say, and have a conversation. Similarly, comment on the blogs that you rate. Build some connections, and in turn you'll find the same happens in return.