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Personal Branding Trends for 2012 (Part 1)

by William Arruda  |  
January 4, 2012

In this article, you'll learn...

  • Six trends that will dominate personal branding in 2012
  • How QR codes, logos, and headshots can enhance your personal brand

In 2011, my company Reach Personal Branding turned 10. In the early years of the business, personal branding was seen as a luxury—reserved for CEOs and entrepreneurs. As personal branding became a little more visible and better understood, marketers jumped on the "brandwagon."

Today, professionals in all job functions view personal branding as a proven technique for enabling career success and personal fulfillment. The philosophy has remained the same, but the way we build our brands and the workplace trends related to personal branding are evolving. Each year, I compile those trends for you early-adopter marketers so you can stay ahead of your peers as you build and express your brand.

Here are the first six of my 12 personal branding trends for 2012.

1. Headshots Everywhere

There was a time when only actors, models, and senior executives had professional photos of themselves taken regularly. Well, thanks to personal branding, the need for virtual visibility, and the universal desire to connect a face with a name—the professional photography business is booming! We now expect to see a photo alongside a blog post, on a social network profile, and accompanying an online article.

People are less likely to click on a LinkedIn profile if it is missing a photo and are less inclined to believe Web-based content if the contributor's photo is missing. Yet many people are still reluctant to post their photo. Some fear age discrimination or harassment, and others just haven't invested in high-quality photos. (Have you seen really weird avatars or photos that clearly were taken at someone's party—after a few too many cocktails?)

Social media companies realize the importance of connecting a face with a name and are developing apps to make that easier. For example, Plaxo now allows you to take any contact's photo and view it in your Outlook and iPhone contacts. Many more apps will offer similar capabilities. And the next frontier—face recognition—will add a whole new twist to Google image searches!

What does this mean for you?

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William Arruda is a personal branding pioneer, the founder and CEO of Reach Personal Branding, and the author of Ditch. Dare. Do! 3D Personal Branding for Executives.

Twitter: @williamarruda

LinkedIn: William Arruda

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  • by Cathy Burrell Wed Jan 4, 2012 via web

    Some really interesting points, and ideas I had never thought of. Great article for the beginning of the year...just as we are all getting organized. I am intrigued by the idea of printing the QR code on a business card to point people to your website/blog. More research for my to do list!

  • by Bill Baker (@StorytellerBill) Wed Jan 4, 2012 via web

    Great tips around personal branding William, some of which I've heard before, but most of them, new ideas to consider and practice (my own QR code...who knew?).

    One thought to add to the mix is around thinking strategically about the stories you want people telling about you. If you're out there and getting known, people will talk about and tell stories about you. Rather than leaving those to chance, I encourage people to sit down and actually write out the stories they would like circulated about them. What are people saying about you? How are they describing you? What kind of influence are you having on people, on clients, on the marketplace?

    Envisioning these stories and writing them down has a way of cementing them into your subconscious. Going back and reading these stories every once in a while reminds you of the impressions and impacts you want to make, and you will find yourself tailoring your behaviour and communications to foster those impressions and impacts. What might have started out as a strategic piece of fiction about your future slowly becomes reality as you start to live the stories you've imagined for yourself.

    I do this every year when I set goals for myself. It works. I wrote about it in a blog post if you care to read more.

    Thanks again!

  • by John Antonios Wed Jan 4, 2012 via web

    I totally support the Personal Branding trends you highlighted in your post William.
    I would like to stress on the importance on QR codes in communicating your personal brand, however, I'm not for having a QR code replace a simple URL address or contact information. In my humble opinion, a QR code should be used to direct people to something more interactive - a video bio would be an example, or downloadable app of some sort (since QR codes are obviously mobile communication tools). These are only a couple of examples of best practices ...

    PS. I'm hoping my reply would also answer Cathy's comment above!

  • by Jennifer Kelly Wed Jan 4, 2012 via web

    Excellent list of branding trends. I'm looking forward to reading your next 6. Thanks for pulling out the "what does this mean for you" after each tip. This helps me "get" what the opportunity is if I didn't catch on when reading the tip.

    One questions about the headshots - I have it set up so that the same picture I have on LinkedIn shows up on my Twitter account, on blog posts I respond to etc. etc. I did this for consistency. Can you explain further why I should consider moving away from this consistent "look"?

  • by Lina Arseneault Wed Jan 4, 2012 via web

    Iím quite interested in the use of QR codes and their ability to bridge the physical world to the online world, and how brand (and personal brand) blend in both. Would you consider elaborating on this topic?

    I look forward to the other articles in the series. Lina

  • by Bonnie Taube Wed Jan 4, 2012 via web

    Great article with excellent "how tos" on personal branding. We are moving closer to a free agent nation with 25 million Americans self-employed, and that number is growing. Effectively branding yourself will eventually become a necessity for every one of us.

  • by Georgina Liew Wed Jan 4, 2012 via web

    A really information post on personal branding! I'm sharing this one with my team and colleagues...being in marketing we often forget to market ourselves!

  • by Lina Arseneault Thu Jan 5, 2012 via web

    Bonnie makes a good point about the link between self-employment and personal branding. I would argue that itís equally important for individuals employed at corporations. A strong personal brand facilitates movement within a company and within industry. The key is not to assume or confuse a companyís brand with your own personal value proposition. In other words, you are not your companyís brand. Youíll quickly find out if you made that assumption when you start looking for opportunities outside your current employer. If you find yourself talking about your current or past employers more than your personal brand and its value to the prospective employer, youíve got the 2 confused.

  • by Gary Jones Mon Jan 9, 2012 via web

    A lot of good information. Truly like the QR portion. They seem to be everywhere. we have just started placing them on our magazine page ads.

  • by Bonnie Taube Mon Jan 9, 2012 via web

    @Lina, Excellent points. I like your "litmus test" (how you answer questions during the interview process) to determine how strong your personal brand is. I can also see how a company filled with individuals with strong personal brands facilitates movement for themselves within the company. It is also likely that a group of individuals with authentic, strong personal brands will collectively keep a company forward moving as well!

  • by Jim Kelly Wed Jan 11, 2012 via web

    William's branding exercises, though valuable and interesting, apply primarily to individuals whose existence is inextricably tied to their professional lives. How might these same principles be utilized by someone not entirely defined by their job? Say, someone who works in marketing but whose primary personal aspirations include erotic poetry, possibly unpopular political causes, square dance or some other non-marketing field? I am more defined by my extra-professional interests (not necessarily those above) than by my job function.

  • by Harsh Vardhan Tue Jan 17, 2012 via web

    Personal logo! It's a great idea. Imagine my name now written in a logo form. I think it;s a pretty creative thought. Must try.

  • by Lina Arseneault Tue Jan 17, 2012 via web

    I just published a third blog post on QR codes at The post is called "Marketing Artfully: QRart and "Not So Pretty" Implementations of QR Codes". Shortly after I posted my previous comment, I received an unexpected gift in the form of a QRart customized to my cafelina brand. I define QRart as artful, colored and creative quick response (QR) code design. QRart takes QR codes to a whole new level by blending QR code and design to allow for the artful activation of print. In the case of my cafelina QRart, I will use it to promote my brand.

  • by Jeff Brown Tue Jan 17, 2012 via web

    Many have commented on QR codes. While brands need to be careful not to simply use them as a replacement for their URL, an all-encompassing url for your personal brand may make sense.

    I created a personal QR code (at the site and pointed it to my page ( It's one of those 'homes' on the web that can serve as a hub for everything 'you.'

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