What is Personal Branding? The Beginner’s Guide to Building Your Online Brand

Why Personal Branding?

We were all taught that a firm handshake, professional attire and a strong resume were the necessary pillars of a good first impression, right? Well today that is no longer enough. With the advent of social media, making an unforgettable first impression in-person is no longer the only thing you need to worry about.

From Twitter to Facebook to Google, our personal brands are in the spotlight everyday for everyone to see online. Are you putting your best foot forward? Are you making the impression you want? This has spawned a new set of ideas and tactics known as Personal Branding.

This article will walk you through the basics of personal branding as well as some of the best tips and practices.

What is Personal Branding?

[pullquote]”Personal branding is how we define ourselves in the work space while at the same time, incorporating the personal elements that make us who we are.” – Dawn Rasmussen[/pullquote] Personal Branding is the process of determining your most important core attributes  and communicating them consistently across every possible medium. “What is it that you want to be known for?  Personal branding is how we define ourselves in the work space while at the same time, incorporating the personal elements that make us who we are” said Dawn Rasmussen, President of the Portland, Oregon based Pathfinder Writing and Career Services.

1) Personal Branding DO’s

  • Define Your Brand: Take the time to soul search and determine exactly who you are and what makes up your personal brand. See our 10 steps to define your unique personal brand for help.
  • Communicate Your Brand: Make sure you are effectively able to communicate that brand clearly and concisely. A concise personal bio is essential for this step. For help with your bio, read our personal branding guide to writing a professional bio. 
  • Start Building Your Online Presence: You’re being Googled. By employers, by colleagues and even first dates. Building a basic online presence that can promote your image and support your personal brand is therefore essential. For more on this step, stay tuned next week for the second part of our “Make Search Engines Your B**ch” series titled “Build a basic online presence for Google.”
  • Become Visible: You want to make sure your branded content is what people find when they Google your name. This can be a difficult feat unless you are well versed in search engine optimization, however, the 4th article in our  “Make Search engines your b**ch” series will be highlighting some advanced tactics to control your Google results.

2) Personal Branding DO NOT’s

  • Fabricate or Exaggerate:  Personal branding is not a means to lie about your qualifications and doing so will absolutely hurt you in the long run.
  • Leave Out the PERSONAL Aspect:  As much as people want to hear about your professional accomplishments- they also want to understand your personality.  Don’t be afraid to inject your sense of humor, your hobbies, interests, etc… the things that make you, you.
  • Have ANY Inconsistencies: Your core message (as it is outlined in your personal bio) should be communicated the same in every medium, especially online. That means using similar wording across all of your online accounts, the same headshot everywhere and the same avatar.
Now that you know the do’s and do not’s regarding personal branding, let’s take a look at why you should actually care about personal branding!

Why Should You Care About Personal Branding?

1) Personal Branding Can Help Your Career:

Personal branding is necessary for any professional – but let’s look at job applicants as an example:

Job applicants: if you think that the first time you’re meeting a recruiter or potential employer is during an interview then you need to think again. You two have met before, in the online world.  Recruiters are turning away from more traditional methods and searching for applicants through social media and search engines. One of the biggest mistakes that a job candidate can make is having an inconsistent personal brand. Many people think as long as they don’t have negative content, they are in the clear. However, recruiters are looking for a postive, consistent brand that they believe lines up with their company culture.

“Recruiters are hired to eliminate candidates from the pool,” said Joshua Waldman, Job Searching with Social Media For Dummies author and Career Enlightenment blog creator. “This means they are not only trained to find red flags, if your personal brand is inconsistent, that’s the surest way to the maybe pile. So thinking about your branding message BEFORE filling out social media profiles is extremely important.” In short, have a strong brand online and you will stand out from the competition.

2) Personal Branding Can RUIN Your Career

It goes without saying that a negative brand can hurt you. However, most people don’t appreciate how easy it is to end up with a bad brand!

Everything you do or say on the web represents you. “What goes onto Facebook is on there forever,” said Rasmussen. “You need to make self-aware decisions of what you put online impacts your personal brand and reputation immediately and irrevocably… so the key is to be cautious, consistent, and conservative.” Rasmussen also stressed the importance of not posting anything online that you would be ashamed of if a prospective employer saw it. Even though they might never see it, why take the risk?

One great (and kind of hilarious) example occurred over the summer of 2009 when an employee went on a rant and called her boss a… well why don’t you find out for yourself.  Not exactly the smartest way to use your social networks- but thanks for the laugh on your behalf!


One thing is clear: your reputation online is just as important as your off-line reputation. While having a negative personal brand will hurt you, taking the time to build a positive, consistent brand on the web will actually help you!

Now that you’ve read the information, can you answer the question what is personal branding?  Or more specifically, what is personal branding TO YOU? Please leave any comments or tips below- and if you have any questions feel free to send me an email.  Now get out there and control your brand!


Add yours
  1. 4
    Mindy Koch

    Great article with really solid tips.  It is especially true that what we say online can really have a long-lasting impact on our reputation and ruin our personal brand.  Social media and online branding are a powerful combination and people should remember that power can be for our benefit or our detriment as you so clearly pointed out.

  2. 5
    Evan McGowan-Watson

    Great intro to personal branding! looking forward to a follow-up that focuses on the online aspect of your personal brand. 

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