Blogger U: Branding Yourself

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Branding yourself is a term we hear a lot in blogging… But what does it mean, really? Our ambassador, Sarah from Back Home Blue, explores the topic for us.

Brand Yourself - Personal Branding

When I was in college, there was a popular theme throughout my journalism classes, whether it was print, broadcast, or theory: brand yourself.

My time in the journalism program at the University of Tennessee was a one of transition. The program had historically been print-based– you know, “old school” journalism– but as the trend towards digital steamrolled ahead, the faculty worked to transition the curriculum to be more digital-based. My years at UT were the “guinea pig” years.

With the digital shift happening before our eyes, professors encouraged us to learn digital mediums first, which included social media, as it would make us an asset to future employers. Speaking from personal experience, they were right. I was handed a laptop and a login on my first day at Dollar General’s corporate office mere weeks after graduation and told “we don’t have social media.” They hired me because I was fresh out of college and knew how to use social media.

If they only knew how many times a day I Googled things…

Part of the reason I was hired was because I branded myself online, just as my professors suggested. I bought my domain name. I secured my name across all the relevant social media sites and actually used them. I made sure that when people Googled me, they found me– not someone with a similar name, not a high school athlete or artist, but me. 

Today, it is more important than ever to brand yourself. Like it or not, nearly everything we do is digital. You are Googled before you interview for a job. Brands search for you before they agree to work with you. Sadly, even dates google you before they meet you for drinks.

So, how do you brand yourself? Here are a few tips I have found helpful.

1. Decide how you want to be branded.

When people Google you or stumble across your profile, how do you want to appear? Do you want to be known as an singer-songwriter? An artist? A writer? Fashion guru? Creative cook? Decide not only what your niche is, but also where you want that niche to take you– would you be happy blogging food photos for the rest of time, or do you one day want your own Food Network show, cook book, and product line like The Pioneer Woman?

2. Do your research.

Before you commit yourself to a domain name and the applicable social media handles, do some Googling. Take a look at what the “competition” is doing. Is there someone else out there with a brand or web presence similar to what you have in mind for yourself? Take the time to find out. That way, you can differentiate yourself and cultivate your own unique web presence. No one wants to be the copycat.

3. Snatch up the domains.

Once you have identified the type of brand and presence you want to cultivate, buy your domain and secure your social media handles. Try to make them the same for brand consistency. For instance, all of my social media handles for this blog are “BackHomeBlue.” Honestly, I believe this may be the easiest step in personal branding.

4. Find your scheme.

Something I’m still working on is finding my “look.” Depending on your level of comfort with things like graphic design, you can do this on your own or, if you want to make an investment, hire someone to do it for you. I recommend starting by choosing a color palette. A great site for inspiration is Design Seed. From there, you can start working on developing your look and feel, and then carry it throughout your web presence and even into print, should you opt to print things like letterhead and business cards.

5. Fake it until you make it.

Here’s the thing: you aren’t going to be a success story overnight. You won’t buy your domain today and have a million page views by the end of the week. But, you should act like you do. Act like you are the source for the best cookie recipes or advice on accessorizing. Walk into the metaphorical room and own it. Think Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” And one day, you will wake up and realize you are no longer faking it– because you made it.

There are so many tips and tricks out there on how to brand yourself, how to grow a brand, how to do– well, anything. These tips worked (are working…) for me and I will be putting them into practice as I “re-brand” myself from “Sarah Wyland: country music journalist” to “Sarah Wyland: writer.”

Stay tuned for more on that…

Personal branding is a passion of mine, so I would love to hear your thoughts, tips, tricks, favorite resources, whatever you got!

___

Sarah blogs at Back Home Blue and is an ambassador for The Blogger Collective.

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