We’ve all heard of brands in the context of big companies, but what about personal branding? When we realise that branding is not restricted to logos and designing adverts then we can start to see how it may be relevant to us as individuals. A “brand” is made up of many different elements that together tell the story of a product, business or person. The “brand” is the image that we are trying to paint in other people’s minds. In a sense, we try to create a persona for our businesses through the brand (see, for example, this article). So, it makes sense that we can use this concept for ourselves individually as well.
How do we want to be seen? How do we want to stand out from the crowd? What is it that makes us unique? We can paint an aspirational picture. There is no need to be limited by where we are now. As with a business we can have a plan or a set of goals. So, we can tailor our personal branding to speak not only of who we are but of who we want to be seen to be. How do you go about this?
One simple and powerful way is through the use of images. Arguably the most important image is our profile image that we use on our website, social media, CV, etc. I recently changed my profile image. The first image below is the old one and the next is the new one.
I took several images in different styles to try to find one that suited the image I was trying to portray. For example, here is one that I rejected as my main profile image, but am keeping for the odd outing for a laugh:
This was an attempt at showing my slightly quirky sense of humour and that I don’t take things too seriously. The downside with it could be that people may misinterpret it and think I don’t know what I’m doing or can’t be serious enough. Clearly, I couldn’t take that risk! It is an image that is fine if you know me and can be a cheap laugh every now and then, but it isn’t really up to the job of represeting my brand.
The first image above had been my profile picture for a while. I liked the fact that it was a little different. It showed my creative approach to photography, for example. However, to my mind it wasn’t looking “professional” enough for my commercial work. For a start, I was wearing a t-shirt and one with a brand on it too. The image risked being ambiguous. It didn’t immediately say “I’m a photographer”. You could be forgiven for thinking I was a musician.
The new image was designed to create a confident, professional look that left you in no doubt who I am and what I do. It is clear that I am a photographer. It should also be clear that I take my work seriously. I use good quality equipment. It should also tell you that I am approachable. The creative edge is still there, both in terms of the lighting and the post-production of the image. In short, it represents my personal brand far better than the previous one.
It is easy to get used to our profile pictures. They become part of the furniture and we almost don’t notice them after a while. So, it is worth taking a deliberate and careful look at them from time to time. Does your current profile photo represent who you are and who you aspire to be? What messages is it giving to people who see it? Particularly if we are using the image on LinkedIn or our CV then we need to be very careful what it says about our personal branding. After all, we use these media to make contacts and to look for new jobs.
Imagine yourself as an employer about to sift through applicants for a managerial job. Take a quick look through some of your connections’ profile pictures. Purely on the basis of what you see, try to judge whether they might be a good fit for the job. No, we shouldn’t just judge people on appearances. But, appearances do matter. We still have only one opportunity to make a first impression. So, let’s do all we can to make it a good one.
Clearly your profile picture is not the only aspect of your personal branding that matters. However, it will often be the first aspect that others encounter. We want our branding to tell a consistent story. From first encounter through pictures and CV to meeting for an interview and beyond, we should be the same “brand” or the same person. Branding builds expectations in other people’s minds of what they are going to receive. In effect, branding makes promises. What promises is your personal branding making?
Here are a few other images that I have taken for clients to help their personal branding. Take a look at each one and see what story they are telling.
The text that you use should also reinforce what the images are saying. Every time you meet someone or interact with them online, your personal branding should be clear and consistent. This isn’t easy. It requires work and taking time to stop and analyse yourself and your online presence. But, if it helps you to grow and helps you to get the jobs you are after then it is surely worth that investment.
If you would like help creating images to enhance your personal branding (or your business brand) please do get in touch.
© Joe Lenton, March 2016