The Rise of Personal Branding

Are you a leader or a follower?

A huge trend across the spectrum of professional industries is personal branding.

Thanks mostly in part to blogs and social media, there exists an exciting new landscape to easily see who the all-stars are in every field.

Simply handing someone a resume is already dated. If you’re a professional and think a strong resume and great references will win you a high level position in the future, think again.

Blogs enable experts to prove themselves and let passionate people stand out from the pack

Given the choice – who would you rather hire?

  • Person A who has a fantastic resume and great references on paper, but nothing else notable.
  • Person B who has all that, but also has a blog and has gathered a crowd of a few hundred subscribers and several thousand visitors per month (or more) writing intelligently and poignantly on the industry they are involved in.

It is pretty clear between these two who has true passion for what they do and would make real difference in bringing an organization forward.

A great real world example

I love the blog Futuristic Play by Andrew Chen (go ahead, check it out) – he blogs on metrics, viral marketing, user experience, game design and online advertising. He has gathered a crowd of more than 4,000 subscribers and is certainly a thought leader in his industry.

Now, all other things equal, Andrew would dominate someone else with the same background as him if he were going after the same position at an organization. He doesn’t just “go to work” everyday and create projects, it’s his passion, and it shows. Andrew loves the industry he’s in so much; he comes home and shares his experiences and advice with others.

Andrew is helping shape the direction of the other passionate people in his industry by having this blog, which is read by his peers, the competition, the media, and people in related industries. He has influence and has a voice.

His thoughtful blog content and huge gathering of readers are social proof beyond a piece of paper, showing someone who is dedicated, passionate and a thought leader. Everyone has a degree and many people have great references – but not many stand out. This is a way to not only stand out, but to build your personal brand, make your voice heard and impact your entire industry.

Social networks and personal branding

LinkedIn is the obvious example of a site you should be on for personal branding in the professional world (here are some great tips for branding within linked in).

FriendFeed is a service for aggregating everything you’re doing on the social web in one place, and let’s you create your own personal feed for your activities here.

MySpace and Facebook are some other obvious examples, and you should have pages there too. The issue with these sites is if you are going to use them for personal branding and building your professional relationships (you should), it’s time to remove those pictures of you passed out in your friend’s bathroom and update them to showcase yourself in a professional light.

I would argue though, that your social network and social media pages should function to drive traffic, visitors and influence to a page you control and have built yourself from the bottom up.

Again, just like resumes and references, now everyone has social network and social media pages, those aren’t standout points anymore. Having your own unique home on the web (through your own name as a .com or a brand you’ve developed as a .com) demonstrates that you’re willing to go the extra mile and are truly a dedicated individual. It shows you’re the type of person who will make positive change and be an absolute vital member of an organization.

Journalists can never tell the story as well as industry professionals

While I do read some journalist stories on my industry, I follow blogs from proven industry professionals far more closely and deeply. The problem isn’t that professional journalists aren’t great writers – they are – but they can never give as intimate and as deep advice and insight as someone working in a specific industry daily can.

Following those in niches we’re involved with on their experiences day in and day out is incredibly valuable, and something you cannot afford to miss if you want to advance in your field.

Start now

If you’re at the point that you know enough to be one of these influencers and you’re not, I would pose the question to you: why aren’t you?

Personal branding will become more and more important moving forward. It will separate the good from the great, and those who work to work, versus those who work because they are passionate and game-changers in their industry.

Taking stock in the state of your personal brand on the web and making a plan to advance it is the first step in carving out your reputation as a passionate and unique professional.

Dig this? Check out these related articles:

Every Marketer and PR Exec Should Have a Blog

5 Things I’ve Learned as an Internet Marketer (that translate everywhere in life)

8 Tips for Success as a Young Executive