Many recruiters find branding to be intimidating, confusing, or both. While most search professionals understand that they need to be active online in order to grow their business, too often, they approach their email, web, and social media activity without a clear sense of purpose, and without taking the time to develop an authentic yet professional voice. On the flip side, other recruiters overthink every detail, and allow perfectionism to stop them before they even begin.
The right approach is somewhere in the middle, balanced between thoughtful strategizing, and letting your brand develop organically over time. While there are no shortcuts when it comes to building a personal brand, understanding what you want to achieve, who you are speaking to, and how best to communicate with them can set you up for success.
How to Start Building Your Personal Brand
The best brands are consistent, authentic, and focus on providing value. Here are the basic steps MRI recommends you follow to build up your personal brand.
In order to make progress, you need to understand where you’re starting from. Begin your branding journey by pausing to reflect upon and evaluate where you are today.
What are your greatest strengths and what are your challenges? What do you do better than your competitors, or better than anyone else in your industry? What are your goals — where do you want to be as a professional next year? What about in five or ten?
Your goals, resources, and strengths will guide you as you make a realistic plan that you can commit to deploying consistently.
You started by analyzing who you are — now it’s time to understand your audience. The better you know who you’re speaking to, the more effectively you will be able to communicate and connect with them.
As you begin to map out your target audiences, consider everything you know about them. Take the time to understand their needs, values, and pain points; this will help your communications feel personal, specific, and valuable. Is your audience an emotional bunch who wants to hear your stories and experiences via video, or is your audience a cut-to-the-chase demographic who prefers data and proof to inform their decisions? Visit individual profiles to gauge their current activity and behaviors — or simply ask your contacts when you’re interacting with them.
Brand identity is a huge topic that could easily take up an entire article. Here, we’ll break it down into the basics — defining who you are, and how you express that identity to your audience.
Brand identity includes:
- Mission and vision statements
- Brand values: the principles that guide your actions and behavior
- Brand purpose: why you do what you do, how exactly you do so, and what specific products or services that translates to
- Brand perception: how your brand makes your audience feel
Having a clear brand identity makes your client, candidate, and other audience interactions feel consistent and recognizable, which can help you build trust and relationships over time. Use the landscape analysis you’ve done and the audience insights you’ve uncovered to determine how you can best serve your existing and prospective clients.
Don’t be afraid to show your human side and insert some personality into your branding. We are not one-dimensional beings, so our digital representation shouldn’t be either. Nor should your content feel too promotional — too often, recruiters are reactive or only turn to marketing on a transactional basis. This leads to a hodgepodge of random, traditional lead generation activities, but no value-generating, thought leadership content, which is what will generate demand and establish you in your niche in the long run.
Your brand identity will be expressed through your core positioning statements, which explain in detail how you fulfill a need or demand for each of your target audiences. This should also be summed up in your elevator pitch, which is a short statement that quickly sums up what you offer and why you’re special within your market. You can use a version of this in the “About” section of your social profiles and keep it in your back pocket as you introduce yourself in various professional settings.
Key messages adapt the meaning behind your elevator pitch and positioning statements into the important, external messages that you’ll share across channels. For example, you will need to write key messages that feel genuine and on-brand for purposes like sales scripts, email and website copy, social media bios, and other marketing needs.
Your brand identity will also inform your content pillars — these are broad categories you choose for the content and information you share. In these niches, you’ll establish yourself as a thought leader by providing value through your blog content, social media posts, speaking engagements, and other avenues.
You’ll also want to decide on a consistent voice and tone for your brand, so that people recognize you across all platforms, as you share more content. Decide on a few dos and don’ts around writing style, vocabulary, and punctuation, based on how you naturally speak.
Content and messaging is powerful — an experienced talent advisor can use them to become a wealth of information and trusted resource for their network. It’s easy to take social media for granted, and become desensitized to the valuable exchange of information it offers us every day. But savvy recruiters can make the most of it to become arteries of information, positioning themselves as subject matter leaders who can help others build their companies and careers.
Your Branding Journey
If you’re unsure what your personal brand should feel like, the best advice is to simply jump in and get started. Be willing to spend the time, truly commit to the process, and experiment while you find your footing — plenty of recruiters don’t put enough thought into their brand development efforts, but it’s equally counterproductive to overthink every detail.
Your content will improve in time, with practice, but only if you make that first leap and begin. Don’t compare yourself to others, and while you should monitor your social media metrics, like reach, engagement, and number of connections, they don’t tell the entire story.
Don’t get caught up in the trap of looking for an immediate ROI, or overnight success once you start building your personal brand. This is about a long-term investment in your business, and you shouldn’t expect immediate results. If you’re patient, consistent, and dedicated, you’ll form new relationships, add new connections, and see your audience grow.
Remember, branding is a journey — one that you’ll be on for your entire talent access career.