This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
A simple search on Google can produce abundant information about you, including where you work, talks you've given, articles you've written or had written about you, initiatives you're involved in and pictures from events you've attended. Anyone looking to learn about you could put those search results together and infer your area expertise and personality, which may or may not be true. Creating a well-thought-out personal brand affords you more control over shaping that perception and raises your profile within your workplace and to your industry thought leaders. More importantly, by building a personal brand that encompasses your professional identity, you are by default enhancing your company brand.
Jane Griffith, partner at the Canadian offices of the international search firm Odgers Berndtson, is a good case study. In her job, Griffith is focused on the recruitment of senior leaders in the non-profit and academic sectors. She is also driven by diversity and women's leadership, which led her to found three years ago a women's group called the Council of Women Executives. Her goal was to bring executive women together into the same room, where they can network, share best practices and learn new skills through speaker-led presentations. Her firm would host those meetings.
Over the next few years, Griffith built a strong personal brand, centered around her women's initiative and efforts to highlight diversity as an important component of recruitment strategy. Her in-person activities were accompanied with social media presence, including Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.
Griffith's efforts increased her visibility internally to her firm's leadership, who recently appointed her in the newly-created role of national diversity leader. Griffith also caught the attention of her peers. She recently spoke on diversity and recruitment at a reputable industry conference in Chicago, held by the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC). Griffith was the only person from her firm, both in the US and Canada, to participate. "It was very important for my firm to have representation at the AESC event," she said. Would that translate into business for the firm? "We got invited to submit proposals that we wouldn't otherwise have had the chance to pitch on."
Hence, by advocating for female executives and helping them network and connect, Griffith has helped enhance her employer's brand and reputation as a propeller of women's leadership and diversity in the workplace, which opened up new business opportunities for the firm.
But how do you make the most of your personal brand? Here are a few guidelines to help you create a win-win situation for you and your employer.
Craft an authentic brand
Know your why: What drives you? What makes you stand out as a leader? Perhaps you have a passion for climate change or supporting local entrepreneurs. Pick a cause or an area of interest that is aligned with your job and work to make a difference.
Sean Gardner's personal brand, for example, extends beyond his day job as social media producer for TwinStar Credit Union to include his commitment to philanthropy. The social media influencer has created a reputation as an ambassador of the #GivingTuesday movement and uses his large online following, including over 900,000 followers on Twitter alone, to encourage people to give back. His personal brand, associated with such a great cause, can only influence his employer's brand positively.
Act as an ambassador of your firm
As your personal brand can improve your company brand, it can equally have the same impact negatively. Take Desmond Hague, former CEO of the sports catering company Centerplate, for example. He was caught on surveillance video kicking a puppy in a hotel elevator two years ago and was subsequently forced to resign following the intense backlash on social media over the incident. Hague's behaviour outside of work highly affected his company brand and caused major harm to his reputation.
While you may not be the CEO or official spokesperson of your company, make sure you represent it well, online and off. On social media, use the bio section to highlight your strengths and issues that matter to you. Make the association with your employer clear. For example, include your company's Twitter handle in your Twitter bio. Disseminate content put out by your company to raise awareness of its activities and values.
Be clear with your employer about your brand
Have a conversation with your leadership about the direction of your personal brand, the causes you care about and how your participation would impact the company brand. There might be an opportunity for you to collaborate with your firm on a joint initiative that benefits both you and your employer, the way Jane Griffith did when she set up the women's group.
Get acquainted with your company values and rules of engagement – what's acceptable and what's not. As much of one's personal branding takes place on social media, familiarize yourself with your company policy on social media prior to engaging online.
Lina Duque, MBA (@LinaDuqueMBA) is a social media strategist and university lecturer on digital presence and personal branding. She presented last week at the World Communication Forum Davos in Istanbul.