PERSONAL BRANDING

Marva Goldsmith, a personal branding expert based in College Park, Md., is among the dozens of great presenters at the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference.  SmartBrief on Workforce Senior Editor Mary Ellen Slayter recently spoke with Marva about what personal branding means.

MARY ELLEN: Why should your typical HR person care about personal branding? What does that phrase mean exactly?

MARVA: The term “personal brand” is believed to have first appeared in the August 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine, in an article written by Tom Peters. He wrote, “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

Personal branding is a way to clarify and communicate what differentiates you from others in your field in order to leverage those differences to achieve a specific goal. Personal branding is used by anyone, including HR professionals, who want to establish their reputation and credibility by consistently delivering on a brand promise. Personal branding answers the questions: What value do you provide? What can you always be counted on to deliver (brand promise)? How do I strategically market myself as a valuable product in the career or business marketplace?

We often hear the term “personal branding” in relation to social media. To do this, do I have to have a Web site or set up a Facebook account?

Like it or not social marketing is a part of the DNA of the next generation of workers. More and more people of all ages are creating wide networks through blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn and other such media. Social marketing in the context of personal branding is a tactic. Similar to marketing a product, different tactics are used to position your personal brand in the career or business marketplace. Social marketing is a way to develop an overnight following and the perception of being an expert (as long as the content is good), more quickly and easily than traditional approaches.

There are 850 groups in LinkedIn with the words “human resources” associated with it. The largest group, HR: Linked contains more than 137,000 members. Increasingly, people are using social media for job search and recruiting tools.

Social media is also being used as a tool to strengthen the company brand and produce revenue. A recent article about Dell stated that using Twitter has produced $1 million in revenue over the past year and a half through sale alerts. Interested people who follow Dell on Twitter can click over to purchase the product or forward the information to others.* Companies can either follow the leader into the foray of social marketing tools or lead the fray.

How do I convince senior management that this is a good use of my time? Of our workers’ time?

When I conduct a personal branding workshop, the biggest revelation for participants is that they are not employees. In the career marketplace, they are products. Their next promotion (or sale) is dependent on the value added by the product and how well the product is marketed. Their best marketing tactic is publicity, not advertising. Publicity is earned when other people in the organization experience the value proposition and begin to tell others about the outstanding job that you do, or the great article that you wrote, the value that you add, etc.

The transformation that personal branding brings in the workplace is that people begin to strategize — not for the promotion (that is the result), but to identify “value-added” ways to distinguish themselves from all of the other ketchup bottles on the shelf.

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