5 Steps to Building Your Personal Brand
Industry thought leaders – the people you look to for insight – get a lot of play in this and other print-focused media outlets. And it’s for good reason: they know their stuff, and they are willing to share what they know to help the rest of us define a smoother path.
I’ve worked extensively with industry thought-leaders to help them share what they know. What these professionals share with their colleagues is, in some cases, invaluable. But I’ve often wondered: In an industry with such a deep bench of knowledge, with such diversity of thought, why is it that so few are so visible? Maybe it’s time for you to step forward.
To help you build your personal brand and raise your visibility in this industry, several strategies – some easy, some a bit more involved – are included below.
A Career, Captured
Have a short, concise, professional bio about yourself – just a single paragraph works well. And keep the bio on point: What is your current position, and for whom? What are the primary responsibilities of the job? What have you done previously that provided the trajectory into your current position? Are there any accolades or recognitions that differentiate you within the industry? For many, that will do. Other details, such as where you went to school, your hobbies, and your charitable efforts should be included only if they are intrinsic to your position (or how you got there), or if they truly define who you are.
A Suitable Photo
Cameras are ubiquitous these days – we all have one right there in our phones. But I’ve often been surprised when people say they don’t have a photo of themselves. Whether you like the way you look in pictures or not, you face is your identity – it is the visual calling-card of your professional profile. Select, or have taken, a picture of yourself that you like, and have it ready to share with others. Also, this is the graphic arts industry, where we understand resolution and color control. So, make sure your photo looks good, and is of high enough resolution for print production (Note: that blue-shifted 6K thumbnail from your LinkedIn profile will not suffice).
You Have Ten Seconds
Surely, you’ve been in this situation: You meet someone at a conference, trade-show, or party, and they say, “What do you do?” Time for the classic “elevator pitch.” The invitation here, for you, is to really consider not only what it is that you do, but how you describe it. Try it now. Keep it short. Examples: “We produce dimensional signage for big-box retail,” or “I print and install graphics for commercial aircraft.” I generally say, “I work for a media company that covers the printing industry,” which leaves a jumping-off point for the uninterested to say, “Oh;” or a bit of mystery, so the listener can say, “That sounds interesting. Tell me more.”
Choose to Differentiate
Beyond “who you are” and “what you do,” what is it that you have to offer our print-focused world? What is it that makes your company different from your many competitors? What part of your unique knowledge (or opinions) are you willing to share to help raise the general level of knowledge among your many colleagues? How can you add your valuable diversity into the broader industry discussion? While that’s a lot of questions, you will find that having (and offering) answers to these questions is what differentiates visible print professionals – aka “thought leaders” from everybody else.
A Bit or Your Time
The last part of the equation is to make yourself available. Offer to serve on a panel discussion, write an article for a trade publication, be interviewed, present to your local business community. Share what you know with a school group or vocational program. Get yourself out there. Sure, it takes a bit of work to put pen to paper, or to travel to a conference, but those industry professionals I’ve dealt with believe the benefits are worth the effort. In most cases, the return on your investment will not be monetary – it will instead be a positive benefit to your professional reputation and the increased visibility of your business among colleagues, customers, competitors and others.
While there is no better time than now to get started in establishing yourself as a known and respected industry expert, and it’s going to take a concerted effort to get there. In person, online, on social media – it’s all good. So, step forward, be proud, and share that what you know. What you share is valuable, unique, and sought-after.