Editor's note: Updated October 5, 2020.
When creating your own brand strategy, you probably never thought you'd be developing your personal brand during COVID-19, a global health crisis that caught everybody off guard. But here we are.
So what now? Do you continue with your personal branding strategy or do you hit the pause button? If you do continue, what is different? We've got answers for you!
First off, let's clarify what we mean by a personal brand. Just like Apple and Coke have brands, individuals do too. It's your reputation and how you're perceived. Unfortunately, some people don't give it a moment's thought and let others define them. By acknowledging and building your personal brand, you're taking control over it.
COVID-19 and Your Personal Brand
Whether we're talking about personal branding for baby boomers or a younger generation looking for a career transition, COVID-19 has definitely put a bump in the road. How you deal with that bump on your personal branding journey can make the difference between success and failure.
There's no doubt that DOVID-19 has changed life as we knew it. Our lives have been littered with school closings, event cancellations, travel cutbacks, and many "nonessential" business closings.
And these changes aren't going to disappear anytime soon.
And it doesn't make sense to put off your personal branding strategy indefinitely.
So what you do now?
Even during a pandemic, life goes on. We've seen how schools have moved to virtual classrooms, many events have gone virtual, and many workers have created home offices. In each of these areas, people have adapted. But what about your personal brand?
Why You Should Continue Your Personal Branding During the Pandemic
Admittedly, it sounds tempting to hibernate through this pandemic -- but that's the last thing you should do!
Virtual is bigger than ever right now. With a significant uptick in internet and social media usage since the beginning of the pandemic, you can be certain that the majority of your audience is online, doing research and consuming content. And that's where you need to be too.
Now is the time to increase your online presence and make it easier for people to find you. And when they do find you, you want ot make sure that your personal brand is putting its best foot forward. This includes sprucing up your LinkedIn profile, creating pertinent blog posts for your industry, and regularly engaging on social media.
Whether your goal is career transition or simply amplifying your current personal brand, now is the perfect time to do it.
But how exactly can you position your brand for maximum results during the pandemic? Let's look at some key ways to create a successful personal brand during COVID-19.
12 Smart Ways to Create a Personal Brand During COVID-19
1. Define Who You Are
Many of the personal brands you already know and love have established a persona that we all immediately connect to them. Think of a celebrity like Beyoncé, who worked hard to define herself as "fierce", an adjective that we all agree fits her well. Or Warren Buffet, whose name is synonymous with financial success and business savvy.
So what quality do you want your personal brand to capture? A great exercise is to create a list of all the adjectives that you want people to think of when they hear your name. Then take the time to ponder your personal brand, crossing out words until you arrive at that one word or phrase that truly personifies what you stand for.
For example, my phrase is personal branding. Those are the words I want people to associate with me.
Once you have your word, it's time to work on your strategy.
2. Tell a Story
Every brand needs a story. This tells people where you came from and what makes your brand tick. It humanizes you and helps your audience to connect with you.
A great example of this is Sara Blakely, founder of the famous undergarment company, Spanx. She tells the story of how she developed the idea for Spanx after being frustrated being uable to find a suitable undergarment to wear under white pants. While we might shy away from sharing such a personal story, it helped to humanize her and distinguish her from others in her industry. Her creativity and drive are now world-famous and are even pointed to as motivation for other budding entrepreneurs.
Think about what has personally driven you to start your personal brand. And your story does not have to fit a rigid narrative. Whether you had a sudden lightbulb moment of inspiration, or it progressed naturally over time, your story is a valuable one for your brand.
Now let's go over a few ways to share that your brand and story with others.
3. Use LinkedIn
LinkedIn is an essential tool for anyone who wants to establish a personal brand. Not only can you share content like blog posts and videos, but you can also leverage their on-platform publishing to write specific articles for your LinkedIn audience.
Another great feature of this network is the individuality that you can bring to your cover photo. Besides your personal photo, your cover photos tells people what to expect when they enter your account. So don't let it go to waste. Pick a distinctive image that will tell people what you want them to know. You could use any of the following...
- A favorite quote.
- A picture of your workspace.
- A picture of a recent award you've received.
- Something that represents your field.
- An distinctive abstract image.
These will set the tone for your page, so take the time to get it just right. We like using Canva for this -- it's free, includes the LinkedIn cover image dimensions, and has all the tools you need to make your cover image stand out.
4. Be Yourself
Now more than ever, people want to connect with a human -- not a brand. And a lot of this human connection comes down to you and your values. People need to see you as an individual -- what you stand for, what your passions are, and how that fits into your brand.
Part of this requires you to look at your personal brand honestly -- what truly represents you and what doesn't. Many times we try to mirror what we think people want to see, which can distort who we really are. Take the time to weed out those parts so that your audience gets a more genuine, authentic view of who you really are. That authenticity is the principal thing that will draw people to you.
5. Take Advantage of Social Media
The advantage of social media is that no matter where people are -- even if they're at home -- they are connected via social media. That connection is a lifeline for your personal brand during and beyond COVID-19.
Take the time now to work on your thought leadership strategy. Create content that bolsters your reputation and is easily accessible through social media. Beef up your social media profiles to reflect your personal brand.
You might also take the time to look into new content formats. Create Live videos on Facebook. Share Stories on Instagram. Create a YouTube channel. You might even start your own podcast. Even with the pandemic, there's still many ways to expand your personal brand and reach your audience where it matters.
6. Leverage Video
Right about now, we're all missing personal interaction. And video is probably the best way for us to replace that interaction at the moment.
Video is by far the best tool at your disposal. It allows your audience to engage with you in a way that's impossible with written content. In a video, your audience can see your facial expression, read your body language, and react to your tone of voice. All of this combines to deliver a truly compelling message.
And it's completely doable from home. Take a page out of the books of several late-show hosts and others who have made the transition. Set up a spot in your home where you're comfortable and start filming. You don't need expensive equipment -- most smart phones are well-equipped for the job! And whether your platform is YouTube, Vimeo, or Facebook, your audience will love it!
Here are a few pointers for the best video results...
- Choose a place with good lighting, or set up a few lights so that people can see you clearly.
- Look into the camera.
- Be positive and smile.
- Be conversational -- you can use notes, but don't be tied to them.
Video is probably the biggest format that people struggle with -- and I include myself in this! But at the end of the day, video has been proven to be the most valuable content format for your brand!
7. Participate in Virtual Events
In-person events are impossible in the current climate, but that doesn't mean you can't still be a part of industry events. Many events have gone virtual, setting up webinars or streaming events on social media. And these events still need speakers and participants. Why not offer your industry expertise and public speaking ability?
If you're not yet comfortable with virtual public speaking, take the time to practice. Granted, sitting in front of a computer screen sounds easier than standing in front of a crowd. But you'll find that more is involved in order to keep the attention of a virtual audience. Take the time to work on your delivery and subject matter to deliver an attention-grabbing speech.
8. Expand Your Knowledge
At the moment, everything we do is online -- from Zoom conference meetings, to engaging with clients, and even more so our marketing ventures. If you're not 100% comfortable with the digital world, now's the time to change that.
Invest in yourself and the future of your personal brand with some digital certification courses that will make you into a digital expert. There are a number of free courses and programs includng Hubpsot Academy, Twitter Flight School, and Facebook Blueprint. Why not take the time to see what skills could benefit you and your personal brand?
9. Be Positive
There's a lot to complain about these days — and it's fairly easy to do. A simple "how are you today?" can easily unleash a torrential downpour of worries and complaints. While we are all feeling the pressure of pandemic life, a negative outlook could very well detract from or damage your personal brand.
Remember that your digital communications -- be it through social media, email, or video conferencing -- is the only interaction that people are going to have with you for the time being. You want them to come away refreshed, with happy memories associated with their time with you. This will help them to look forward to their next interaction with you.
10. Maintain Professionalism
It's easy to let things slack when you're working from home with dirty laundry in the next room. Things just don't feel the same. But when you let your professionalism slip, it could leave a lasting impression on your brand.
A key domain for maintaining your professionalism is your tone of voice. Whether it's over a Zoom call or when writing an email, you want to make sure that you keep a professional tone.
Another important area is the way you dress. It seemed like a no-brainer when you went into the office that you'd dress professionally. After a few months of social distancing, however, a lot of people are slacking their professional standards of dress. Keep in mind, though, that the way you dress for business can impact your personal brand. You don't have to dress up if you're working at home but maintaining some standards impacts your mental health. You feel better.
11. Use Consistent Branding
Your personal brand should permeate your communications. Whether it's a post on social media or an email, you want to consistently represent your brand.
If your brand has a logo, make sure that's it's on all of your personal branding materials, including blog posts, social media, and other digital material. This helps to keep you top of mind throughout the pandemic.
Another key way to use your brand during this time is to set up your email signature line to represent your personal brand. This includes your logo, your name and title and links to past articles you've written. That signature line is prime real estate that will be seen hundreds or thousands of time, especially during quarantine when email is the means of communication du jour. And if you don't have a logo do something in your email signature to get people to take notice. In mine, for example, I mention my new book Thriving at 50+.
12. Continue to Network
Social distancing has put a damper on traditional networking. Without physical events at which to meet and interact, some may feel that networking is almost impossible. But, with the right mindset and approach, you can netowrk successfully.
The number one way to network digitally is through LinkedIn and other social networks. For example, on LinkedIn you can connect with others in your industry, read their posts and comment on them. You can also join industry groups on LinkedIn, follow the conversation, join in when you have something valuable to add, and even share your thought leadership content on there.
And don't forget, there are still many industry events that have been moved to an online platform. Take advantage of these events and look for ways to expand your network.
Don't forget that networking is a two-way street. Seek ways to facilitate networking for others. Do you have two people in your network who could benefit from talking to each other? Why not set up a digital meetup on Zoom or social media to get them acquainted? Helping others in this way can be a major boost to your personal brand in the long run.
Working on a career transition and personal brand during COVID-19 might at first sound like an uphill battle. But with the right mindset and skills, you'll find that successful personal branding is still possible during this pandemic.
Let me know in the comments below how you're adapting your personal branding strategy during the pandemic.
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