I'm going to give myself a letter grade in personal branding: F.
F is for failure. Yeah, if I'm to look back on my career from a personal branding point of view, I deserve the harsh grade. Why?
I was a laggard. I failed to get serious about developing my personal brand until I was in my 40s. Ironically, I've been writing marketing copy for thousands of brands since I was in my 20s. In the early going, I wrote for chiropractors, contractors, and all sorts of personal brands.
But I neglected mine. I was simply trying to make a living as an advertising copywriter, satisfied with the anonymity of the vocation. There was rarely a day (OK, there was never a day) when I woke up and said, "Today's a great day to develop my personal brand."
But guess what, friends?
Today is the best day to develop your personal brand. Not tomorrow. Today.
(This article is adapted from The Road to Recognition: The A-to-Z Guide to Personal Branding, a new book by yours truly and Seth Price.)
If you're looking for ideas to accelerate your professional success, help yourself to a preview of the lessons delivered in The Road to Recognition in the following slides and in the subsequent A-Z summary.
A is for Authenticity: Anything other than the real you won't do. Discover exactly what makes you fascinating. Build your brand on your true strengths, and allow it to navigate your road to recognition.
B is for Blog: The most important personal branding development in the age of digital media is the power to publish at will and express your ideas. Start a blog and keep building on it.
C is for Content: On your blog—or in addition to it—create an interesting mix of content in various formats to earn the mindshare and the trust that your brand needs.
D is for Design: Everything you create should be presented with class and continuity. Develop a tasty logo, color palette, and design standards that reflect well on your brand.
E is for Email: Email is your ace, the money medium. It's private, permission-based, and pervasive. Commit to developing an email list and using it to nurture relationships with your subscribers.
F is for Followers: You can't have a brand without an audience. Social media makes it possible to develop a tribe of followers—likeminded people with common interests—whom you aim to educate and inspire.
G is for Google: Think of Google as the business card the entire world has instant access to. You need to google yourself, evaluate the results, and create and execute a plan to look good in the eyes of the searcher.
H is for Helping: Don't wait for opportunities to come to you. Find ways to be helpful. Be the first to volunteer, connect people, or get behind meaningful missions.
I is for Influencers: Influential professionals have prominent friends. Seek out leaders, surround yourself with them, and find ways to be of value to them.
J is for Join: Affiliations are all-important to the growth of your brand. Find groups you'd be proud to be a part of, get involved, and make your presence known.
K is for Keywords: When surfers go a-googling, which words will lead them to you? Build a shortlist of relevant keywords and use them often on your site and across all your social media profiles.
L is for LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the social network that means business. It's the personal branding epicenter of the Web. Take LinkedIn seriously, and learn how to work it.
M is for Media: Media is more complex than ever—and more vital. Identify the outlets that are most valued in your field, and use the tools available in them to elevate your brand.
N is for Network: Make connections fearlessly and frequently—locally, regionally, and globally. Have a business card or something of even greater value to distribute. Follow up and follow through.
O is for Offers: Expand your email list, build relationships, and position yourself as an authority by offering your readers value-added content—or lead magnets—in exchange for an email address.
P is for Podcasting: Top professionals appear on podcasts and create their own shows to capitalize on the format's growing popularity—because they understand the power that the human voice offers for making genuine connections.
Q is for Questions: Identify the questions your audience seeks answers to. Ask questions. Ask people to tell you their stories. Ask for their ideas. And listen closely.
R is for Recognize Others: You won't achieve your goals on your own. Privately and publicly, recognize the contributions of every person who's played a part in your brand development.
S is for Speaking: Public speakers gain credibility as subject-matter experts and enjoy many networking benefits. You need to step up to the mic and share what you know.
Tis for Target: Develop a clear understanding of your target market. Develop personas with a focus on the needs of your audience and their pain points. Conduct interviews and surveys to learn as much as possible.
U is for Unique: Every meaningful brand has a unique value proposition. Though you may be one of millions specializing in your field, you need to develop and nurture a one-of-a-kind point of differentiation.
V is for Video: Video increases trust and helps you come across as human and sincere. It's become easy to make and distribute video. Look in the lens, relax, and let it roll.
W is for Website: Your website is the mousetrap and your content is the cheese. Work with professionals to plan, design, write, and publish a website that is the HQ of your personal brand.
X is for eXamine: Your x-ray for all online efforts is analytics. Deploy Google Analytics or other, similar tools to stay informed of how visitors behave on your site and what you can do to improve their experience.
Y is for the "You Do" List: The development of your personal brand is a perpetual exercise. Create a plan for getting started as well as a list of proactive actions YOU DO regularly.
Z is for Zeal: Zeal is a "strong feeling of interest and enthusiasm that makes one determined to do something." There is no more essential ingredient of a successful personal brand.
The Road to Recognition is available in hardcover and Kindle on Amazon and includes contributions and quotes from more than 40 marketing experts. Authors Seth Price and Barry Feldman are contributors to MarketingProfs. Barry has also written several of MarketingProfs' marketing how-to guides.