Most professionals reach a point in life where, even if you don’t have kids yourself, close friends unleash their recent college graduate offspring upon you for career advice. This has been happening a great deal lately (Suddenly all those Dylans and Dakotas are no longer three years old, but instead in their 20s. Time flies).
Over the course of many a coffee date and email exchange, the one piece of advice I find myself dispensing most often to all these bright and eager young things is to work on building a personal brand to advance their professional ambitions.
This realization was simultaneous with two other light bulbs igniting: The first is that this advice applies to anyone, regardless of age or résumé. The second is that all this personal branding boils down very neatly to content marketing, and therefore, to creating and applying a content strategy not to an organization, product or service, but to yourself.
A personal content strategy, like an organizational one, will evolve over time. Sure, there’s dusting off the old LinkedIn profile when you’re looking for your first (or fifth) job.
But then there’s the branding that evolves over time — content that will help establish what you stand for and where you can create value and deliver insight; content that will reveal who you are (in a professional capacity); and the content your next boss or her HR staff will find when they Google you (and they will).
How to build a personal brand with content
Building a personal brand with content is much like building a corporate content strategy, only more personal.
It begins with an audit. Review what channels contain content by or about you.
For most, social media platforms are the place to begin. LinkedIn is a given for a professional presence, but these days, it’s a pretty safe bet that potential clients and employers are checking the larger non-professional platforms too, particularly Facebook.
What types of content are on what channels and platforms? How does it represent you, both as a person and professionally? Is it clean, with a minimum of typos and spelling mistakes?
A personal content strategy must strike the often delicate balance between who a person is, professionally, and what that person is like — often revealed on more personal social platforms. It goes without saying that overly personal or salacious material belongs on an account that’s not under your real name, shared with close friends but not the world at large.
What’s too personal? What kind of content crosses the line? It’s a judgment call. A musician will have boundaries that differ from a banker’s.
Often, a show of vulnerability makes you more human and approachable, even on a professional level. We’re almost all at a stage where, when confronted by milestones such as death, disease, addiction, job loss or other personal tragedies, social sharing must be informed by asking, “Would I want my boss or clients to read this?,” just as many companies ask employees to run the “Would I want my grandmother to read this?” check on social media messaging.
What platforms or channels can help build a personal brand? That will depend on industry and the usage patterns of colleagues and co-workers. Ask around.
Younger or less experienced professionals are unlikely to assume positions of thought leadership overnight in their chosen industries, but they can commit to commenting or blogging on industry trends.
Share original, high-quality content
Don’t just share headlines — add value. It can be a line or two of thought about what a new piece of legislation might mean, or the implications of that acquisition or an innovative piece of technology.
“Lessons learned” is another category for content exploration. How did that job or project or client help you to better understand your role or industry or a future trend?
Even when you’re just starting out, and it’s so early you haven’t selected an industry, content can still help you brand yourself and reveal character.
A friend’s daughter is currently blogging about her year studying abroad. She’s discussing not what she’s learning in school, but more universal lessons about life, relationships and personhood with the added perspective of distance and a new language and culture.
She may not know what she’s going to do when she comes back to the States and graduates, but she will have something to point to that indicates she’s thoughtful and analytical and wasn’t just abroad to party or mark time.
For people with larger personal branding ambitions, an initial content strategy, coupled with a commitment to a regular flow of distinctive, original, quality content, can rather quickly scale the ladder of thought leadership. Content becomes a calling card when pitching a trade publication for an article or column, or landing a coveted speaking engagement at an industry conference.
This content will quickly lead to other content — not to mention professional — opportunities.
Consider gaps, not just media and frequency, when carving out a niche for personal branding initiatives. What are the uncharted topics in your industry that matter — that you can speak to with interest and passion?
An added advantage of building a personal brand with content? You’ll become a better all-round content marketer!
This post originally published on MarketingLand