A 7-Point Checklist for Building a Personal Brand During Times of Crisis

by Stacey Ross Cohen is CEO/President of Co-Communications

Personal branding is a lifelong effort, one that’s constantly evolving and requires regular maintenance. Our individual brands define who we are in the workforce — they guide our career paths and have an indelible impact on our financial future. In short, they’re one of the most important aspects of professional life and allow us to make a successful pitch, ace the interview, deliver a stunning keynote or grow our social media following. 

It’s essential to present your best self, be highly mindful of messaging and tone, and maintain a consistent drumbeat of communications, particularly during challenging times. As the Coronavirus crisis unfolds, many have found more time to self-reflect and work on themselves. Regardless of your current employment situation, there’s no better time than now to focus on building a winning personal brand. Below is 7-point checklist for sure-fire success:  

1 . Define Your Brand

Strong brands are intentional. This all starts with a self-audit to pinpoint your purpose, strengths, values and passion. It’s essential to crystallize your uniqueness — or, competitive advantage — and why you’re a worthy investment. What makes you stand out?  Maybe it’s a skill set, a point of view or simply your creativity. A few years back, I inked a Huffington Post article about my experience as a guest at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) “Project You: Building and Extending your Personal Brand,” a one-of-a-kind interactive class for MBA students with lecturer Allison Kluger, a former television exec with “Good Morning America” and co-lecturer supermodel Tyra Banks. Kluger said it best: “Your 90-second elevator pitch needs to make an impact and convey the soul of you,” Kluger continued. “You need to articulate what makes you different.”

Make sure to also gather intel on how business colleagues perceive you and who you are up against for that promotion or job interview. Once you figure it out, you’re ready to put your stake in the ground and beat the competition. Remember, your online presence or “digital footprint” is the encapsulation of your personal brand…so make sure to Google yourself as part of this process. 

2. Know Your Audience 

Equally important is understanding your audience: what they need, how they function and what drives them to take action. Determine who you’re talking to: consider age, gender, personality and profession. Then, identify their pain points: how can you solve their needs better than your competitors? What is their preferred channel of communication? Answering each of these questions thoroughly is imperative. You need to stress your value and strengths. But, avoid tailoring your brand too much to the audience. Make your brand about you first.

3. Build Mind Share, Not Market Share. Right now, focus on building brand equity instead of aggressive revenue-building activities. Do not prioritize profit during this time. Avoid “fire sale” marketing (e.g. discounts, sales) which may come off as insensitive. Instead, take time to understand and address your clients’ current concerns and needs. Communicate with empathy and clarity. Get inside the mindset of your target audience, ask “How can we help?” If you do, I assure you that your brand will reap the benefits and you will find deeper engagement and connection after the crisis has passed. 

4. Develop Content That’s Relevant, Concise and Consistent. Before hitting that “post” button, take a step back and ensure your email or post is relevant and relatable to your audience. Does it pass the Who Cares Test? Whether you develop articles, blog posts or videos, make certain the tone is empathetic, engaging and educational. With so much clutter out there, get to the point fast and make your communications concise. And don’t forget the “wow!” headline. Content is more than words; make use of striking visuals to engage readers. Stick to your brand’s area of expertise. For instance, there’s no need to share health advice during the current pandemic — unless, of course, that’s what you do.

5. Curate and expand your network. At the end of the day, people often make decisions based on their trusted relationship with individuals, not a business entity. In fact, think of your network as your net worth. It’s more important than ever to give before you get, and to be a strong support for your network. Don’t focus on how many people you meet networking — focus on meeting the right people. Building relationships is the core of effective networking. Relationships are built on trust, so make certain that you deliver on your promises. Be human and make sure to modify your tone of voice as the crisis evolves — people will remember how you made them feel long after this period. 

6.    Become Your Own News Channel. The array of marketing channels is seemingly endless: websites, blogs, social media, print collateral, webinars, podcasts, email blasts. Consistent messaging and visuals that reinforce your brand are non-negotiable on any and all channels. When using these channels during the crisis, remember to keep all content fact-based; know when to take the conversation to private channels; deliver timely replies; and monitor and manage in real-time. To build a consistent and compelling image, share positive client testimonials, achievements, success stories, content (curated and self-published), professional speaking and earned media opportunities. During your time on social media, pay attention to what content your followers are most drawn to.  

 7. Deliver on your promise. Remember: you are the product. Gauge your brand behavior and ensure you return phone calls and emails promptly. Not delivering on promises can wreak havoc on the integrity of your personal brand.

Now you’re ready to develop your own compelling narrative and competitive advantage. And don’t forget to hone it relentlessly. Here’s to perfecting your personal brand. And remember: it requires routine maintenance and monitoring to ensure your message is heard loud and clear. 

About the Author: Stacey Ross Cohen is CEO/President of Co-Communications (www.cocommunications.com), a full-service marketing communications agency, with offices in New York and Connecticut. She can be reached at scohen@cocommunications.com

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