Building Your Personal Brand

Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to a classroom full of college students about my approach to personal branding.  The instructor just happens to be the mother of one of my piano students, so she has seen first-hand how I’ve built my own personal brand over the last couple of years, both online and locally.

I was a new professional, fresh out of graduate school, when I began building my personal brand.  I was afraid of getting lost in the sea of music therapists, and wanted to make a name for myself as I started my career.

First came Listen & Learn, where I established a presence and voice in the online world.  Soon after, I started a Facebook page so that I could further connect with people interested in my work, my blog, and me in general — in other words, my personal brand.  I joined Twitter for the same purpose.

While I was working hard to spread my message online, I was simultaneously doing so in my community.  Presenting at conferences and workshops, performing at various local venues, and being featured in newspaper articles were all ways to make my brand known.

And while I didn’t have a specific strategy at the time, as I look back, I realize that I followed a pretty simple set of self-written rules:

  • It’s never too early to begin building your personal brand.  No matter how young or inexperienced you are, just get started.  Your brand will grow as you do.
  • Be genuine in everything you write or post.  When people meet you in person, you should come across the same as you do online.
  • Be consistent.  Use the same profile picture and style across platforms.
  • Be transparent.  Don’t inflate your credentials, your numbers, or your network; just show your true colors and eventually all of those things will inflate on their own.
  • On the flip side, don’t give yourself too little credit.  If you underestimate your abilities and potential to be an authority in your niche, others will do the same.

Even though I still have a long way to go, I feel like I’ve been pretty successful in my efforts within a relatively short period of time.  So based on that success, here are the six things that, in my opinion, are essential to every personal brand:

  1. A goal. What are you working towards?  Where do you want to be a year, 5 years, 10 years from now?
  2. A resume. Always have this on hand and ready to share, and always be adding to it.  Every experience counts.
  3. A website. Even better, a blog.  Create dynamic content so that people have a reason to keep coming back.
  4. A slogan that people will remember. Mine is “helping children learn and grow through music” — which sums up all of the different kinds of work I do.
  5. Social media presence. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube…the more platforms for people to find you, the better.
  6. Business cards. I use VistaPrint to create custom cards that reflect my brand’s aesthetic and message.

Whether or not they realize it, most people are building their personal brand on a daily basis.  What are you doing to set yourself apart from everyone else?

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