Creating Your Own Personal Brand: 1997 vs. Today

Posted by Mike Dwyer on February 09, 2009

I’ve been in staffing for over nine years, four of which I spent working with mid and senior level marketers within Fortune 500 companies. The job seeking world has shifted dramatically since I began, particularly after the Tech Bubble burst and post 9/11. As a result of these events, thousands of people were laid off, causing an ensuing flood of candidates in the marketplace looking for a job, any job!

Sure, email and the internet have helped the job searchers, but not in the way it can today. In fact in 2009 – a mere eight years later – technology is available to the “Average Joe” (not necessarily a plumber) consumer at very low or no cost to job search. As a result, the public at large has the ability (through online discourse) to discover at the click of a mouse which jobs, products, and services will fit their needs and lifestyle. It has always been the case that consumers rely on friends, family members and colleagues to influence their purchasing decisions. Now that people have hundreds of Facebook “Friends”, LinkedIn contacts, and Twitter “followers”, this has never been truer; especially when we’re talking about seeking employment.

On the other side of the coin, the same can be said for companies looking for employees – searching for the perfect fit – only nowadays, the employers’ “networks” have become their staff. I speak regularly with organizations that are looking for quality referrals from their own employees. Think about it: an employee who’s job is to, say, count widgets, or assist an advertising executive (in other words, someone removed from the HR function entirely) is now armed with the ability to influence their employer’s hiring decisions merely by virtue of their participation in social media – the employee’s membership in Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for example.

It’s a win-win. Employers can save money and ARE saving money by relying on employees who have countless social media, LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook friends, in addition to friends they find at networking events or association meetings such as the AMA, BMA, etc. Employees gain connections and insight into their own industries or other industries.

Not only do employers rely on who their employees know personally, they rely on what and who their employees recommend – such as reputable staffing and search firms. Enter: Brand You. The blind, resume-sending of the past is slowly creeping to a halt. That practice has not only saturated the job market with C.V. SPAM, it provides little in the way of real information for decision makers.

The Social Media revolution happening now is enabling people to engage with thousands of strangers who ultimately influence purchase decisions. Creating a personal brand is going to be a key factor in how companies engage their customers. Dave Armano of Critical Mass has recently coined the phrase “Brandividualism” – take a look.  The same methodology of Brandividualism can be said for marketers who are networking to find their next great career move.

As I was researching for this blog I came across this fantastic article called “Brand You“, regarding personal branding. It was written by Tom Peterswho is a well-known journalist and Social Media guru. It’s a thoughtful piece that addresses the power of email and the internet.

I agree with Tom when he says, “The key to any personal branding campaign is ‘word-of-mouth marketing.’  Your network of friends, colleagues, clients, and customers is the most important marketing vehicle you’ve got; what they say about you and your contributions is what the market will ultimately gauge as the value of your brand. So the big trick to building your brand is to find ways to nurture your network of colleagues – consciously.”

This quote speaks to me personally as I worked for a Word of Mouth Marketing agency The Zocalo Group. It makes sense that, via emerging technology, Word of Mouth (WOM) would be a very useful way to help develop your personal brand in the marketplace.

Peters makes it clear that technology has changed the way people search for jobs and emphasizes the need of quality presentation and tech savvy:

“Partly it’s a matter of substance: what you have to say and how well you get it said. But it’s also a matter of style. On the Net, do your communications demonstrate a command of the technology? In meetings, do you keep your contributions short and to the point? It even gets down to the level of your brand, your business card: Have you designed a cool-looking logo for your own card? Are you demonstrating an appreciation for design that shows you understand that packaging counts – a lot – in a crowded world?”

After reading this blog I realized this was not written last year or even this year. It was written in 1997! I thought it was incredibly interesting that the content is still completely relevant today.  We are living in a new world filled with new technology and applications that are being created every day. It’s important to remember that we can utilize these new tools but it is mission critical that you need to add value and leadership 1-on-1 with your audience regardless if it is your customer or a prospective employer.

Recently on Tom’s blog he had a guest writer, Raj Setty, who wrote an article about personal brand and what it’s NOT supposed to be. Very insightful information, which can help you understand how to use social media to create a personal brand; by NOT thinking of it in these terms.

Despite 9/11, an ongoing economic downturn, and several other major world and industry events, things haven’t changed much since 2001 or 1997, for that matter. Yes, there are a lot of new ways to help craft your personal marketing message through new technology advances. Ultimately, it comes down to adding content, expertise, and experience to gain organic market share – timeless concepts, really.

Word of Mouth Marketing is ages old. The 2.0 version has only enabled us to talk on an individual basis to many more people via dedicated streams of communication. It’s sort of like being at a cocktail party where you’re trading dentist recommendations, only now, you have the entire worldwide web at your fingertips (in addition to that martini).

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