In my professional life, I’m a member of PRSA’s Oklahoma City chapter. During our monthly meeting today, I had the pleasure of meeting a director of placement from the University of Oklahoma and the OU student president of PRSSA.
We discussed a possible opportunity for me to speak on campus in late February, something I’d be honored to do — and I mentioned a possible topic.
Helping public relations professionals build their personal brands.
I believe it’s the most underdeveloped skill in the marketplace, and I’ve been passionate about it since my days in TV news. Frankly, it’s something I’m still learning how to do properly. However, after 22 years in the workplace, post-college, I have a good sense of what my online audience would say about me from consuming my content.
Ryan plays the piano and writes songs. He likes music. Digs jazz, smooth jazz and 80s pop. Loves the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Rangers and occasionally comments about other teams and sports. Loves the Oklahoma City Thunder. Loves Oklahoma in general. Loves Texas, too.
Loves all-things weather. Storms. Snow. Haboobs! (Not really haboobs.)
Ryan also shows pictures of his food. Constantly. Oh, he runs a lot, too, and will post photos of the occasional beer, just to let you know he knows how to relax.
But the question I find myself asking is: Are those the things that define my brand online? That’s what I’m talking about when I say that professionals need to craft a personal brand and cultivate it.
For example, the running: That’s good. I do try to live a healthful lifestyle. I might be better served by morphing some of my food posts into content documenting how I eat more healthfully or drink lots of water. The point is that living a healthful lifestyle is a characteristic I strongly value.
Take the music part of it. That’s also good. I do write and play and do both at more than just a hobby level some of the time. I want to be taken seriously as a musician, but I also don’t take myself too seriously. I just love music, know music and want that to be part of my brand.
And sports will always be part of my world albeit not as much as it once was. I don’t watch it all the time like I did when I was in my 20s and 30s. However, from a personal brand perspective, I’m not sure that I care for it to be too much a part of me. Oh, sure: I’m not so serious about this process that I’d recommend stopping hot sports tweets to maintain focus on a personal brand, but thinking about these things is a vital part of the process.
Super long story short: The personal brand I’m trying to create can be summed up with a handful of words: Healthful, music, some sports, weather, positive. In reference to the last word there, for as long as I can remember, I’ve made it a point to avoid at all costs online confrontation. I haven’t always been successful, but I go out of my way to not be provocative, controversial or ever purposefully unkind.
Alongside a personal branding effort, I recommend that professionals build an online professional brand through various professional organizations and platforms such as LinkedIn. Connect with everybody (esp. on LinkedIn) and create content establishing yourself as expert in your field. I do great with the connection and am only starting to excel at the content, sharing if not creation.
So, why is any of this important? Can’t you just do your job, keep your head down and be content with that? Why the extra work? Well, a resume can only say so much about a person. We all have a public face, and we all have an opportunity to demonstrate expertise and focus. The content speaks to the expertise, and the branding speaks to the focus.
I struggle with audience development. I only have 1,157 Twitter followers because I neither tweet enough nor do I have enough interesting to say. My Instagram audience is struggling because my photos are mostly about me eating or running (ryanwelton2013), and my Snapchat audience (soonerryan2000) is almost nada because I don’t keep up with it.
I have the theory down. Mastered even. I could explain it and the how-to all day long and will delve deeper into it as my blogging adventures continue.
But relative to an opportunity to speak at OU (maybe, fingers crossed) I wouldn’t only be speaking to a group of young professionals about why it’s important, I would be instructing and re-instructing myself about the how-tos of a process that never, ever, ever ends.