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Blog For Your Personal Brand

August 16th, 2006

Blogging.  It is a weird thing.  There are currently plenty of articles on how to keep your on-line nose clean – don’t post drunk pictures on FaceBook.com, don’t post silly stuff on MySpace.com, etc.  Prospective employers google their name and then find out they have a wild and crazy side, and question attitudes, work ethics and cultural fit.  That’s what the CareerBuilders and CareerJournals are reporting, anyway.

How can you, as a professional, utilize a blog in a good way?

Well, you need to have a simple understanding of blogging 101 for professionals.  As you sit down and think about your blog, what is its purpose?  This will drive everything that you do, and can reinforce your personal brand.

Let me give you a scenario (real guy, real story):

A buddy of mine named Steve claims to be a Marketing and Communications (MarCom) expert.  If I put myself in an interviewer’s seat, I judge his initial impression, personality, sense of humor, cleverness, etc.  He scores a perfect 10.  Based on his resume I’d say he is a pretty hot commodity.  He is a sharp guy and I’d love to have him on my team.

But hiring someone for a creative position is a little scary.  Steve is in the advertising business – and how do I really get to know how good he really is?  Its like a graphics artist sending me a list of 20 websites or brochures that she has worked on – the biggest question I have is “how many of these were your ideas and your execution?”  With Steve, I’m sure he has worked on some great projects (as per his resume) but what was his capacity?  Was he just the grunt?

In comes the blog.  I think this recommendation is very powerful, and it is applicable to more than just Steve.  I recommended this to a statistician (with 20 years experience), a marketing executive, and I would recommend this to anyone that is currently employed.

Before I explain further, remember what you are trying to do.  You are reinforcing your personal brand.  In a job search you get a first impression, then the second impression (during the rest of the interview process), and your resume.  Reference calls will usually produce “oh yeah, he is great, I wish I could hire him” so I don’t put much value in those (unless there is any hint of negative feedback).  But as an interviewer I don’t really get a chance to see who you are over a period of time.

Unless I can read your professional blog.

In Steve’s case I recommended that he take his expertise and consistently quantify it through a blog.  Of course I don’t want to hear what he ate for breakfast, or how great or horrible his vacation was.  Unless he can tie it directly to his brand reinforcement strategy (and a MarCom guy should be able to do that)!  Here’s what I recommended:

1.  Create an identity to drive every single post.  Steve’s is “MarCom Expert.”  This means that anything with marketing communication, messages, advertising, copy (the words in an ad, article, website, etc.) are fair game.  Every post – every sentence – everything needs to be aligned with this identity.

2.  Find an advertisement that he can pick apart and analyze each week.  He can either criticize it or point out the positive aspects of it.  He should do both over time (so he isn’t known as the constant praiser, which will begin to seem artificial).  If he can criticize these without getting a reputation as a horrible, never-able-to-please guy, it is more likely that he will get more attention.  I would recommend that he does this at least once a week – perhaps twice if he has time (and it should take some time to do this well).

It is imperative that once he starts this he continues it.  He is building a personal brand, and he needs to have consistency and longevity.

Doesn’t it make sense that, in a world where we have a job change every 2.8 years, we develop a personal brand?  Or, you could do what I did: sit around and do nothing, and when you get laid off wish that you had been more prepared for a real job search.

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