Here’s why you should be real before you’re virtual

Before you promote your personal brand on the Web, do some strategizing about what you want that brand to represent.

To those of you who are starting to build your brand now, the Web seems like an easy place to gain instant visibility. There are lots of consultants out there touting the Web as the exclusive personal-branding tool and recommending that you get as much content as you can online — as fast as you can.

But before building an online presence, you need to know who you are, what differentiates you from your peers and what makes you compelling to people who are making decisions about you.

Here’s the No. 1 rule to remember: Branding is based on authenticity.

Just as Volvo knows that its promise of safety separates it from other automotive companies, you too need to know how to position yourself and ensure your virtual brand is in line with who you are in the real world.

Where to start

Corporate-branding projects begin with research, and so must yours. Be clear, constant and consistent in your messaging. Get as much input as you can before building your personal brand online. To do this, ask those around you for feedback ; review past performance evaluations, implement personal assessments, like StrengthsFinder ™; and use tools like 360Reach™ (one of my company’s products) to uncover the brand called you.

You must know how the following brand attributes relate to you before embarking on a virtual branding plan:

Rational factors

  • What makes you credible?

Emotional factors

  • Which personality characteristics make you interesting and attractive to others?

Then you can write your personal brand statement, and post it somewhere where you will see it every day as a reminder of your unique promise of value.

Connect real with virtual

Like other technological advances, the Internet didn’t eliminate everything that came before it. Just as radio didn’t replace newspapers and television didn’t replace radio, the Web is no substitute for building relationships in the real world. You still need to show up at those networking functions and make sure people see you and the value you are delivering throughout the office. The World Wide Web offers another route to enhance your brand.

In fact, you need to think about how to augment your real-world branding activities online.

If, for example, you’re delivering a presentation to your local American Marketing Association chapter — a great personal-branding activity on its own — you need to think of ways to deliver value to other colleagues and contacts who cannot be there in person. You can get video clips of your talk and post them on YouTube ; upload your slides to SlideRocket ; use free press-release search engines to announce the event; and use Twitter to share updates before, during and after the event.

In the end, just be yourself. It’s easy to start diluting your online presence with tools and lose your consistent message. Concentrate on highlighting your natural strengths and use the Web as one of many tools in your job-search arsenal.