Personal Branding Tips: 5 Things Every Professional Should Have to Build Their Brand

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Personal branding is an invaluable strategy for achieving your professional goals. Investing in your personal branding can lead to everything from job opportunities to new clients and partners for your business.

In order to develop a personal brand that serves these purposes, you first need to put in place the foundation for defining it and sharing it with others. There are tactical steps you can take to be more intentional about your personal branding to accomplish this.

When setting out to build your personal brand, make sure you create and define these elements, as they will provide the foundation you need to start building your brand and attracting an audience for it.

1. A Defined Target Audience and Message

Knowing the audience you are speaking to will inform what you say, and the marketing channels you use to say it. The more clearly defined your target audience and personal brand message are, the easier creating the assets and personal brand channels listed in this blog post will be. 

Define Your Personal Brand’s Audience

Before embarking on any efforts to build your personal brand, consider the people you want your personal brand to resonate with. 

If you are a marketing professional, perhaps you want your personal brand to encourage engagement from fellow marketing peers. If you work in the fitness industry, your target audience might be fellow fitness industry leaders, or potential clients interested in learning more about fitness. Defining your target audience will inform the topics you discuss on your marketing channels, and the content you create to share your point of view with that audience. 

Personal Brand Target Audience Segments

Your target audience can have multiple segments to it, or you might have separate (but related) audiences based on the content you share. Using the marketing professional example, that individual might want to speak to both fellow marketers, as well as potential clients for their marketing services. In this case, the information they share in their content should cover marketing tips and insight geared toward both audiences. The marketing professionals will relate to “day in the life” style content that is relatable to their own experiences as a marketer, and potential clients will gravitate toward tips that help them in their own marketing endeavors.

If you are just starting out on your personal brand journey, stick to one clearly defined audience with a small number of segments (if any). If you start out too broadly talking about a wide variety of topics, you run the risk of your message coming across as shallow or diluted, and having it not resonate strongly with anyone. You are much better off focusing on a niche audience and creating content that strongly resonates with them. This will give you a base audience / following to build on and add new audience segments to as your personal brand grows.

Define Your Personal Brand Messaging

Once your target audience is defined, you can build a messaging strategy that will resonate with them. Consider what that audience cares about, the things that motivate them, their challenges and problems, and their interests. Knowing these factors will help you to create that speaks to those interests and values among your target audience.

Using the marketing example above, fellow marketing professionals are interested in marketing, and care about being successful in that field and navigating the challenges it presents. If you want to speak to that audience, your personal brand message should hit on those key points. This means sharing content that includes marketing tips, commentary on solving marketing problems, marketing industry news and insights, and your personal experiences as a marketer. 

For the fitness enthusiast, their personal brand messaging should focus on raising awareness for fitness and teaching people how to adopt better habits in their own lives in order to achieve their personal fitness goals. Messaging for the fitness enthusiast’s personal brand could consist of fitness routines, workout and nutrition tips, and behind-the-scenes style content about their own fitness journey. 

The content you share on your personal brand channels and the message that content delivers should provide value to your audience based on the things you know they care about. Understanding your audience, and creating content that closely aligns to their interests is the key to developing a personal brand that people want to engage with. 

To develop your own personal brand messaging, use the personal brand framework in this blog post: "Personal Brand Framework: 5 Steps to Defining Your Personal Brand [plus a free template]"

2. A Professional Bio

When it comes to your personal brand messaging, being able to concisely communicate who you are, what you do, and to convey your personality and interests are important capabilities for someone who wants to grow their brand. People need to be able to find common ground in your personal branding, and relate to the experiences and information you share. 

Having a well written professional bio on hand for yourself is a tactical step toward accomplishing this, and a key messaging asset. Platforms like LinkedIn and your personal website give you the opportunity to include your professional bio for people to read and learn more about why they might want to connect with you. 

Professional Bio - One Sentence Description 

Have a one-liner (single sentence) version of your professional bio ready for situations where you have a limited character count, like your Twitter bio, or the ‘headline’ section on your LinkedIn profile (the short sentence that appears directly below your name). 

For a one sentence description, you have a few options. You can keep it simple and use your job title and place you work (ex. “CEO and Founder, Company Name”), or you can write your one liner so that it articulates the value you provide for people (ex. “Helping B2B companies generate sales leads”). 

Professional Bio - Longer Description

Create a longer version of your professional bio for situations where you have a higher character count to work with, and where you can share more about yourself, what you do, and how you can help people. Examples of situations where longer bios come in handy include your website (see portfolio website section below) and your LinkedIn profile.

Long form professional bios typically take the form of 1-3 paragraphs that tell the story of what you do today, what you’ve done professionally and in academia that speak to your credibility, and cover professional highlights and skills. You can also take the opportunity to include a few personal tidbits, like hobbies, volunteer work, or demographic information about where you’re from and your family. 

Consider common character and word counts for your long form bio when drafting it. For example, many websites ask for a 100 word or 500 character bio, so writing to common length specs can save editing time down the road. 

Professional Bio - 30 Second Elevator Pitch / Intro

Professional bios aren’t just written. Situations like job interviews, introductions when you first meet someone, introductions in business meetings, and introductions in video interviews and speaking opportunities all require you to be able to articulate who you are concisely. Having a quick elevator pitch planned for yourself will ensure you take advantage of these situations and help people understand who you are and what you do. 

Be sure to include your name, where you currently work or what you are currently working on, and the field you work in or past expertise to demonstrate your industry thought leadership. Given that these introductions are verbal and a bit less formal in some cases, you can also inject humor or a personal tidbit into your elevator pitch to lower people’s guard and make the tone of the conversation less rigid.

Elements to Include in a Professional Bio

  • Current job, occupation , or what you are currently working on (ex. Starting a company)
  • Education (if applicable)
  • Professional experience overview - where you’ve worked previously 
  • Key accomplishments - make these tangible / quantifiable - ex. Generated x amount of revenue, x amount of customers, won x amount of awards, etc. 
  • Skills - List the skills and attributes that make you unique and have contributed to your success
  • Interests and hobbies - Professional bios often include a mention of hobbies or interests to give them a personal touch 
  • Volunteer work 

Related: Personal Branding for Job Seekers - Developing a Personal Brand for Your Job Search

3. A Professional Headshot

When your bio for platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn is limited by a character count, a picture saying a thousand words represents a personal branding opportunity. Professional headshots can put a face to the name (and content) for someone working on building their personal brand. When it comes to personal branding tips, a professional headshot is an often overlooked, but critical asset to have in your arsenal.

Headshots present an opportunity to visually communicate who you are, your style, things you like, and any other visual information you’d like to communicate with your headshot. Including a headshot on your social media profiles can increase the likelihood that people will follow you and engage with your content, as they feel more connected to who they are interacting with vs. a blank image, or Twitter’s default egg profile image that it assigns to profiles without a custom image. 

Not only can you use your headshot on your social media profiles, you can include it on our website alongside your bio, and provide it to bloggers and media outlets if you are ever featured in an article, podcast, or video interview.

Professional Headshot Tips

  • Consider the platform - You may want to have a more formal headshot with business attire on a platform like LinkedIn, whereas a platform like Instagram or Pinterest is an opportunity to show more of your personal style and fun side. 
  • Make the elements of your personal brand match your headshot - For example, if you are a lawyer, you may want a more formal headshot wearing a button up shirt and a jacket to align with the more serious nature of the law content you share on your LinkedIn and Twitter. For a designer with a minimalist style, you might go with simple, classic classic attire in your headshot and use a black and white version on your social profiles to match your design aesthetic. 
  • If you’ve established colors for your personal brand, consider wearing a shirt in that color or have another clothing element match your brand color. This can be a subtle way to match the visual style you’ve established for your brand in other places, like a logo, social graphics, or social media profile cover images.

Read this blog post on personal branding tips for more suggestions related to visual storytelling opportunities.

4. A Portfolio / Resume Website 

A portfolio website is valuable for entrepreneurs and everyday professionals alike. 

For business owners, a personal website is a place where you can list your accomplishments and background in order to promote your credibility and support your business efforts. Gary Vaynerchuk is an example of a business owner and entrepreneur with a strong personal brand, and his portfolio website is a component of that. His personal website includes blog posts he writes, podcast and video segments that he publishes, his professional bio, and links to his social platforms. Visitors walk away with a sense of who he is, why he is credible in his field, and a better understanding of what he does professionally. 

Having these same elements on a portfolio website is valuable for employees and everyday professionals as well, because they can serve as a digital version of your resume and collection of accomplishments. 

Things to Include on Your Portfolio Website

  • Professional bio
  • A resume style list of job roles you held
  • Education
  • Links to your social media profiles
  • Links to articles and blog posts you’ve written on 3rd party websites
  • Links to your own blog posts. These can either be hosted on your portfolio website itself, or on another platform like Medium or LinkedIn Pulse
  • A collection of clippings (screenshots) and links to professional highlights from your job. For example, if you are a social media manager for brands, you could include links or screenshots of your best social posts. For a PR professional, this might be a list of the best articles you’ve had your clients features in. Be sure the content you are sharing is public information, or will not cause any issues with your employer or clients in terms of sharing private / proprietary information. If this is a concern, consider asking for permission from your client / employer, or reference any NDAs (non disclosure agreements) you’ve signed 
  • Visual portfolio - For designers, photographers, and content creators of all types, include a page on your portfolio website for your visual work. Having this collection will give you one place to direct people in order to see your work, which could be invaluable for pitching clients as a freelancer, or during the interview process for a job. 
  • Recordings of any speaking opportunities you’ve been featured in (ex. Video interviews, presentations, panels, webinars, etc.)
  • Testimonials from customers, people you’ve worked with, or classmates 
  • A list of skills and specialties. Ex. what platforms you know how to use, areas of expertise like design and copywriting, etc. 

Read our blog post "Personal Branding Tips: Most Important Things to Include on Your Portfolio Website" for more tips and suggestions on what to include on your website, and our personal branding toolkit for platforms you can use to host and build your own website.

5. A LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn’s network of potential customers, employers, employees, business partners, and new contacts presents opportunity for professionals in every industry. Setup a LinkedIn profile to give yourself another channel for presenting your personal branding and building your network. 

Your engagement with LinkedIn can be as simple as building out your profile so people can see who you are and what you do (similar content to what can be included on a portfolio website as outlined above), or as significant as making LinkedIn the primary channel you use to build your personal brand. 

LinkedIn Personal Branding Tips

  • Include a headshot and cover image on your profile 
  • Add the short and long version of your professional bio 
  • Fill in your previous job roles, education and volunteer work
  • Request recommendations (testimonials) from people you’ve worked with or clients to display on your profile 
  • Create and share thought leadership content. See this blog post for content ideas for building your personal Brand on LinkedIn 
  • Make new connections and network in your industry 

Try these LinkedIn post examples for your own personal branding, and understand the anatomy of a LinkedIn post to discover more content creation options.

Final Thoughts

Personal branding might seem like an activity or goal that is difficult to define, but there are tangible steps you can take to build a brand for yourself. Use this blog post as a checklist for creating the foundational elements of your personal brand.

Bonus Personal Branding Tips and Insights

About the Author

Hi, I'm Justin and I write Brand Credential.

I started Brand Credential as a resource to help share expertise from my 10-year brand building journey.

I currently serve as the VP of Marketing for a tech company where I oversee all go-to-market functions. Throughout my career I've helped companies scale revenue to millions of dollars, helped executives build personal brands, and created hundreds of pieces of content since starting to write online in 2012.

As always, thank you so much for reading. If you’d like more personal branding and marketing tips, here are more ways I can help in the meantime:

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