Five essential ways to build and maintain your personal brand

There was a time when you kept a copy of your CV on a disk and every couple of years or so you updated it with a new job title and phone number. Voila! Your so-called 'personal brand' was bang up to date. Alas, those days sound so twee, I can’t believe it was that simple. With the advent of the internet, social networks and now interconnected communications across your business and personal personas, it’s hard to know where to start. This time last year, I made a concerted effort to tidy up the stream of info that already existed out there about me and I wanted to share the five best tools I have found best for to keeping your personal brand fresh, vibrant and ready to wow.

Before I start, it’s worth stating that a personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Also this post just deals with the part of your brand that will help you in work or in business. How you dress, how you behave and how you deal with life are possible future topics, but assuming you are a rounded character who wants to do well in life, this might be for you. Oh, and it's for chefs too. Mwaah.

Here goes:

1) Get on


Ah yes, the 800lb Gorilla in the room when it comes to creating that professional tone to your outstanding personality. Even if you are not looking for a new job, a presence on


is critical in sailing the choppy waters of promotion, cross-departmental collaboration and any initiatives where you might be required to represent your company externally. With the newly updated mobile app at your fingertips, it’s never been easier to check in, connect and comment on what your network is up to.

Maintaining your LinkedIn profile is a bit like caring for a delicate plant… it takes time, nurturing and lots of pruning to get it just right. Oh, and if you're

 not going to upload a photo, then don’t bother.  Get a professional looking picture in there, fill out as much detail as you can and then tell the world as much about your career using the least number of words possible (the pruning part). 

2) Start a


If you haven’t got one already, then it’s time to make it happen. I cannot stress enough how vital this is at gaining real influence among your peers and senior management at work and in the wider circle of your chosen industry. I am not saying it is easy, far from it, but it does challenge you to be both disciplined and bold as you commit your thoughts for wider consumption. Whether you


about a hobby, or an aspect of your work that you are passionate about, it doesn’t matter. Just be yourself, be positive and be knowledgeable on your chosen subject. Don’t worry about followers, subscribers or what people think when you start out. Just write. Eventually you will find your voice while honing your topic. Eventually your audience will find you. 

And remember, if the CEO of your company reads your blog and is impressed enough to mention it to you in passing - then you only need an audience of ONE to make your effort worthwhile.



your life

We all have a digital footprint on the net. Google yourself to get an idea of what other people might come across, if they did the same thing. Guess what? They did already. Which means if you’re still in a job, then all is not lost. The best way to present your digital self to a prospective employer or business prospect is to curate what’s out there and serve it to up in one tidy package. That’s where


comes in. Basically it is like having your very own website, but filled with data that you have created through your interactions on social media. Once you sign in with your various Social Media credentials, Vizify will analyse your accounts and regurgitate the information into a very slick presentation. If, like me, you have travelled, there is a very clever tool that takes the visitor on a virtual tour around the globe. But don’t stop there, go into the ‘edit’ menu and spend time tweaking the information until it comes out with exactly what you want to present about yourself. Once done, you can embed a click-thru button on your email signature and that will direct people to your digital brand, before they have a chance to Google a random selection of positive - or negative - snippets about you.

4) Lock down your

Facebook settings.

You’re probably already on


and use it to connect with your mates and family. No problem there. No problem, that is, as long as you have not been reckless with your privacy settings. Spend time going over your account settings to make sure that only ‘Friends’ can see your content. This includes pictures you are tagged in, location check-ins and other posts you have commented on. I don’t want to dwell too much in this area, but I will offer one vital nugget of advice: DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO WRITE ANYTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT YOUR JOB. It is your private space, but all bets are off if a work colleague flags it up with your employer. Time and again, people find themselves out of a job because they didn’t appreciate how seriously their employer is about their company brand integrity.

5) Embrace


This is the Daddy of them all. Ignoring Twitter is no longer an option. And yet

joining Twitter

is also one of the biggest risks you take with your personal brand due to it’s openness and relentless energy. What I would say is, start cautiously, think twice before posting and be exceptionally generous. By that I mean, share other people’s content, reply with politeness, engage with integrity and leave them wanting more of you. Do this and you will take to it like a duck to water. Yes, you can have an ‘enthusiastic discussion’ if you feel strongly about an issue, but don’t fall into the trap of bullying your point of view into first place. Because there is no first place. There’s only you and everyone else who will think you’re a tit.

Used in the right way, Twitter gives your personal brand so much mileage, it’s not even funny. Since I joined, I have had so many doors of opportunity open and made a huge number of friends from all walks of life. Today I can’t imagine a world without it. Which reminds me, once you do sign up, find me there and connect.

© Not known at time of publishing.
© Not known at time of publishing.

Creating a unique and consistent personal brand on lots of digital channels will set you apart from the crowd.

There are lots of other avenues you can use to showcase your brand - YouTube, Instagram and Foursquare for example, but these five should be your top priorities in building a professional, creative and sustainable presence online where people can find you in the best possible light. Let me know of any new ones you come across and don’t forget to connect with me as you check them out.

Please feel free to leave a comment. And if you enjoyed reading this you may like other related posts listed below. To receive future posts don't forget to subscribe via email (just enter your email above), or by RSS, or why not follow me on twitter



Twitter for absolute beginners.

A colleague has just joined Twitter and tweeted that she doesn't quite get it yet. That's not a surprise as most people struggle with it when they first sign up. I know I did. At first glance Twitter looks like some kind of random gibberish written in pidgin English. Actually, quite a lot if it



that, so the real trick is filtering out the noise.

So for my colleague's benefit here's my take on how to get started...

You've signed up, given yourself a username (not too rude, I hope!) and now you're wondering what to do next. Well before you start, the next two things I'm going to ask you to do will be crucial if you are going to get any joy out of Twitter. Here they are:

1) Upload a photo of yourself. No, really. This shows that you are a real person and not some automated bot. And if not a pic of yourself, then an interesting pic that represents what you're about.
2) Now go to 'settings' and in the Profile section there is a box marked 'Bio'. Enter one sentence about yourself that describes who you are in a nutshell. If it's interesting, people will want to find out more, so be creative.

Now you are ready to begin. OK, let's start with the premise that you've just walked into a party and you don't know anyone. Yet.

What's the first thing you'd do? Probably find yourself a drink or some nibbles. 

Well go do that. Not literally, but you could start by following a few brands that you know - just to start filling your timeline with something familiar to you. In the search field, type in the name of a brand, product or restaurant that you like. Once you find what interests you, just click 'follow'. A lot of people go to celebrities as it is something we haven't  been able to do before. Some are really interactive (Dara O Bhriain, Raymond Blanc and Stephen Fry are great examples), but don't be surprised if they don't reply back to you when you write to them. I posted a

little video about this

which kinda puts the whole celebrity thing into perspective.

No doubt you will unfollow these brands

in time as they usually just want to sell you stuff (the antithesis to what this blog is trying to convey), 

but it gets the ball rolling.

 And y



is a real word in this new universe you've entered. 

Next you'll want to find people or topics you like, so go do that. You can of course start with me


. However, 

if fashion is your bag then find the brands, or better still find the columnists who write about fashion or designers who actually create the stuff. Then you'll start interacting with some real people who debate, share points of view, tips and insights on the subject. You'll probably be a bit shy at this stage, so you may just want to 'listen' for a while (some call this 'lurking', but that's if you ONLY listen without interacting.) 

After some time spent

 reading this stream of tweets in your timeline you might finally feel the urge to comment on something you agree on. Or disagree on. So go do that. 

Simply hit 'reply', type out your point of view and click send. Guess what? You're up and running. 

If you're point is valid or thought-provoking or in some way adds value to that conversation then chances are, that person will reply back. Or they might 'favourite' that message to let you know they liked it and want to reference it later. Or better still they might follow you back because they want to hear more from you. That way, everything you now tweet will appear in their timeline. And so it goes. The community grows and you grow with it.

Of course, you don't always have to write a new tweet to share something with your followers. What if you read something and you'd like to share that just the way it is (for example a special offer or motivational quote maybe), then just hit the 'Retweet' button and it will give you a choice to either Retweet as it is or Quote the tweet in a new tweet. Hitting Retweet will automatically drop it into your followers timelines. Done. You have share something with your followers by clicking one button. 

For more brevity, it's nice to Retweet with the addition of a little thought you might have on it. So instead of hitting 'Retweet', just tap 'Quote tweet' and add in a little comment before sending.

Hashtags are another very simple tool for sorting and tagging tweets. By placing the # symbol in front of a word, let's say 'weekend' to get #weekend, Twitter users can search for the term


and any tweets will show up in that specific list of search results. Why is this helpful? Let's say you are watching Eastenders (bear with me here!)  and you want to know what other people are saying about the program, just search for #eastenders and I guarantee you will connect with thousands of people tweeting about that topic there and then. When Andy Murray was scoring those last few winning points at Wimbledon, Twitter lit up with manic excitement which could be followed with the hashtag #murray.

According to @TwitterUK, the peak number of Tweets during #Murray's win yesterday was higher than the biggest peak during London 2012.
— BBC One (@BBCOne) July 8, 2013

Just a note of caution: try not to overdo it on the hashtags in your tweets. One or two hashtags is pefectly acceptable. Anymore and people actually switch off.

And that's it. Find people you like, engage with them, follow them, share their stories and enjoy their interaction. Depending on how it goes, they just might invite you back. Of course this might be Twitter I'm talking about, or a really good party that you've attended like I mentioned a minute ago. Either way, the etiquette and philosophpy is kinda the same. Happy tweeting.

A glossary of basic Twitter terms

Tweet - A short message of up to 140 characters that you post to your followers timelines from you or receive into your timeline from them. Tweets can include pics, videos or links to websites and other content. 
Timeline - The 'river' of tweets visible to you as they are posted by the people you follow. You can sort these into lists, but that is for another post.
Retweet - This is a tweet that has been relayed on from one tweeter to another. These can be left as they are or quoted in a new tweet with the addition of a comment. A simple and easy way to share content with your followers.
Hashtag - This famous # symbol familiar to phone dial pads is placed in front of a word to make it a searchable term on Twitter. This is great for following events, conferences or TV programs where that search term is the only thing linking all those followers. Facebook resisted but have now incorporated into their system as well, so it's not going away.
Favourite - You can mark tweets you like or want to read later by clicking the 'Favourite' button, usually denoted with a little star icon. The sender is notified that you have done this, so it is a nice way to acknowledge a tweet that you like, but don't necessarily want to tap out a full reply to.

Brand Personalities: Are you talking to me?

As a well-known restaurateur and voracious networker in Kathmandu, I received many letters every week from very respected acquaintances, diplomats and business people whom we met on the expat 'social circuit'.

Usually these were impeccably written notes on beautifully textured weighted paper, some headed up with a colourful logo and all concluding with a carefully considered signature. Each one was very thoughtful and gave a very good perception of the sender.

What you do is not the same as what you think you do.
However there was one thing - the most important element in forming a great 'first impression'  - that many of these correspondents fell down on which consequently undid all the good work they invested in their brand. I am of course talking about that piece of paper we set aside when reading a letter - the envelope it came in.

All too often the shabbiness and lack of care that went into the envelope and address label was surprisingly poor. After setting the perfect tone about their personal - or business - brand, they made the mistake of handing it over to a poorly trained PA or messenger to send out on their behalf. These were busy people after all; far too important for such a trivial task! This ensured that certain details were overlooked. For example, this assistant would innocently stick it in a cheap, badly made envelope. As for the 'label', the secretary's trick was to print my name and address on a piece of A4 paper and cut out what resembled a square with a pair of scissors before sticking it on the front with a dab of Prit Stick glue. There, perfect. 

The surreal thing was, and this is no exaggeration, on more than a few occasions it was then delivered by a chauffeur who would arrive in a big car only for my staff to see it addressed to (sic) 'Mr. Tomas', 'mr. Kirloy' or worse still, 'mr. Tomas Kirloys' (since the restaurant was called Kilroy's of Kathmandu' I can only assume they thought the 's' was part of my surname.) Inside, I found my name was spelled perfectly. 

At the time it made me laugh, but it also taught me a hugely valuable lesson: your brand is not what you think you portray, but what other people and businesses perceive it to be.

So while you're opening up your new box of restaurant business cards, ask yourself if the chef's cooking is as consistent as the printer's guillotine. Or while your Twitter account is responding in minutes (or seconds) to every rant or reservation enquiry, is your website allowing people to contact you calmly and rationally before they have to resort to Twitter.

With the best will in the world, you can try to micromanage every aspect of your brand's presentation, but you can't control the subjective response your brand receives. You can however influence that perception. And that requires real instinct and feel for what works in each channel. 

The same brand can have multiple personalities across a range of channels. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but it does work as long as these messages are kept consistent

Apple is a great example of this where it's brand presentation is very corporate during their quarterly Earnings Conference Call, very innovation-led during the CEO's annual WWDC Keynote and very much emotionally charged in its product and end-user positioning. Different messages aimed at different audiences who connect through different channels. And let's not forget the millions of brand iterations created by fans. They may not be 'on brand', but they resonate more acutely than perhaps the brand can by itself.

If you need your brand to appear more corporate in one channel (for the Bank Manager perhaps) and perhaps more 'folksy' in another (I'm thinking your Customers here), this is possible as long as:

  • everyone in your organisation knows the difference between the two.
  • everyone in your organisation knows why you require that positioning.
  • those messages are kept separate and kept consistent.
  • that those messages do not dilute the brand as a whole, but serve to create a stronger presence with different stakeholders.

Knowing which parts of your brand integrity you can control and which should be allowed to grow organically are the key to building a strong presence that appeals to the widest possible audience.

Brand iterations created by fans may not be 'on brand', but they resonate more acutely.

Social Media and Social Business: Distant cousins

Over the past few months I have been very lucky to meet some key thought leaders in digital marketing and chat with them over pizza about latest happenings in the world of Social Media and Social Business. There is certainly some astounding stuff happening at the bleeding edge of innovation, but for one reason or another, I haven't written about it up to now. Hopefully this will go some way to putting that right before I stop being invited for that inspirational banter. Or pizza. Which wouldn't be very social at all.

The first question I guess is What is social media? 

We need a starting point, so let's begin with a loose definition of what social media communication looks like for most people, although this is changing faster than I can type.

Many colleagues and friends I talk to are very confused with all the brands they hear about. 'There is so much Facebook this and Twitter that', they tell me as they shrug their shoulders and in the end they give up before they've even tried to understand. 'Tis better not to engage, than to look foolish, seems to be the logic.

To be fair, I can't blame them, so perhaps this image might help to illustrate the various channels that most people are communicating through currently. And apologies for the uncouth spelling. Ugh. No really, 'ugh' is missing from every doughnut...

Now that's not an exhaustive list. My daughter for example, uses Snapchat and Kik as her social networks of choice. (No, I don't either.) Nor does it include Blogger, Wordpress or Tumblr (recently bought for $1.1B by Yahoo) which are kinda like personalised websites people like me use to write blogs (derived from the word 'weblogs'). This post you are reading is hosted on the Google-owned blogging platform Blogger.

What then, do we mean by Social Business?

This is a little more difficult to explain, but essentially it is similar to what a person would do in the above scenarios, but in the context of a business or brand talking to it's customers, stakeholders (think suppliers or employees for example) and each other. 

Please remember this is not a full answer to the question posed, just a starting point to get the conversation moving. First however, let's take a look at another graphic that I picked up from Sarah Duncan's blog promoting her fab little consultancy called Sleeping Lion. (Lions. I know, right?) It certainly correlates nicely with the previous image and helps to give some direction on how you might use social media in your business. 

I'm sure the Swindon factoid is tongue in cheek, but you get the idea...

In the next few posts I am going to try and explain more fully what I mean by 'Social Business', why this is such a perplexing challenge and most importantly, why this is so crucial to your business today.