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About the Author
Ali B. Zagat is a seasoned writer, editor, and content strategist. She has more than 10 years of experience creating digital and social media content and campaigns for mainstream and niche brands alike, including Creed, Dwell, Rodale's, Birchbox, Anthropologie, and many others. Ali's extensive experience telling the stories of independent and established brands has given her valuable insights into how to help entrepreneurs, freelancers, and professionals who want to successfully reach a wider audience. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Read an Excerpt
Who Needs to Care About Personal Branding?
Controlling Your Personal Brand
In early 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the consensus choice as the most eligible prospective candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Christie was known as a brash, outspoken truth- teller, the kind of guy who didn't play games in the same manner as most politicians. To many, he was a breath of fresh air. But then something happened. A few lanes of traffic had been closed on the George Washington Bridge, which was inconvenient but seemingly minor. During the course of the next few months, the media broke a major scandal: What had appeared to be a random street closure was actually an act of political retaliation against Fort Lee's mayor, who had not supported Christie's reelection for governor. Members of the Christie administration had deliberately closed these lanes to create traffic in the town of Fort Lee. Christie's ruthlessness and aggressive nature was suddenly seen in a new light; it was easy to see how his aggressive brand encouraged this type of behavior in his administration. Although there was never proof that Christie was directly involved in the lane closures, the scandal tarnished his personal brand and hurt his chances of getting the presidential nomination.
Just like Christie, you have a personal brand. In fact, every professional has one, regardless of whether they have done any work to develop it or not. If you don't continuously work on your brand, you're not going to be in control of the story. Rather than being defined on your own terms, you'll be defined by others.
You might not have any aspirations for public office, but you can still learn from the Christie example. When your brand is tied to your career prospects and professional trajectory, it's important to make sure how you represent yourself translates into others' perceptions of you.
The idea that hard work alone will get you ahead has been thoroughly discredited. When it comes to your career, perceptions matter. You want both relevant professionals in your field and the general population to be able to recognize your abilities so that you can get the opportunities you deserve.
The Importance of Brands
Everyone is his or her own brand. You need to have what it takes to be the CEO of "Me, Incorporated." Everything from the shoes that you wear to the coffee travel mug you carry can be a part of your brand. Whatever your age or position or the business you're in, it's necessary to understand the importance of branding. To be in business today, you have to be head marketer for your own personal brand.
Anyone and anything can be a brand that's worthy of getting attention. To big companies, this is a fundamental principle. Brands encompass all kinds of products and services, and every company, from accounting firms to sneaker makers, is working to escape the narrow confines of its category and become a brand that's surrounded by buzz.
Personal Branding's Rising Importance
Personal branding is especially crucial for the current generation of workers, the most professionally mobile workforce yet. As a group, we're more likely to move from one job to another in quick succession, whether to improve salary, to seek better working conditions, or because we're forced out by a cost-cutting layoff. Many workers also hold down several jobs at once. You may have heard stories from your parents or grandparents of lifetime careers at one firm, but the days of investing 40-plus years at any one company are long gone. Through the course of their careers, most of today's professionals will change companies, transition between completely different careers, and be hired by companies as consultants or freelance workers. Establishing a strong personal brand provides a range of opportunities whenever it's time to move on, allowing you to make those transitions smoothly.
Jeanne Meister, the renowned enterprise learning consultant, wrote a piece entitled "Job Hopping Is the New Normal for Millennials." As part of a response to a reader's comment, she said, "... job hopping is the new black. Employers see a downside if candidates stay at a company for longer than 10 years, and want to know why." Though being a long-term employee has had positive connotations in the past, employers today may wonder if you just weren't ambitious enough to look for other opportunities. You don't want anyone to think that you got too comfortable and never tried to push yourself. So if you've been at your job for longer than 10 years, take note. You may have thought it was a sign of loyalty, but it may be perceived as a career liability.
It's now standard to see high levels of job turnover. This makes changing companies more acceptable, which in turn only begets greater job turnover. The Future Workplace "Multiple Generations @ Work" survey found that 91 percent of Millennials — those born between 1977 and 1997 — expect to stay in a job for less than three years. That equates to 15 to 20 different jobs through the course of a single professional's working life.
But it's not just younger individuals who need to think about their personal brand; those who are already established in their careers should be thinking about it as well. An April 2014 Gallup report found that "Americans' average self-reported age of retirement has slowly moved upward: the average retirement age was 57 in 1993, but the average age at which non-retired Americans now expect to retire is 66."
This trend of working later in life isn't likely to reverse itself anytime soon; if anything, it might accelerate. Often it's by necessity, as those who leave the workforce live longer lives and find that Social Security just won't cut it. Now that older Americans are working longer, they're competing with people who are up to four or five decades younger, which necessitates the ability to stay vital, reinvent their professional identity, and remain competitive in the marketplace. And beyond pure economic necessity, many people are choosing to work rather than retire, finding that staying active makes them feel more fulfilled. This concept is even the theme of The Intern, a 2015 film starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. De Niro plays a 70-year-old former executive who gets bored with retirement and applies to a senior citizen intern program at Anne Hathaway's character's firm.
Given the increasing trend toward transitioning between different companies and career paths, simply defining yourself by your job (for example, "Ali is a writer") can paint you into a corner or lead you down a professional dead end. For a more advantageous and flexible approach, highlight the qualities you've honed (for example, "Ali is adaptable and skilled in content creation") that will make you a valuable asset across multiple industries. Ali once interviewed for a position she was extremely interested in, and spoke enthusiastically about her background as a writer — only to find that the company was looking to hire someone with extensive experience creating video scripts. If she had been a little less narrow in her definition, she might have had a better shot at getting the role. Similarly, although you may have the ability to look at your previous career in sales and see that you would be able to succeed in logistics, that won't be apparent to everybody you're interviewing with. If you're thinking of transitioning between industries, it is important to develop your personal brand so that people understand how your previous achievements in one field tie into the successes you feel you can accomplish in another. It's all part of marketing yourself successfully.
Even if you stay within the same industry — or the same company — for a long time, you're likely to have to reinvent your professional self in order to stay relevant. For example, a marketer who was predominantly focused on developing print advertising with a secondary focus on digital marketing has likely had to reinvent herself during the last few years.
That's what Dina Rosenbloom had to do after her employer, Jurlique, went belly-up. Though Rosenbloom, a beauty veteran, had managed the Web functions at some of her previous companies, she largely relied on digital subject matter experts. As part of rebranding herself, she not only emphasized her digital experience more than before, but also worked to increase her digital aptitude. She took some additional classes in her spare time, volunteered to spearhead digital projects for nonprofits, and asked digital marketers within her network for advice. Her expanded knowledge of digital, social, and mobile spheres has paid large dividends in helping her land at the right job: She's currently VP of marketing at International Cosmetics and Perfumes, a beauty conglomerate responsible for both the digital and traditional marketing of a number of prestige beauty brands. Increasingly, those who find long-term career success have similar stories.
Although personal branding is incredibly important to a brand-side employee such as Rosenbloom, it's arguably even more important to long-term or career freelancers. Increasingly, talented professionals are forming their own individual businesses instead of working in one role for one company, putting the big company in the role of client rather than employer.
According to The Intuit 2020 Report, a 2010 study designed to look at the next decade, more than 40 percent of the U.S. workforce — more than 60 million workers — will be "contingent workers" or free agents. Moreover, 80 percent of large corporations plan to substantially increase their usage of permanent freelancers, in part so that they don't have to provide health insurance (according to your cynical authors). Need more convincing? The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the number of temporary employees jumped 29 percent between 2009 and 2012. On average, temporary workers comprised 22 percent of the workforce among the 200 largest companies in the U.S.
By all accounts, this number continues to rise. Workers across multiple industries are realizing that they can support themselves without a full-time place of employment. But if you go the permanent freelance route, your personal brand is your corporate brand. How effectively you present that brand directly affects your ability to pay the bills. In many ways, personal branding will improve your earning potential and quality of life. Call us crazy, but that's a pretty good thing to aim for.
The Impact of Technology and Globalization
Technology has had a major impact on globalization, allowing companies, regardless of size, to do business with customers, start partnerships, and open up offices all over the world. Coupled with the growth of digital and social media, globalization has made personal branding more important than ever. Your prospective audience does not just consist of your local network; it might consist of more than a billion individuals. After all, as of April 2014, the Internet at large had more than 2.4 billion users total, including 255 million monthly active Twitter users, and 300 million registered LinkedIn users. The possibilities for building connections and making your name known are now virtually limitless.
Globalization can be perceived as a positive or a negative. If you put in the work to develop a strong brand presence, your reputation can precede you when you're doing work on an international scale. Your new business partners in South Korea can look you up on LinkedIn, view your personal Website, and follow you on Twitter, all to get a sense of you and help strengthen their relationship with you. Of course, then they're also privy to any inadvertent slip-ups you might make — which we'll cover later on.
Getting Over the Discomfort of Personal Branding
As we began the process of finding people to interview and asking them about their approach to personal branding, it brought up ideas about artificiality and constructed nature. We realized that asking people how they created their public image might make them uncomfortable, because "revealing" their methods might make the whole process seem fabricated and dishonest. In order to get over this feeling, you need to believe in what you're saying.
If you asked Stephen Fry, the renowned English comedian, actor, writer, and activist, how he manages to seem so witty and knowledgeable, he would tell you (much more eloquently than we could) that he does so by being witty and knowledgeable. This is a useful idea to keep in mind as you ask yourself: What makes top-quality personal branding stand out? It is this feeling of authenticity, the belief that what you're putting forward is genuine and honest. The "branding" part of this is simply your ability to display those skills and attributes.
Striking Out on Your Own
The decision to leave an established company and work for yourself can be exhilarating, but also ridiculously frightening. It's more comfortable to have the security of a well-known, entrenched company behind you, so you can leverage its reputation. But sometimes it's in your best interests to be bold and leave for new horizons. If you have an idea about how to improve a product, do a job better, or take an idea in a new direction, then starting your own business might make the most sense for you.
It goes without saying, but just in case: Never bad-mouth your old company or criticize how they operate. You never know; they might become your client one day.
Staking Out Unique Turf
Your personal brand will form as you carve out your niche. We call this ability to stand out from the crowd managed distinction, and it will be instrumental in helping you position yourself as not only an expert in your field, but one with a unique background, skill set, and perspective. Don't try to blend in or do what everyone else is doing. When is it time to be memorable in your career? Always.
No matter how smart and diligent you are, there are plenty of people out there who are just as intelligent as you and work as hard as you do. The rise of the Internet has put many tools at your competitors' disposal, helping them to position themselves to their best advantage. What's the good news? You, too, have access to these tools. In fact, if you're reading this book, you have better access than many people do. A carefully crafted personal brand gives you an edge over your competition. Carving out a distinct social niche can help you both define and reach your audience.
Being a unique brand makes you less replaceable. Your best approach is to make your content fun, attention-grabbing, and inspired. The consequences of being boring are worse than those of offending a few people. In fact, there's nothing wrong with being a contrarian in your views, and in many cases, that can help separate you from the rest of the pack. You shouldn't be provocative for the sake of it, but if you truly have an opposing point of view, it would benefit you to share it. Similarly, don't stand out by creating a unique yet inauthentic persona. Your brand is something that you'll have to stand behind for a long time. Don't make the mistake of assuming an identity that you can't maintain. As the saying goes, "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
Your first objective is to find a tone for communicating with your audience — one that will distinguish your brand from the competition. One of the most powerful ways to connect with a specific group is to use unique language, a kind of unifying lingo that both helps the members of the community to identify each other and reinforces community bonds. When you meet people in person, you make connections by sharing what's noteworthy about yourself; those features help define you. When you define your social voice and approach, think of what makes you stand out from others. If you sound like everyone else, you have a much greater chance of being overlooked or forgotten.
The Fat Jew
Would you choose the moniker of "The Fat Jew"? It doesn't exactly sound like the result of careful planning, right? But for Josh Ostrovsky, maintaining this alter ego is performance art, and something he has to reconcile with his personal life. This is not to say that he doesn't embody the traits that made his character so popular — it would be nearly impossible to fake something so ostentatious — but there's still a dial he has to turn up or down for each situation. When he posted a picture of himself on Instagram at Cannes Film Festival, pouring two bottles of rosé champagne onto his tux, it's safe to say that the dial was turned pretty far up.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Getting to Like"
Copyright © 2016 Jeremy Goldman and Ali B. Zagat.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Why Does Personal Branding Matter? And Why Should You Be Reading This? 9
Chapter 1 Who Needs to Care About Personal Branding? 17
Chapter 2 How to Lay the Groundwork for Branding Success 29
Chapter 3 Ways to Make Your Voice Heard via Content 41
Chapter 4 Branding on a Platform-by-Platform Basis 67
Chapter 5 Engagement 95
Chapter 6 Using Linkedln to its Fullest Capacity 103
Chapter 7 Becoming a Twitter Virtuoso 113
Chapter 8 Networking and IRL Meetings 121
Chapter 9 Authenticity 143
Chapter 10 Juggling Personal Brand Identity 153
Chapter 11 Avoiding and Recovering From a Branding Disaster 169
Chapter 12 Retargeting and Updating Your Brand 179
Chapter 13 Getting Feedback on Your Personal Brand 195
Chapter 14 Brand Maintenance: Ongoing Upkeep and Measurement of Your Brand 203
Chapter 15 Becoming Awesome 217
About the Authors 253