4 Ways to Tune Up Your Brand's Intellectual Expression

4 Ways to Tune Up Your Brand's Intellectual Expression
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The following excerpt is from Karen Tiber Leland’s book The Brand Mapping Strategy. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

For many of us, the most common way we express our personal brand is through its intellectual properties. We communicate our brands using specific language that conveys how we see ourselves, others and our relationship to the world around us. While there are countless ways to do this, the following four actions are critical to tuning up your personal brand’s intellectual expression.

1. Brand Sound Bites. We’ve all experienced that conversation where we had less than 30 seconds to make our case. In today’s limited character world, the need for an ultra-pithy presentation of our brand is essential. This “brand at a glance” functions as a cheat sheet to deliver your brand’s bottom line quickly, efficiently and with maximum impact. It should include the following:

  • Stats and specifics. These are the statistics and specific examples that demonstrate the competency and results of your brand. They’re the proof of your personal, team or business brand effectiveness.
  • Trends. You can show your brand’s relevance to what’s happening in the marketplace by showing knowledge of the leading trends in your field -- and how you’re at the forefront of them.
  • Hot tips and how-tos. One or two timely and helpful pieces of advice can go a long way toward establishing the credibility of your brand. The tips don’t have to be world shattering, just useful.
  • Points of view and informed insights. Brand thought and industry leaders have strong points of view about their areas of expertise and aren’t shy to share them. Taking a stand for what you truly believe in -- even if it’s not popular or typical -- can set your brand apart. In addition, being able to offer well-thought-out, fact-backed insights lends polish to the professionalism of your brand.

2. Branded Biography. While your profile picture, logo or other visuals may make the first impression when a visitor lands on your website or social media, it’s your biography that often inspires them to dig deeper.

Poorly written “About” sections on your website, too-short summaries on LinkedIn, and sketchy bio sections on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest can stop an inquiring employer or potential customer in their tracks. On the other hand, a well-written and branded biography can be a pathway to new business and expanded career opportunities.

These days, the branded biography often replaces the classic resume, since it goes beyond a boring list of your past positions and instead gives others a feel for your personal brand -- backed up by your achievements and accolades. To get to a branded biography, do the following.

Show, don’t tell. In other words, don’t just make a pronouncement about how great you are -- demonstrate it by providing the details that lead the reader to that conclusion themselves. For example:

  • Instead of writing “I’m a creative entrepreneur,” say “I’ve founded and sold three startups in the tech space and hold five patents.”
  • Instead of writing “I have a passion for building high-performance teams,” say “While I was CIO of company X, my team streamlined IT to achieve a 30 percent overall reduction in technical support time.”

The key to “showing” is to give specific examples of what you have done, lay out facts and figures, provide numbers and quantify what you can do in order to tell your story.

Be bold without bragging (or lying). Your bio is the one place where it pays to be bold, rather than understate your achievements. Notice I said be bold, not lie, exaggerate or mislead. Likewise, you don’t want your bio to include the sum total of everything you’ve ever done. In other words, skip the debate team award you received in the sixth grade. The key is to select the specifics that speak to your audience.

Here are the types of information I ask my clients to include to tell the story of who they are in the most accurate detail possible:

  • Books or articles you’ve written
  • Speeches you’ve given and for what organizations
  • Radio, TV or print media interviews you’ve given
  • Relevant degrees, awards or honors you possess
  • Relevant projects you’ve been involved with
  • Length of time you’ve been in business or doing your work
  • Name-recognition clients you can mention
  • National or international credentials or experience you possess
  • Positions you’ve held
  • Boards you’ve been a member of
  • Volunteer activities and charities you support
  • Special relevant skills, talents or abilities you possess

3. Social Media Profiles. One advantage to having a well-branded bio is that it can function as the source document for creating social media profiles that give your site visitors an immediate feel for your personal brand. I think of these profiles as a “Brand at a Glance.” There are three things to consider when crafting a bio for your social media profiles.

Make your characters count. One personal branding best practice is to take advantage of all the space provided for your social media bio on each site:

  • LinkedIn has a 120-character limit for the professional headline and a 2,000-character limit for the summary.
  • Twitter and Pinterest each enforce a 160-character limit for a bio.
  • Instagram has a 150-character limit.
  • Facebook’s “About You” section allows for multiple paragraphs of information.

Once you know the prescribed limits you’re dealing with, you can use one of the many free services on the web, such as Charcounter, to enter your text and check your counts.

Use all the branding real estate provided. Using the space provided to its greatest branding advantage is a factor you need to take advantage of. On LinkedIn, for example, the professional headline space (located just under your name) is prime personal-branding real estate. Too often people write only their job title and miss the opportunity to create a mini-narrative of their personal brand.

Since space restrictions don’t give you enough room for full sentences, aim for the big ideas of who you are, major brand points and keywords. Keep in mind that each social media site offers a slightly different way to take advantage of the profile space, so adapt as necessary, but maintain a consistent message across all your social media platforms.

Here are a few LinkedIn headline examples:

  • Kevin Layton’s headline simply read: “CEO at Data-Dynamix Inc.” To better brand him and take advantage of the maximum space available, it was changed to: “CEO at Data-Dynamix Inc., Digital Marketing Strategist, Driving Revenue, Maximizing Business Value, Inc. 5000 Winner.”
  • Virginia Saputo’s previous headline was a two-word description saying “Cheese Queen.” Instead a mini-bio was crafted to read “Cheese Sommelier, ‘What Cheese’ Website, Expert World Cheeses, Inspirational Cheese & Wine Pairings, Author.”
  • Kate Yeager’s headline featured a nondescript “Writer and Host.” Post headline revision, it now reads: “Writer, Host & MC in the Tech, Travel, Food, & Entertainment Space, Lifestyle Tech, Gaming, Apps & Celebrity Interviews.”

These changes, while small, elevated these personal brands. In a world where 74 percent of all internet users use social media, you can count on your profiles being checked out on a regular basis. Be ready to show your personal brand best when they are.

4. Content Creation. Your branded bio, social media profiles and brand sound bites may form the foundation for the intellectual expression of your personal brand, but the graduate-school level of cerebral connection is the content you create.

Content is the personal brand capital that keeps giving long after you’ve put it out into the world. Four of the best content-creation tactics for the intellectual expression of a personal brand are:

  • Blogging
  • Podcasting
  • Videocasting
  • Writing a book
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