The whole concept of a personal brand is relatively new, although their have always been individuals who have understood the power of a “personal brand” Churchill, John Harvey-Jones and Richard Branson to name a few. But it has been the growth of the internet as a tool which then gave rise to blogging and the growth of the social and business networks as a tool to raise/build one’s profile, that has propelled the concept/need to think about you as a brand.

But as with all things new the perception and definitions of “personal branding” differs with each “expert” you ask and there are definite misconceptions. So having trawled the web for a good definition I found this one to share with you;

"Personal Branding links your passions, key personal attributes, and strengths with your value proposition, in a crystal clear message that differentiates your unique promise of value from your peers and resonates with your target audience."

Another good definition on Personal Branding and Online reputation management can be found at Wikipedia.

Branding when done well projects your “personal DNA” it can help those hiring not just find you (that is personal marketing) but decide are you a “good fit” to my team, my department, my company. It helps the decision maker decide “do I want to recruit you” or should I do business with you (if you go self employed).

When incorporated into a job seeker or career mover’s marketing communications it can help them “stand out from the competition” which in the current climate is critical. Share of voice is the name of the game, getting attention is key, BUT you want the right type of attention from the right recruiter/company.

There are many different views, techniques and approaches that can help you build a structure to help you build your personal brand. I have “attempted to reduce these to 10 key questions and answers that can help define and guide you toward an “authentic personal brand”.

1. Define what your Personal Vision is and Purpose
Round pegs and square hole, a cliché I know but be honest look at “your bigger picture” where do you want to fit in and then think about how the “world” can help you fulfill your vision.

2. “My Values and Passions”?
Tough one, but you need to know “you”. What you want, need and can or want to do. You must be honest, will that highly paid job really will be a good fit for you. Motivation is based on beliefs and if not meet then the passion won’t be there and chances are you and an employer won’t be satisfied or happy.

3. Define your Key Goals for the next 5 Years
You need a plan and once you have that plan the focus and purpose it will give helps you “project” your brand with clarity and honestly. “This is want I want, and here is how I will get there; then here’s is where I want to be and how I intend to get their. A propelling story for any recruiter.

4. We used to say “what words describe my personality” but today because we must project more externally “define your key brand attributes”.
Simply put what adjectives best define/describe you and what you bring to a future employer. It is worthwhile doing 2 lists: 1) How you describe yourself and 2) How your friends/past employers might describe you. Words like focused, team player, passionate, driven, ethical, real, caring, subtle can be used but many more exist.

5. Strengths and Weaknesses – Do a SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats) analysis.
Yes look at your weakness but don’t dwell. Look at what areas, either functional or responsibility based that you excel at or enjoy (they might be different!). What has the “boss” always come to you for? Or if you suddenly left your company what skills or attributes would they have difficulty in replacing?

You might be a great at seeing problems “ahead of the game” or “you focus on detail”, “you mentor newbies” etc. There are many so think and list them all.

6. Ask Others – gather Feedback from those at Work and at Home
Might hurt a little bit but go find out the reality vs. perception. Don’t forget that your “real personal brand” is how/what others see/think of you. So authenticity is an absolute. How does your SWOT compare with theirs?

7. Who is my Target Audience?
This can be defined in two ways – those who I directly want to influence, line managers, Heads of Departments etc. Where do they hang out, what blogs, groups, social sites are they looking at and “what are the buzz and keywords they look for and attract their attention? The second group are influencers, these might be recruiters who are “given the task by the line manager to find you”. Where are they? What are looking for? How can I attract them?

8. The Competition – who are they and how can I stand out?
What are your “personal brand USP’s (unique selling points) that makes you stand out and their number one choice for the job. Don’t ever forget recruitment is an “investment decision” “why should I invest in you?” what will you provide my organisation that helps to stand you out from other candidates?
Tough to think of it like this BUT that is the reality and in your personal brand you need to lead with your USP’s.

9. The Channel
Every message needs a channel and today these are more varied than ever before. It can be a postcard in a shop window, pitching at the bar, through to a Facebook or LinkedIn account (also Twitter).

You can write a blog or put yourself up for auction on Ebay! (yes someone did this…, got lots of press and a job). What ever the channel think about the message, your USP’s, what you deliver in return and why they should employ you.

10. The “ME” Marketing Mix
1. The right message – Clearly articulate who you are and the value you bring
2. The right place – where is my audience
3. The right time – when is my audience most likely to be looking
4. Be consistent as possible - express "you" across all channels

Your Takeaway:
This may all sound like to much hard work to some, or to academic to others but you can benefit from taking this approach. Know what you really want, and don’t want to do.

If you then know what you are good at (and not so good at), where your likely to fit in – build and focus your efforts and resources on a job search that’s defined to be your best “fit”.

Let your USP’s come to the fore and your focus and passion shine through, and a recruiter will see the fit. It’s not easy but it’s worth doing.

Finally check regularly what is being said about you online, yes people may comment on your blog, Facebook, LinkedIn or on their own blogs. Called “online reputation management”, a simple way to do this is once in a while put your own name into Google and see what come up. The words of others impact on your brand and reputation.