Be memorable, and be human. Perfecting your personal brand.

by Amy J.V. Atwell

personal brandA friend of mine, and fellow freelance writer, recently told me he’s thinking of leaving the freelance world because he’s “never been good at self-promotion.”

I also know professionals who don’t believe in posting their headshots on LinkedIn or with their newsletter articles – and these are director-level individuals who are making high-level business deals on a daily basis.

So, is posting a photo with a social media profile or newsletter shameless self-promotion? I don’t think it is. It is part of creating a memorable personal brand.

Here’s the thing: People don’t do business with businesses. Not really. Oh, sure, there are a few business brands so elevated that they attract millions of fans with a mere swoosh or apple symbol (assuming the product meets muster, of course). Is your business Nike or Apple? No? Then, bottom line, your business is you.

People do business with people. Your company might have a great reputation, and a great brand, but that only takes the deal so far. You and your interactions with customers are an extension of your company’s brand. The human element – a personal touch – helps sell your company’s products and services to customers, aka other humans.

Connecting with customers on an authentic level puts them more at ease. That doesn’t mean you need to become best friends with each contact – not at all. It just means you need to be human. If you’re simply a walking, talking billboard for your company, how will people remember you? Or will they remember you at all?

What if you change jobs or industries? When you try to reconnect with people in your network, will they have a benchmark for who you are, or will they remember you for the sales pitch and one-liners? Your personal brand follows you throughout your career, so it makes sense to be mindful of it and develop it.

With that in mind, here are some tips:

Don’t be the gal or guy people dodge at networking events.
Years ago, there was a regular at networking events I attended. He wore mint green plaid pants and salmon shirts, which was helpful for identifying him in a crowd – and planning my dodging strategy. I had been cornered by this guy before, and he was notorious for blathering on about his product and not much else. Which leads me to…

Don’t blather.
Take a breath. Take a sip of your club soda and lime. Create pauses that allow the other person to speak. If you never let the other person speak, you will never gain valuable insight into why this person could be a great connection.

Don’t just push – connect.
If you do all the talking, you might as well be practicing lines in the mirror. Your goal is not to push out as much information as possible. Your goal is to share ideas and discussions that lead to genuine connections.

Step outside your sales pitch and share something the other person can use. Not only that, but encourage questions and dialogue. The information you share should be the fodder for an interesting conversation. This rule applies both in person and online.

Do post your photo on your LinkedIn profile and personal Twitter page.
Before you ever meet contacts at a networking event or a business meeting, you are likely connecting with them online. Your photo, and a well-written profile, is your chance to make a good first impression. Do not underestimate the power of putting a face with a name (and title, resume and value proposition).

Do be positive.
At a recent business mixer, a contact and I quickly discovered that we had a business organization in common. This commonality would have been great way to develop a conversation and a connection had he not chosen to go negative immediately. He spent 15 minutes spewing venom about the organization and its staff, and I could not wait to make my exit. He did not leave me with a negative impression of that organization – he left me with a negative impression of him. I am not likely to seek him out as a business connection as a result.

You don’t have to put on a phony smile or fake an optimistic outlook, but do be aware that using positive words goes a long way in leaving your new contact with a positive impression of you and your business.

Do listen.
Pay attention to memorable tidbits about the other person and his or her business. Ask questions and use the information gleaned to further the conversation. Remember those pieces of information to start conversation the next time you see someone.

Do be yourself.
I love what Twitter has done for people on this front. In your short Twitter bio, you can let people know about both your business and personal interests in a few simple words. The same should hold true elsewhere in your online presence, as well as in your in-person conversations. You never know when your interest in vintage toys or WWII history helps forge a long-standing business relationship.

Amy J.V. Atwell is a Denver-based freelance writer and editor. She works with businesses to grow their brands through high-quality copy and content. Read more at www.heirloomcommunications.com.

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