Are you branding yourself properly and correctly?

Personal branding is something we are or should be concerned with if not on a daily basis then very often. Are we communicating the right message to our clients or potential employers and are we vigorous enough in our communication?

After working with Executives and MBA students on developing their personal brand, I have seen that most people are looking in the wrong direction when branding themselves. Most people are looking backwards and trying to highlight the successes they have had which is not completely wrong. But what they are missing is that personal branding should also reflect the future and in which direction they are heading.

To build or perfect your personal branding, I recommend three steps: 1) the brain-work you have to do, 2) your LinkedIn profile and 3) a convincing pitch.

Let’s break them down each:

1) The brain-work: Past, Present & Future of Branding

This is why I have put in place a 60/40 target split on personal branding. 60% of what you communicate should relate to your experience, background and the successes that you have had while the remaining 40% should be cover your future visions and goals. If we think about it, this concept is used in many aspects within marketing today.

“Fake it until you make it” perhaps this is a bit too strong and extreme of a statement but the concept of the message is the same. Brand yourself as if you are almost already there and your audience will believe that you are. It is always related to the perception of your target audience that counts in the end. Whether it is online through LinkedIn or other social media networks or in person though networking how you present yourself will have in impact on how your audience perceives you.

One easy way to start this process is to check out your heading on your LinkedIn profile, as this is the first impression and a great way to benchmark the strength of your branding. Following this step, we can also apply the same strategy on our elevator pitch.

This brings us to step 2:

2) Your LinkedIn Heading

Many people have missed the brilliant “heading” feature on their LinkedIn profiles and by accident just let the default heading remain, which is their current job title. Your heading is a fantastic branding opportunity to market yourself, not only to explain what you are doing, in which industry and in which geographical area but it can also trigger an interest which leads to someone clicking on your profile to see your full page.

Your personal brand is not only looking at your past and present position very importantly it should also reflect your future. Working on your personal brand on LinkedIn, the heading gives away much of where you are in life and also where you are headed towards.

In a LinkedIn search, we see a list of people but only 3 details are revealed: the person’s name, the person’s photo and the person’s heading. While you cannot do much about our name and picture from a marketing perspective, the heading is 100% within our control as a tool in determining whether we are the selected one.

If you imagine that we convert a persons career into a non-fiction novel, the various chapters would describe each and every position throughout the career in a reverse chronological order. Each chapter would have the title of the position held and describe which company the job took place at. In order to promote and market the book we need an intriguing cover and a winning title, a title that explains what the book is about, its context, message and why we should buy it. This is exactly what the “heading” in your linkedIn profile can do for you and unfortunately many people are only showing ONE chapter from their career instead of marketing their full story.

So what exactly should one write in the “heading”? There is a big difference between the US and Europe on what is acceptable and what could be perceived as strange.

Many recruiters in the US prefer a catchy, “stand out from the crowd” heading such as ”Former overweight food lover turned health nut coaching fellow foodies in the joys of the Paleo diet” or “Does worry rule your investment strategy? As your financial adviser, my quest is monetary sanctuary” or “Helping Green-Snow Industry Companies Reach Management & Operational Excellent Through CLARITY | EXECUTION | GROWTH. These headings would not work as well in Europe and could be perceived as overconfident, arrogant and borderline rude.

I have a quite simple way to make an intriguing heading that highlights the person’s career and makes an interesting profile to be clicked on. That is always the goal, we want more views, which in turn generates more connections which lead to more business opportunities.

An interesting, intriguing clickable heading should comprise of these elements:

  1. Advertising Adjective: Start with a powerful adjective such as Experienced, Accomplished, Qualified, Top Performing, Seasoned, Talented, Reliable, Trained etc
  2. Explain Your Title: Describe your current role such as Accountant, Recruiter, Banker, Entrepreneur, etc you can add professional or Executive if you want. ”Vice President” is e.g. a title that tells nothing. Chief Financial Officer or Country Manager says it all
  3. Dashing Details: This is an important part of your heading, this is where you add important keywords explaining your field of expertise such as Business Development, Corporate Strategy, Organisational Design, Leadership Development, Market Research, Entrepreneur, Relationship Building, Interactive Marketing, Content Management, Operational performance improvement
  4. Invite To Your Industry: To stand out we need to advertise in which industry we are operating especially if we are targeting a specific area or have expertise in a particular area. We here at Kennedy Executive Search talk to clients and candidates on two continents and confirm that industry experience will very often be the entrance door to the next job
  5. Symbols To Separate: Use any of these symbols to separate your keywords │ / ■ ◆ ● ~ ~ ◊ ♦ ► ◄ ★ ✪ ✯ ✰ ☛ ☚ ☜ ☝ ☞ ☟ ⇨ » ✔ ✘ ☐ ☑. Which one do you like most? Copy-paste your favorite to your LinkedIn profile NOW!

Make sure that you brand yourself fully and not only highlight one area or one part of your career and most importantly incorporate your future in your heading, which will result in greatly efficient and accurate branding.

3) Your Pitch: Follow the First Impression

Where do we stand? You have thought about it and you know by now who you are and what you stand for. The same strategy you use for your “heading” on LinkedIn, could also be applied to your elevator pitch. Branding yourself by using the past, present and future in a 60/40 split will enable you to present yourself in a way that you move forward in your career, every time you present yourself.

Your LinkedIn headline brings down your professional identity, your potential and your differentiators down to 12 or 15 keywords. How can you communicate this in 30 seconds?

The same rules apply as for the classical elevator pitch you already know: KISS (”Keep It Simple, Stupid!”). Make it short and concise. What are the three criteria that really make you different? What is the one differentiator you want to be remembered for?

Less is more. Bring it down to the essential or as Antoine de Saint Exupery said: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Conclusion

You now have the theory (the logic behind personal branding) and the practice (LinkedIn and your pitch). Using a well thought through branding strategy is crucial for any professional whether it is online or offline. Make yours stand out. Be clear on what you want and what makes you special and show it to the world!

Your career is constantly moving forward. You need the 60% to be credible and succcessul. It will be the 40% though which will boost you and make you move forward and keep you competitve for the future.