As search professionals, we talk a lot about brand-building on social media — particularly LinkedIn. Because LinkedIn is so valuable for recruiters, it’s an obvious channel to focus on or begin with, and it often takes the spotlight.
But to build trust and relationships with clients and candidates, you need to show up consistently and authentically everywhere, both on and off social media. Here are five other channels to consider along with some best practices to keep in mind as you create your personal brand and engage your target audience.
What is Personal Branding?
Before we focus on the best channels to build it, let’s answer an important question: what exactly is personal branding?
Your personal brand is an elevated, deliberate version of your personal and professional voice. It’s an extension of how you communicate in one-to-one settings, but scaled to provide a one-to-many reach. Your personal brand should reflect your own professional identity, changing and evolving as you move forward in your talent access career.
Creating your personal brand means using various channels to build an audience and form relationships, by sharing your perspectives, thoughts, and expertise. Your digital voice is an extension of you — it should reflect your core values and sound how you do in any professional conversations.
While first impressions do matter, building an audience requires dedication, attention, and consistent nurturing. It takes patience to maintain engagement and create positive outcomes — personal branding is not a one-and-done action that happens at the top of a sales funnel, to generate new leads or attract prospective candidates. That’s precisely why your efforts shouldn’t end with social media. Here are five other important channels for building your personal brand.
1. Speaking Engagements
Most in-person speaking engagements are on hold, but that just means it’s the perfect time to start planning your strategy for when things open up again. These large-scale venues, with opportunities for personal connection, are one of your best opportunities to make an impact.
To make sure you deliver the most value possible as a speaker, preparation is everything. Identify your key motivators for presenting, and focus on key takeaways you’d like your audience to remember. Carve out time before your event to consider points that you want to drive home, in both formal and casual settings. Even as you mingle and network with other attendees, it’s helpful to keep these key messages in mind.
Don’t forget that speaking engagements, like every other brand-building activity, should be a two-way street. Take every opportunity to listen to your audience and build genuine connections with them.
Because so much business communication happens over email, it’s crucial that you put your best and most authentic self forward when connecting in this way.
One common pitfall for recruiters is wordy, overly lengthy emails. Communication habits have shifted — professionals are drowning in such a high volume of information that concise, articulate language is key.
You don’t need to capture all of your sales points in the body of every message. Keep emails brief and to the point, and focus on clearly communicating outcomes that will leave the reader feeling confident in your abilities and excited about the prospect of working together. If you’re sharing a message that requires a more delicate tone, consider sending clients a video clip where you can more effectively convey your intended tone and personalize the note.
In the past, networking happened almost exclusively face-to-face, however — even as we begin to emerge from the pandemic — virtual settings will continue to be a big part of professional communication going forward.
As a major center for career advancement and professional connection, Zoom meetings have evolved beyond pajamas and COVID beards. Why not present as your absolute best self in these virtual settings? Wearing a sports jacket or heels at your home office desk might sound far-fetched, but if it helps you show up at your best, it’s entirely worth it.
Back in the “good old days” of boardroom meetings and conferences, most meetings would start with light banter about the local weather or a favorite sports team. Let’s bring those habits with us as the world of virtual networking continues to evolve. Take time at the beginning of every discussion to check in with your audience, and remember to take time for small talk — it’s an often-overlooked way to build rapport and set the tempo for your discussion.
4. Niche-Specific Channels
Some of the ways you choose to build your personal brand will depend on the specifics of your audience. The better you know the preferences of the professionals you serve, the better you will be able to meet their needs. Remember, not every industry is spending time in front of a laptop scrolling LinkedIn.
Know where your candidates spend their time, and think outside the box on how to get in front of them. For your niche, that might include text messaging, Whatsapp, cold email, or other social platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
Do your research and be bold — the best recruiters are those who truly know the habits and behaviors of the people they are trying to connect with.
5. The Little Things
Online and offline, all of your daily interactions either count for or against your personal brand. Details like your email signature, or voicemail message may seem small, but actually play a crucial role in how you represent yourself.
Your personal brand is also reflected in your habits and the care and consideration that you provide to those you do business with. How long do you take to respond to phone and email messages? Do you make a practice of following through on your promises and commitments? After contacts interact with you, how do they feel? What kind of impression have you left behind?
These small touchpoints are the building blocks of your personal brand. Your daily practices and habits are at least as important as how many likes, shares, and comments your LinkedIn posts collect.
Playing the Long Game
Creating a personal brand doesn’t happen overnight — and it can be tricky to measure the true value of your network, or calculate a return on the time that you’ve invested into building it.
Instead, try to focus less on your next placement, and more on building a quality network of the right decision makers and candidate profiles. Then, make sure you are always bringing them value in the form of useful domain-specific information, and consultative advice.
Bringing initial awareness of your work to new audiences is just the tip of the iceberg. In order to really nurture and sustain your followers, you need to consistently stay top of mind, and keep building relationships whether or not there’s an immediate payoff.
Don’t underestimate the power of referrals — some of your best COIs may never do direct business with you, but instead act as a key connector between you and your next placement. As we all know, a candidate might one day be on the other side of the table a decision maker — or vice-versa!
Stay true to your voice, and lead with the intentions of creating a trusted and sustainable audience. If you anchor your personal brand in this way, you’ll find that down the road, you’ll be doing a lot less cold calling and having a lot more warm discussions.