Why Personal Branding is All About Creating Content

I just re-read a great article by J.T. O’Donnell called, Brand or Be Branded (Are YOU Willing to Risk What Shows on the Top Fold?) in which she uses a case study of a college graduate who was unable to get a single job interview after months of trying.

After looking over both her resume and her cover letter, which O'Donnell deemed could be improved but were not so problematic that they were responsible for her stalled job search, the real problem turned out to be her web presence:
So, I decided to complete an Internet search on her – just as 4 out of 5 hiring managers do today. I put in her name and the school she graduated from. What popped up in the results shed some light. The #1 item in the results was her Facebook picture. It was a blurry photo of her in a sweatshirt and her eyes were closed. Okay, so it was nothing terrible, but it also wasn’t a powerful first impression.

And besides, what followed was much worse…

You see, her Facebook photo also happened to be the ONLY thing that popped up about her. Nothing related to school, nothing related to volunteering, nothing related to her field of study…absolutely nothing. In fact, the next 10 entries thereafter were for someone with the same name but different middle initial who currently writes a very open and direct blog about an alternative lifestyle subject.

So there you are, not only had this young graduate not bothered to put information about herself online, her own brand was being co-mingled with that of a person with the same name whose personal brand was somewhat questionable.

The solution is to add and create online content. Again quoting from the article:
Any person, at any age, at any time in their career can build a strong online career identity. The reality is you only need 5-6 good things to come up in a search so the top fold (the uppermost portion of the computer screen that shows the top search results) is filled with positive items about you.

O'Donnell then goes on to provide 4 very good tips for creating content that will flesh out one's online brand.

I am convinced that everyone who is serious about building a personal brand needs to make use of four tools: blogging, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

As I have previously written in my article, 38 Rules For Creating a Personal Branding Blog, a blog is almost a given for job seekers or people who need to become recognized experts in their fields.

That said, I realize as a practical matter that not everyone has the time or inclination to create their own blogs. One of O'Donnell's ideas provides a neat end around for having one's own blog. Her suggestion is posting frequent comments on blogs owned by others.

Thoughtful and insightful comments on blogs will gain an internet presence that in some cases may be used in place of one's own blog.

This still requires an active participation in the blogosphere. Find some worthwhile blogs that focus on topics you are both interested in and that will further your own brand.

However, this is only a substitute for having your own blog.

Imagine if this young graduate had written a blog on her field of interest for several months. It might still not raise her Google visiability significantly, but the link to this blog would have made a great addition to her resume.

A prospective employer would almost invariably look up the blog and find several articles that demonstrate her interest and understanding of her field. Can you imagine how that would have impacted her job search?

But what if you have something absolutely negative about your online profile?

Tara Hunt writes about such an example in her book, The Whuffie Factor. This is an all-too-common example of a young lady who foolishly allowed her boyfriend (and soon to be ex boyfriend) to come into possession of an erotic video of herself.

I almost don't need to finish this story because you already know that the ex posted her video online and it quickly became the very first thing to be found when someone conducted an online search for her. Talk about personal branding poison.

Getting such a video removed from the web is almost impossible. As soon as it is removed from one location, it is bound to pop up in three others. For most people this would be career poison.

Fortunately this young lady, although obviously foolish in her love life was pretty savy when it came to the internet. Her response was to create lots and lots of postive web content to overwhelm the negative video.

Before too long, the video was almost impossible to find online because of all the other information she posted about herself. Her strategy was that if she couldn't remove the video, she would just bury it.

So back to blogs. I firmly believe the day will come in which a blog will replace the old fashioned resume. It is the only true way to build a dominating personal brand online that will feature all your best ideas and insights. It is a place to show the world your expertise and get employers and clients knocking on your door. (Yes, I get several head hunter calls a week as result of this blog, and one day I might accept if the offer is good enough).

Facebook and MySpace. Is there a college student alive who doesn't have a Facebook (or MySpace) page? Yet, some parents and educators still oppose these sites.

A better approach would be instead of discouraging Facebook or MySpace pages, parents and educators should instead educate students that,like blogs, these sites can be showcases of one's skills, interests and preparation to enter the work place.

YouTube videos can not only rocket a person to the top of search engines, they can be used to create a better personal brand. In addition to recording the latest skateboard face plant, students could also record themselves giving white board tutorials on various serious topics.

Imagine a student taking a difficult economics class posting a series of tutorial videos about topics covered in the course. Not only would these videos help other students as they study the same material, they would also be very impressive to future employers.

All this holds true for working professionals who must market their services and expertise. Prospective clients are just as, if not more, likely to look you up online before deciding to do business with you.

This makes it vital to create conent to post online. Blog articles (yes, again), videos, comments on other blogs, a LinkedIn page, a Facebook page, etc. are all ways to build a personal brand online.

Creating content is only limited by one's creativity. There are so many ways to flood the web - and therefore one's online brand - with positive information about your knowledge, ideas and abilities.

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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