Ever heard of something called your “brand?” What does that even mean anyway?
Having a brand, or a digital aura future employers can associate you with, is critical. Jobs are getting harder to access as young professionals, but having a trustworthy brand in which all of your media links together may help you create your own work or be noticed by employers.
Think of the Disney brand. When you see the Mickey mouse ear labels, the “A P” (annual passholder) bumper stickers, or the “Walt Disney” signature, you know what company you are dealing with. Immediately you think of the “happiest place on earth” and trust the products that you are purchasing because they are associated with a trustworthy company. The same way you recognize Disney products, people need to recognize your work. Building a memorable brand can be done in the following ways:
- Have a (professional) presence on social networks. If you are constantly glued to your laptop or phone, you are in luck. In today’s world everyone has a Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, so you need these tools too. Pick an image that resembles you and use it as your logo on all public social networks. Also, it is important to keep your username consistent, so be sure to check your chosen username’s availability on all platforms you are interested in using.
- Create an online portfolio or website. Thankfully, there are plenty of web hosts that allow you to make websites for free. These sites usually put up advertisements and have funky URLs, but what is important is that the part of the URL you can control reflects your name on social networks. My favorite web host is Wix, because it does not require you to know HTML and you can make a professional-looking site in a matter of hours. Others that my colleagues have used include WordPress and Webs.com.
- Hint: When you sync up your site to social networks, turn the URL into a tinyurl link using tinyurl.com. This way people won’t be thrown off by your lack of a purchased domain name, and the link will use up fewer characters in your bio.
- When you’re ready, invest. Domain names, a.k.a. customized URLs, can be pricey. By the same token, you may think your homemade blog logo is the epitome of creativity and excellence. Yet sometimes investing in your own brand is necessary for you to be taken seriously as a professional. Caution: Do not purchase domain names or hiring Photoshop geniuses right away. Instead, play around with your online image and see if your brand is a. effective, and b. a digital reflection of you. Once it is, start doling out the dollar bills.
- Shamelessly. self. promote. If you see an opportunity to network with someone, jump on it. Call people. Email people. Make yourself known and tweet companies who are doing what you want to do. In the words of branding king Steve Johnson (a.k.a. @journo2go): think about what you want to do, not where you want to work. So tweet small companies: they will lap it up. This advice can be applied to journalism or any other field: just make yourself known and make a positive impression. Social networking can always hurt you, but when used appropriately, it will inevitably help you.
Do you have a brand yet? If not, remember to PLAN one first, then start signing up for social networks and promoting your work. It’s a tough world out there, but we know the art of branding. Now get going – your brand isn’t going to build itself.
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Monday’s #yourfuture post: Want a job? Make your own