Jay Denhart-Lillard
Jay Denhart-Lillard 13 November 2015

Avoid These 4 Common Missteps In Building Your Personal Brand

Here are a few particularly sticky traps that you'll want to avoid as you progress towards building your personal brand.

You may have decided that working on your personal brand

is an important next step for you — and to that I say “Good for you!” Maybe you saw too many sales opportunities evaporate due to a disorganized or confusing online image. Or you feel that you might not be projecting the best reflection of your authentic self and you want to make a change. Regardless of why you’ve begun the journey, the fact of the matter is that we all make mistakes on the way.

So, since forewarned is forearmed, here are a few particularly sticky traps that you’ll want to avoid as you progress towards building a strong, professional, and successful brand.


1. Not Thinking It Through 
You wouldn’t start building a house without a solid plan, and you shouldn’t expect to build a brand that way either. Launching into promoting yourself without a goal and set of strategies can be a recipe for pain and discouragement. In order to project your best self you’ll want to spend some time doing your internal homework to know what your key strengths are, and where you’re going. It’s critical to lock in on the right way to talk about yourself and your identity.

For example, I once had a manager tell me in my performance review that I had a ‘unique union of marketing strategy and technology expertise.’ She said that she hadn’t worked with anyone with that exact mixture before. At that moment I realized that she had given me a shorthand-way to describe myself and my particular offering to others. It became an easy combination of words to use in describing myself and my particular value to the overall team. I use that phrase often now, and I know that it works for me, because people say they immediately ‘get it,’ and they can see how I’ll fit into their team or project. Spending the time to think about it, and then settling on the use of that phrase gave me several successes and unlocked opportunity for me.

2. Not Taking Action
On the other hand, it’s easy to over-cogitate and never take the first step, too.

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when you’re faced with literally hundreds and hundreds of tools, services, and gurus that all say they have “the answer.” There always seem to be more solutions popping up, and it can be hard to understand what things will work for you and which are a waste of time.

But don’t let option paralysis set in and keep you from risking those first steps toward your goals. “I’ll do that tomorrow when I have more free time” is a nice way to excuse yourself from ever taking a step outside your comfort zone, so you need to recognize when you’re getting in your own way, and when you need to be braver about starting the work to be done.

After all, a personal brand is not always about protecting your online reputation, sometimes it’s about projecting it. And that takes work. If you can trust yourself that you can learn from your mistakes, that belief might give you the fortitude to strike out and try a few solutions and find out what works best for you.

3. Being Inconsistent
Your tactics and tools may change, but your brand shouldn’t. Brands that endure don’t fluctuate wildly, but stay true to themselves and their offering to their customers. You want your brand to do the same. And this can go from the purely tactical, like having a bewildering variety of profile pictures used across social sites, to the deeply strategic, like not staying true to your values in all your professional situations or networks. On his blog, Brandon Coppernoll talks about the importance of being extra authentic if you decide to ‘segregate’ your usage of social media networks and the connections you make in each. He advises you to figure out your approach on each with sincerity and embrace it: “Try to avoid popularity contests and focus on what’s more important: authentic human interaction.” Generally, career and business interests should figure in professional networking sites like LinkedIn; Facebook and Instagram are typically used for personal connections, who you have met in person at least once; while Twitter is a springboard for sharing your thoughts with a wider community. As my sage friend Michael Dain says, “LinkedIn is for colleagues, Facebook is for people I know very well, and Twitter is for people I want to know.” Your needs may differ, but be sure that you remain as constant and steadfast as possible.

4. Trying To Go It Alone 
You may not think it needs to be stated, but a surprising number of people are extremely averse to asking for help. But having a partner in crime, or mentor, advisor, or even just a fellow traveler on the journey with you can make the difference between steady progress and spinning your wheels. As a general rule, I try not to work on any given problem for more than a day or so before I look around for another person who can offer advice, criticism, or complete redirection. And if you’re the type of person who gets discouraged easily or finds it hard to complete difficult tasks on your own, then you might want to consider getting a coach to help guide and encourage you as well.

So you fall prey to one of these foibles, don’t lose hope! Everyone stumbles from time to time, and with every failure and mistake, we are given a new chance to learn. As the old song says:

“Don’t lose your confidence if you slip
Be grateful for a pleasant trip
Pick yourself up
Dust yourself off
Start all over again!”     – Kern/Fields for Swing Time, RKO


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