So over the last few days (weeks actually) since I last posted, I learned that my concept of ‘being the brand’ was not only a catchy way to express my concept of self-promotion, but someone else’s trademarked IP. “Be The Brand” is the title of a book by Tamara Jacobs, in which she provides her advice on presentation skills.
Not to ride the wave of some else’s brand identity, I needed to take some time to rethink how I wanted to position myself. Since my ultimate objective is to demonstrate how to distinctly brand onesself, this dilemna presented a singular opportuity to offer Lesson Two: You are the Brand.
When someone Googles your name, what do they find? Does your Google search generate 1000 hits? 100? 10? Do you come up at all? If not, what does that mean? It certainly doesn’t mean that you don’t exist, but it does mean that you’re off the radar. Now if its your intent to stay off the radar (and creates the mystique that is ‘you’), then ignore the balance of what I have to say on this subject. If however, you want to show up as a returned result from a Google (or any other enginge) search, listen up.
You are the brand refers to the fact that as a unique person, you are your own calling card. People’s perception of you is shaped initially, not by the ACTUAL you, but by the PERCEIVED you. Its not the internal you, the soft, caring, sensitive person who loves everyone, that people see. Its the external, irreverent abrasive, jerk (and I offer this dichotomy for illustrative purposes only). My point is that people have formed their opinions of you before they ever meet you.
In today’s world, one’s perception of another is shaped by Google search results, the number of Myspace friends, Facebook friends, Linkedin contacts, webpage Alexa rankings. Its shaped by the content returned in those search results, the quality of your friends, quantity of contacts, impressiveness of your statistics. All of these perceptions take place in the absence of you.
By the time you actually run into the person who has Googled you, they have already formed an opinion of who you are, which, invariably, ends up being a large part of how you will be defined in the eyes of that person. If you are, in reality, who you represent yourself to be virtually, then its all good. If however, you are not, and your virtual self is a mis-representation of your actual self, then I suggest you take stock of this lesson and apply it forthwith.
The steps which follow will help you re-define yourself, or if you’re happy with the virtual you, enhance your already impressive appeal.
Step 1: Audit your virtual self. You’ve got to know what’s out there painting the virtual picture of you. Since your virtual self is the extension of your real self, you should make sure that you’re happy with it. Perform a Google, Yahoo, Ask.com, and any other kind of search to learn what the ether has amassed about you.
Step 2: Assess your virtual self. Are you happy with what you’ve found? Does your virtual self exist at all? How far off the mark is the virtual self from the real thing? Is the information about you old, out-of-date or inaccurate? If you didn’t know you, what impression would you have of you? Positive? Negative? Indifferent? Come up with a concrete picture of yourself that articulates the positives and negatives of the virtual picture of you.
Step 3: Create the perfect virtual you. Having conducted your audit and assessment, you’ve learned a few things about yourself. Now you should take a stab at defining the you that you WANT people to see. Make a list of all the things that you’ve done, places you’ve worked, people you know and accomplishments.
Step 4: Get the perfect virtual you online. There are a number of strategies you can employ to re-define yourself online. There are things as simple as putting up a Myspace page, creating Facebook and Linkedin profiles, setting up a blog or website. If you’re really savvy, you can engage in some SEO activities and create anchors that route people to you and populate search results with information you want them to see (while pushing down the relevance of other content that may not be as favorable).
Step 5: Analyze your efforts. Now that you’ve rebuilt yourself online. Do that Google search again. You liking what you see? If not, don’t worry, we can fix it. Sometimes it takes a few days for the results to populate these search engines, so chillax. If however, you’ve set up a website, created online profiles, written a blog, commented in an online forum, you may find that those elements appear instantly. In either instance, be patient, your virtual identity wasn’t created overnight.
There’s a saying which goes, ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover.’ And while that may be true, people do, in fact, judge books by their covers every day. Today’s covers are no longer merely the physical package, but also the virtual book jacket that provides glimpses of the story within. At the end of the day, you are the brand. You’ve got to be cognizant of that all the time, and take steps to define it, lest you be defined by others.