5 Steps to More Professional Personal Branding

1. Your Audio Brand

I recently interviewed Colleen Fahey, U.S. Managing Director for Sixieme Son, the largest audio branding agency in the world. She shared this: Audio branding brings life and continuity — so when you hear the brand, it sounds like the brand — making every touch point a relationship-builder. Audio branding:

  • Emphasizes brand differentiators
  • Creates brand association with specific emotions
  • Influences sales
  • Transmits values within and without an organization

As a personal brand, you also have an audio brand. What’s the music someone hears when they call your mobile phone? What music is playing on your personal website? When you do presentations, do you have any music that you queue it up with? Or is there music playing in the background? When people are on hold for you, are they listening to music? Music is something that we’ve heard even while in the womb. It evokes emotions and reactions that can go far back into our childhood or our subconscious. For personal brands, your audio brand is exuded in every interaction someone has with you or your communication tools that has some sort of audio associated with it. It transmits the values you have or those you don’t have. Today, audit what people hear when they reach out to connect with you. Does it mirror your brand or is there a disconnect? A disconnect leaves people with the feeling that something’s wrong with no real concrete instances except for “gut instincts”.

2. Your Professional Communications

Think that grammar in social media doesn’t matter? Your grammar matters in your LinkedIn profile and status updates. According to Brad Hoover, CEO of Grammarly, in a recent interview he shared that good grammar in your updates shows you’re someone that “pays attention to details” and you’re someone who is “detail oriented, shows good follow through and is very professional”. You might be wondering — can that really matter in today’s fast-paced, hyper-connected social society? Yes, it can. In a recent study conducted by Grammarly, here’s what they found: Grammarly looked at some of the top brand battles of all-time to see if there was a correlation between the winners of famous “brand wars” and writing ability. They compiled LinkedIn posts from each company (an average of 400 words per company), and asked their team of proofreaders to review each update for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Here is what we learned:

Coke vs. Pepsi

Coke makes four times fewer writing mistakes on LinkedIn than Pepsi.

Facebook vs. Google

Not only does Google dominate the Internet, but it also makes nearly four times fewer writing mistakes than Facebook on LinkedIn.

Ford vs. GM

GM makes 2 1/2 times more writing errors than Ford. What can we take away from this? Brand dominance can be a fickle thing. But, writing is often a good predictor of the top brands because it demonstrates professionalism, attention to detail and credibility. For your personal brand, look at your last 10 posts on any of your social networks. How’s your grammar? Grammarly Lite, which can be added to your browser, is a great tool to keep your updates and tweets as grammatically correct as possible. After interviewing Brad, I gave it a try and love how well and easily it works. (I do not sell or market their product).

3. Your Email Address

Invest in a website for your personal brand and create an email address with that site. A domain name can express professionalism in one email. Emails from Yahoo, Hotmail, Live, etc. give an immediate first impression to the receiver of an email from these domains. For example, when you get an email from someone with an address that is name@AOL.com, what are your immediate first impressions? Even if you have an email address from the company you work with or the college you attend, spend for your own domain, even if it’s your name. It exudes much more professionalism and speaks to whether you’re “on top of your game” better than any free email account can.

4. Your Image

You can look professional no matter your profession. I’m certainly not saying that everyone needs to be in a “suit and tie”. In fact, that apparel in many professions would not be a good fit at all. What is important to any profession is cleanliness and hygiene. Even auto mechanics are assessed for their professionalism on how well they clean up. For your personal brand, this includes everything that’s an extension of you. Your phone, your purse, briefcase and even the car you drive. Again, let’s not confuse that something has to be expensive to exude professionalism. You can drive a car that’s twelve years old or rock a suit that’s eight years old and as long as it’s clean and well kept, you exude professionalism.

5. Your Social Updates

There have been hundreds of articles on what you should post about as a professional. I’m more interested in when you are posting and responding. What time you do this matters to your professionalism. In your Monday morning meeting, if you’re liking Facebook posts on your phone, then anyone connected with you, in their ticker (depending on your privacy) is seeing your activity. At a meeting or event if you’re tweeting, that also is speaking volumes about your professionalism. If it’s a part of the meeting and event, that will reflect positively on what you’re doing and that you’re sharing/imparting knowledge from the event. If it’s you asking about when everyone’s going to happy hour in a tweet, when you’re in a meeting, there’s an entirely different impression that’s exuded. I do realize that there are many tools that automate the release of updates and posts. Again, don’t overuse these or you’ll leave the impression that you automate everything. A mixture of auto updates and real time updates provides a good balance for you and your brand. Look at the timing of your last social updates. To exude a professional, personal brand, timing is important (not everything, but important) and affects whether your first impression is worth a second look.