Why does Jim Croce’s “I’ve Got a Name” come to mind whenever I hear the words “personal branding”? Maybe it’s because I’ve always liked that song, and branding shouldn’t be any more complicated than Croce’s advice to be who you are and follow your dreams “down the highway.”
Of course, there are a lot of contradictions in having a name. It’s a legacy passed from one generation to the next, and it’s up to you to keep it going. So Croce is right when he says, “I carry it with me like my daddy did.” A name can sometimes be a weight that holds you back. As Croce puts it, “I’m living the dream that he kept hid.” But thankfully, a name can also be empowering, an identity that we shouldn’t be afraid to celebrate (or “sing it proud,” as Croce says).
I suppose I’m reading way too much into a pop song, but it seems to me that good personal branding always straddles these two poles: On the one hand, we should protect our name and work hard to build our reputation. On the other hand, we all have a desire to reinvent ourselves, break free of the old norms and proclaim our individuality. So a successful personal brand is one part reputation management and one part creative license. Somewhere in between lies a happy medium.
Last week, digital communications expert Jonathan Rick spoke to the Independent Public Relations Alliance about what I would call the reputation side of personal branding. Jonathan gave a great talk, and you can find a summary of his remarks on his website, plus lots of great tips on how to better promote yourself.
Jonathan’s advice is pretty straightforward: Take a look at how you present yourself online. Do you come across as professional…or not-so-professional?
Your email address, for example, says a lot about you and your organization. Jonathan suggests avoiding free email services and buying your own domain so you control the words that make up your address. He also suggests some care go into your email signature block. He’s not a big fan, nor am I, of having a cute quote at the end of your signature. Providing links to your Twitter, LinkedIn profiles, your website and Facebook page, etc., are all part of branding yourself these days, too.
Jonathan also recommends Googling your name to see where you rank. Hopefully, you’re on page one. If not, you need to consider why that isn’t the case and start climbing up the ladder.
I usually appear on page one, but not always. I’ve got lots of competition: Jay Hunter Morris, the tenor who sings in the Metropolitan Opera; Jay Morris, the politician from Louisiana; Jay Morris, the dentist who has an implant center in Kansas City; Jay Morris, the boxer; and my favorite, Jay Morris, the male model. As a matter of fact, there are a slew of Jay Morrises, many more than I realized. And every one of them is on the Internet encroaching on my Google space!
So what do I do? Well, according to Jonathan, I have to work on getting more mentions. Having my own company website helps because that way I can launch fresh content. I also can beef up my LinkedIn profile, ask for recommendations and endorsements, and join Google+.
When I started my firm, I wasn’t sure if I wanted it to be known by my name, so I referred to it as JMC. I created a site title that said, “JMC—Jay Morris Communications LLC.” I’ve now replaced JMC with “Jay Morris Communications LLC—PR and marketing solutions.” I think that small change will actually help brand me better, plus it describes what I do.
I am pleased to report, by the way, that this blog now comes up first on Google if you type in “wayward journey.” I consider this a big deal since there are a number of wayward journeys out there, including another blog with the very same name. But for now, I am “A-#1, top of the list, king of the hill”!
So go out there and Google yourself. Find out if you’re a politician or a boxer. And sing about it! As Jonathan so aptly puts it, “You can be branded or you can brand yourself.” Which is it going to be?