Personal Branding – It’s All About You

By Suzette Cotto


Personal branding is a conscious campaign to “package” yourself in a way that is authentic and memorable.  It’s about making a unique impression about who you are and your personal style.  By defining your physical appearance and digital online presence with your areas of knowledge and expertise, a savvy “marketer”, can build a following – or even an empire (ask Oprah or Martha Stewart).  It’s all about your ability to sell your personal awesomeness.

Social media has taught us in short order, what people can do to encourage (or discourage) followers.  Just like in your social circles, it’s even more important to manage your public image and communications in your work life.

First Things First

Google yourself.  What do you see?  Is there anything you don’t want to see?  If it’s not good, find a way to change it or remove it.  If it’s something you want everyone to see or know, make a link and promote it on your website or profile portfolio.  Point to it like a beacon.  The more good things you highlight in your online profiles, the less likely a prospect is going to need to use a search engine to find out who you are.

Written Communication

Once you write it, you own it and your message unmistakably out there for all to see.  Spend a minute reviewing what you write – Are there typos? Is the tone harsh? Is the subject matter controversial?   Do you use a salutation or closing?  Email is not texting.   Use your spell check.  You may know that you really do know how to spell “occasionaly” or “comitment”, but the recipient will cringe with each typo or misspelling.

I recently saw a LinkedIn profile with “Vice Presnident” in the person’s profile header.   I wanted to reach out to this person (whom I didn’t really know) and let them know to save embarrassment.  It’s almost like having your dress tucked inside the back of your pantyhose as you exit the women’s restroom.  If you’re out there looking for work, or just as importantly – sales or new clients, have a couple of people read your written communication for correctness.  It will save you lots of grief.

Social Media Profiles

Happy asian woman taking a selfie using her smartphone

Yes, you’re on LinkedIn.  Your portfolio is amazing.  You’re educated and accomplished.  Wow.  A savvy prospective employer or recruiter is going to go the next step and find your Facebook Profile and Twitter feed.  Hmmm, let see – Is this my applicant?  There you are, in full Technicolor, obviously compromised by the 6 Coronas you just enjoyed after a long day of acquisition negotiations.  You’ve got a silly smile on your face, your tie fashioned around your head to commemorate the corporate warrior that you are and you’re flashing some questionable hand gestures that may be misinterpreted as a gang affiliation.  At this very moment, your resume is tossed into the trash can and a great opportunity with it.

If you don’t have a LinkedIn Profile, you absolutely must create one.   If you don’t have one, call that social media savvy friend or professional and create one.  If you created a profile four years ago and haven’t looked at it since, make sure it’s correct, complete and up to date and most importantly – has your current contact information.  A half-hearted attempted at a profile will work against you. 

You would not believe how many times I have come across a LinkedIn profile without a phone number or website address or profile photo.  Why even bother to create a profile if you aren’t going to give people a way to contact you.


The Visual Presentation

What photo are you using for your online profile?  If you’re in a baby blue tux with ruffles and a bow tie, it’s time to update.  Take an intentional picture with a professional photographer and save the selfies for another day. 

And no photo means:

  • You are so uncomfortable with who you are, you can’t come to bring yourself to post a pic.
  • Finishing a project is someone else’s job.
  • You’re resume and experience is so amazing, there’s no need to post a profile pic.
  • There are cyber-stalkers out there.   A picture would just attract them.
  • Uploading a profile photo is outside of your technology wheelhouse.

Whatever the reason, you create more negatives than positives by not posting a pic.

Also, prevent photo faux pas.   You may not be able to stop others from taking your picture and posting it at times that are social and private, but you can change your privacy settings so that you can be notified when you’re tagged in a picture and it won’t post without your permission.  You can also adjust your privacy settings so that only your connections or followers can see your timeline or certain posts.   Take a moment to look at your privacy settings and be sure what other people see is the very best you.  If you’re not sure how to do this, ask a social media savvy friend or professional to help you.

Business Cards

Your business card or “calling card” is a snapshot of who you are.  It needs to be professional and visually interesting.  Don’t buy those tear apart cards and print your own to save money.  There are websites out there such as Vistaprint where you can get professional business cards for the cost of shipping.   Keep your cards safe and dry.  Don’t hand out cards that have coffee spilled on them or bent corners.  Just like your starched and pressed shirt, pearls and perfectly whitened teeth, your business card is a first impression.   It’s also a reminder of who you are long after a networking event.  Make the most of this important tool.

Going Live

You worked hard to make sure that your printed and online collateral works in your favor.  There’s one last detail.  YOU.  All of your branding and money spent on looking “good on paper” comes to this.  It’s go live time!  Check your teeth for poppy seeds, save that chartreuse hairband and extra special tiger print with sparkles nail effect for girl’s night, get enough sleep, prepare for that presentation you worked so hard to earn an audience for, bring an extra pair of hose or a tie in case of a wardrobe malfunction, save the cocktail for a celebration with your spouse after the win and remember to present a positive, upbeat and happy you to your prospect.

You’ve Got This

Perception is reality.  Don’t be fooled.  You really are “selling” yourself.  No matter where you are found, present the very best you.    Get someone’s opinion – an objective third party.  Have them look at all of your profiles and tell you what they see.  Don’t ask your Mom or girlfriend.  They already love you.  Offer to do it for a colleague in return for help with yours.  No one likes to have to do damage control.  Be proactive with your online presence – don’t wait until that uncomfortable moment where you’re in defense mode explaining away the lampshade on your head.

Chin up, hands on your hips, shoulders back.  You’ve got this.  Go forth in the direction of your dreams.  Your personal brand validates who you want the world to know you are.

Portrait of a happy business woman smiling