Gone are the days where 'branding' was just about marketing a company or a product. And gone are the days where branding is difficult - at least for those that are serious about their personal brand or perceived identity.
Regardless of your profession or the profession that you aspire to - your brand is important - and could give you the edge over your competition. Don't think some potential employers or current supervisors and peers are throwing your name in Google? Don't think that they're not pouring through some of the things they find online? Think again, friend.
Years ago it was easy. If you did a good job then your career and work history would speak for itself. Your resume would boast your accomplishments (if you could squeeze them all on 2 pages and get the attention of an employer or boss long enough to read it, that is.) But times have changed and you can't afford to be left behind.
In short - your personal brand is the gateway to your resume and the marketing that could get you the attention you need to be noticed... If done right.
Whether someone is branding a product or branding a persona it's nearly the same across the board. The goal of any marketing endeavor is to analyze the product at hand and maximize its potential by crafting the perception associated with said product. To put it plainly... create an image that reflects what you'd like the public to know about you and what you do or what you stand for. To do this you may need to take a step back and do a little homework on yourself before you begin.
Perhaps you already have a brand...
Do you have a MySpace page with 1/2 naked pictures on it? Is your Facebook profile littered with the results of Adult quizzes? Can your name be found in forums or message boards where you're typically found trolling? While not an ideal image for anyone looking to move their career forward outside of working for a tabloid - it's a brand nonetheless.
While funny when you were a freshman in college (or junior in high school) it's more than likely not the image you'd really like out there - some might think a makeover is warranted. RecruiterGuy would agree.
Show me the money!!
It's time to start marketing yourself. It's time to start asking yourself what your strengths and weaknesses are and how your personal brand compares to those you are competing with. Look within your industry and find some of your competition. And then find theirs. Make a quick list that notes the things that causes these people to stand out. Then start your own list about yourself.
Focus on your strengths and the resources that you feel people should know about you. What knowledge, skills, and abilities do you have that put you (or should put you) head and shoulders above the rest? Take inventory of these and find out how to market these skills to your audience. Set goals for yourself. You are, after all, creating a marketing plan... and the product is YOU.
You'll need to gauge your progress. Track your public image or brand every few months. How is your image different now than it was 6 months ago? What takes priority over you in Google when your name is searched for now vs. when you started? Is it still the MySpace Spring Break photo shoot? Or is it something creative that you may have published that was relevant to your industry of choice or a point you were trying to drive home?
Whether you choose to author a blog, contribute to existing communities, engage in speaking events, become a member of various panels, or socially network yourself to death - realize that this branding thing is a dynamic ride. Get on board and make it work for you - if something isn't working just the way you'd like it to then change your approach. In today's world perception is the gateway to success, dear readers.
How will you be branded?