When I say banana, orange, watermelon, lemon, or strawberry, does anything come to mind other than fruit? What if I didn't first put fruit into your mind and instead simply said the word 'Apple?' There's a good chance you would have instantly thought about computers, tablets and phones brought to you by the consumer electronics company of the same name.
If I asked you to think of someone related to Apple, what would have popped into your mind? Most likely, the late Steve Jobs. And if I asked you to think about a person associated with Microsoft, most likely you would have thought of Bill Gates first, even though he's not been active in day-to-day operations for more than four years!
Now, think of a local small business you frequently visit. Who pops into your head when you hear their business name? Even if you don't remember a name, there's a good chance a face of an employee you interact with on a regular basis or the owner comes to mind.
Lastly, think of the opposite. How would you feel about those companies if those people were never associated with them?
The above exercises are examples of the power of personal branding in action. When combined with the power of a company's brand, these two brands create a dynamic duo that support one another. When there's a powerfully branded individual associated with a company brand, the way we feel about that person translates to the way we feel about the company — and vice versa.
That's why professional athletes and celebrities are highly sought after as spokespeople. There's an incentive for both the company and the celebrity to be associated with each others' brands. For the rest of us, building a personal brand makes you more valuable to the organization you represent — and should you ever leave your current organization, having a strong personal brand is something you can easily take with you to your next organization or startup.
Whether you're an executive, a startup founder, a customer service representative or a sales professional, having a strong personal brand can help you help your organization deliver better results. Everybody likes to think they are working with a celebrity — and from social media superstars to being an expert in your niche, the chance to be a 'celebrity' of sorts is much easier than it was just a decade ago. Here's how:
1. Take control of your online identity. Start by registering your name online. If you can't snag a dot-com address, think of getting a .me, .net or try using your middle name or nickname. Sign up for the social networking sites that you feel most comfortable with, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn to secure your identity with them. I personally only use Twitter on a regular basis since it works best for my needs. Your results may vary.
2. Identify your area(s) of expertise. Determine what you're good at. There are probably 1 million other people in the world that would like to know what you know about your area(s) of expertise.
3. Identify your passion(s). Once you know what you're passionate about, is there overlap between your area(s) of expertise? This is the goldilocks zone, and should be the focus of your online identity. Your other areas of expertise may not be your passion, but can be supplemental to your primary passion area. Having passion about something is going to give you the motivation to keep current with your online identity.
4. Develop a professional online presence. Take your passion and develop an online identity around it, with specific areas of expertise sprinkled throughout. This will help you build credibility, establish yourself as an expert, and allow your passions to shine through so people get to know the true you. The key words here though are "professional online presence." Too many times, people throw up a shoddy website that they built themselves. This can have the opposite effect! Even if you're an expert in online marketing or Web design, sometimes it's best to have a third party help you with this, as there may be areas you could overlook. Abraham Lincoln put it best: "He who represents himself has a fool for a client."True celebrities have teams of people working on their brands — so make it look like you do as well. With persistence, time and focus, you too can develop a professional online presence (without having to pay an arm and a leg).
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.