Personal Branding Basics for Security Professionals

Over the past few years personal branding has been discussed extensively on the Internet. Recently, I have had more and more security industry professionals ask me about how to craft their own brand to assist them within their job search process, as well as for their overall career. The difference between today and over ten years ago when personal branding was first mentioned by Tom Peters, is the rise of social media and various technologies that have made branding not only more personal, but more accessible and easier for many to do.

Whether the corporate brand (McDonalds), the product brand (Big Mac) or the personal brand (Ronald McDonald), branding is a critical component to a customer’s purchasing decision. Today, customer complaints and opinions are online and viewable through a simple search, on either Google or through social networks. There is no hiding anymore and transparency and authenticity are the only means to survive and thrive in this new digital world.

Many people operate on the misperception that personal branding is just for celebrities, yet each and every one of us is a brand. Personal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market ourselves to others. As a brand, we can leverage the same strategies that make celebrities or corporate brands appeal to others. We can build brand equity or value just like them.

We can also have just as much presence as most start-ups and mid-size companies and products. Social media tools have leveled the playing field and have enabled us to reach incredible heights with only the price of our time.

Below, I want to share the personal branding process, so you can start to think about what face you want to show to the world and how you want to position yourself for success!

1. Discover your brand

The single most common mistake people make is that they either brand themselves just for the sake of doing it or that they fail to invest time in learning about what’s in their best interests and end up being branded by external forces. The key to success, and this isn’t new news, is to be compensated based on your passion and expertise. In order to find your passion and develop the expertise, you need a lot of time to think, some luck and you need to do some research online to figure out what’s out there for you.

The process of personal brand discovery is about figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life, setting goals, writing down a mission, vision and personal brand statement (what you do and who you serve), as well as creating a development plan. Have you ever been called intelligent or humorous or organized by your peers or coworkers? That description is part of your brand, especially if you feel those characteristics described pertain to you. To know if you’ve discovered your brand, you need to make this equation equal:

Your self-impression = How people perceive you

2. Create your brand

Now that you know what you want to do and have claimed a niche, at least in your mind, it’s time to get it on paper and online. The sum of all the marketing material you should develop for your brand is called a Personal Branding Toolkit. This kit consists of the following elements that you can use to highlight your brand and allow people to easily view what you’re about:

* Business card: It doesn’t matter if you’re a mid-level manager, CEO, or a consultant, everyone should have their own business card. The card should contain your picture, your personal brand statement (such as Physical Security Expert), as well as your *preferred* contact information.

You can create your own business card and share it through your mobile phone using mydropcard.com. On the web, BusinessCard2.com is a great social network for creating and distributing your personal business card.

* Resume/cover letter/references document: These are typical documents that you need for applying for jobs and when you go on interviews. Be sure to prioritize each document with information custom to the target position. Take your resume online and add social features to it to make it social media friendly, promoting your personal brand to the world and making it shareable.

* Portfolio: Whether you use a CD, web or print portfolio, it’s a great way to showcase the work you’ve done in the past, which can convince someone of your ability to accomplish the same results for the future.

* Blog/website: You need to own yourname.com or a website that aligns with your name in some fashion. Depending on who you are, how much time you have on your hands and if you can accept criticism, you should either start a blog or stick with a static homepage. Those who blog will have a stronger asset than those who don’t because blogs rank higher in search engines and lend more to your expertise and interest areas over time.

* LinkedIn profile: A LinkedIn profile is a combination of a resume, cover letter, references document and a moving and living database of your network. Use it to create your own personal advertising, to search for jobs or meet new people.

* Facebook profile: Over 160 million people have profiles, but almost none of them have branded themselves properly using this medium. Be sure to include a Facebook picture of just you, without any obscene gestures or unnecessary adult beverage bottles. Also, input your work experience and fill out your profile, while turning on the privacy options that disable the ability for people to tag you in pictures and videos (allowing people to see the ones tagged of you).

* Twitter profile: Your Twitter profile should have an avatar that is carved out of your Facebook picture and used in your LinkedIn profile. Ideally, you need to use a distinct customized background, fill out your profile and include a link to either your blog or LinkedIn profile. Twitterbacks.com has templates you can use to sculpt your very own Twitter background. Twitbacks.com is a source that also lets you promote your Twitter profile.

* Video resume: A video resume is a short video of you talking about why you are the best for a specific job opportunity. You get about a minute or so to communicate your brand and are able to send the link, once you upload it to YouTube, to hiring managers.

* Wardrobe: Your personal style is tangible and is extremely important for standing out from the crowd. Select clothing that best represents you because it will be viewable through your pictures/avatars online, as well as when you meet people in reality.

* Email address: Don’t overlook your email address as not being a significant part of your toolkit. Most people use email over all social networks and when you connect with someone on a social network, you are notified via email, so get used to it. Your email address poses a great opportunity for your brand. As an example for your address, use firstname.lastname@gmail.com. Nothing else – anything else might have unintended branding consequences.

What’s next?

After you spend the time on these parts of your personal branding toolkit, it’s time to showcase it to the world, especially your target audience. Don’t buy into the myth that if you build it, they will come. Unless you’re the luckiest person on earth, you’ll have to actually communicate everything you’ve created to others.

In the next post, I will discuss how you can take the personal branding toolkit you’ve developed and communicate it to your audience. I’ll give you tips on how to market your personal brand to become known in your niche. Then, I’ll finish by explaining how you can monitor and update your brand over your career and lifetime.

Good Luck!

David Lammert

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