By Joe Binder, Founder & Director, WOAW
A personal brand is constructed brick by brick through content that makes an impression. It has become a buzzword in recent years but it’s really just the same as your reputation – and everyone out there has one. However, most people don’t put effort into digitising it. They leave it to how they dress for work and how they come across in chats by the coffee machine – in other words, the impact they have in person.
But the growing popularity of LinkedIn has created a new ecosystem for personal brands to flourish online – finally, a platform dedicated to professional news, entrepreneurship and career progression. By taking ownership of your online brand, you can gain credibility, build trust and attract opportunities.
Personal branding is my specialty – some of Britain’s most respected business people trust me to manage their personal brand online. In such a sensitive time as now, every piece of your content has to be extremely well thought out and mindful of people going through a difficult time who might see it. Here are some tips that I’ve shared with my clients.
1) Slay the elephant
Don’t treat coronavirus as the elephant in the room. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Everyone’s being affected by it. Recognise that people have lost loved ones, lost their jobs. If you’ve been active on social media until now, it is not the time to go silent. Call it out exactly how it is. There has been an unprecedented change in the way we do business, the way we sell, the way we lead. The cause of that change has a name: coronavirus. Creating content about it is not a bad thing, but avoiding it is.
2) Qualify, but don’t apologise
Content that says ‘I know it’s not the best time to post this’ tells people not to read it. It sends a message that it’s out of place and, by engaging with it, they could seem insensitive. Frame it to accept the situation at hand and embrace the changes.
‘It feels strange to be posting positive news right now, but…’
‘I know I’m going to get stick for posting something not related to coronavirus, but…’
‘I don’t know whether this is something I should be posting about right now, but…’
‘With so much negative news about at the moment, I thought it was time for a positive story’
‘In times such as these, it’s more important than ever to say…’
‘It really cheered me up to hear…’
Think about what would entice you or put you off.
3) Lower your guard
If there’s a time to show vulnerability, it’s now. If your business is going through a rough spot – if you’ve lost clients or had to furlough staff – share how it feels to go through this. But note that my advice is to lower your guard rather than drop your guard, as you need to be incredibly mindful of the invested parties that will see your posts. If you’re talking about your financials, don’t say anything that could jeopardise your relationship with your investors. If you’re talking about letting go of staff, don’t give the impression that you won’t be able to take on new business. If you’re talking about furloughing staff, be mindful of the language you use – you don’t want them worrying that they’re not going to have a company to return to. Share as much as you legally can, but don’t do it in a way that could be of detriment to your company, clients or partners.
4) Don’t get distracted
You may be tempted to ditch your normal content strategy, but your content shouldn’t lose sight of your business goals. If your brand is about thought leadership in the recruitment industry, pivot your content to comment on how the market is responding, share your opinions and predictions on the market’s recovery, how it will transform the industry in the long term, or advice on what companies can do to stay afloat. If your brand is about providing fitness sessions, change your content to reflect going digital and working from home.
Side note – working from home for three weeks doesn’t make your tips the gospel on working from home. If you’ve been WFH for a while, go for it. Or even if you’ve picked up some really handy tips. But be mindful of claiming you’ve mastered it when many in your immediate network might be taking time to adjust. Challenge yourself to think of something else to write about instead of going with the first thing that comes to mind.
5) How would I feel if I read this on a bad day?
Before posting, have a quick think about how it would be received if someone saw it on the other end who was feeling down. I saw a great tweet by Katelyn Bourgoin, who advised: once you’ve written your copy announcing your exciting new launch, imagine reading it as someone who’s worried about a loved one or feeling overwhelmed by the news. If it seems a bit off, start again. Thinking through this framework will help you gain reassurance that what you’re sharing is appropriate for the current climate.
6) Remember to be grateful
Lots of people have jumped on the bandwagon to say how great working from home is. Keep in mind that while you may find it easy, others do not. It could be harder because they’ve been thrown into homeschooling their kids. Or because they see going to work as a form of escapism, to get out of the house. Or because their relationship with their family is strained. Or their space for working at home isn’t ideal. It’s fantastic if you’re finding this transition easy. But remember that not everyone is so lucky.
The thought of getting your personal brand online might feel overwhelming, but the best thing to do is just start. The blank page, or LinkedIn feed, may feel scary, but you’ll only overcome that fear by posting for the first time. Hopefully these tips will help you feel more confident with navigating personal branding online in such unusual circumstances. I look forward to seeing some fresh personal brands develop!