Frontline Intelligence: Instep - personal branding

by 25 Oct 2011

Stand out
A key strategy for HR practitioners in the top echelons of the profession is to develop and maintain their personal brands. They have realised that this is a significant contributor to career advancement through either promotion or in new organisations. In this month's Instep, we discuss personal branding and share tips on how HR professionals can develop, enhance and maintain their brand.

What is a personal brand?

There are many definitions for personal branding and they are quite subjective. One of these definitions in HR is that a personal brand is what an individual is known for by way of reputation and standing in their market. It's also how they proactively differentiate themselves from other practitioners.

Many less experienced HR professionals often wonder how to create a personal brand in their marketplace. The interesting thing is that one already exists! If not in the wider and broader external HR market, it exists within the organisations where individual HR practitioners have worked or within the Universities where they studied. It may be as simple as name recognition or as impressive as intimate knowledge of their career achievements and admiration from afar.

In essence, HR professionals should take the time to think about what sets them apart from their peers and competitors in the market and how they can strengthen their personal brand and therefore their competitive advantage.

It begins with the CV

If moving into the job market, the first step is obviously the CV which in itself can enhance a practitioner's personal brand. Ensuring the CV is impactful is important given that it may be the first piece of branding material a prospective employer reviews. Taking great care to ensure that role responsibilities and achievements are highlighted is absolutely correct, however these mean little if the reader knows nothing about the organisations where the individual has worked. HR professionals should include a descriptor of the organisation that includes employee numbers and operating profit.

Ensuring responsibilities on a CV are a close match to the role that is being applied to and that achievements demonstrate business impacts from a commercial viewpoint will go a long way to enhancing a brand.

Interactions are the opportunities

At a recent function held in Melbourne by The Next Step, personal branding was discussed. Both Janelle Leonard, GM of HR at Amcor and Jason Collins, HR Manager at Telstra Retail highlighted to the early career audience that every interaction with any individual is an opportunity to strengthen a personal brand. This sounds obvious, however for HR Professionals, actively conversing with those well connected visiting auditors or consultants may go a long way to ensuring that they leave as a 'brand advocate' . Much can also be said about keeping up with former colleagues and managers, after all, who knows where their careers will take them.

Use social networking

Now that social media is all pervasive and connects people like never before, how are HR Professionals using it to promote their personal brands? What would people find if they googled or reviewed Facebook, Twitter or Linked In? Would it assist the HR professional get noticed for the right reasons?

It's no surprise that social media is utilised to source talent. However, many HR professionals are not using it well personally. Reinforcing personal brands on social media with information that is current and authentic is a really smart idea. HR professionals should ask themselves, if a talent sourcing professional were viewing their profile, does their experience look compelling? Does it depict an individual who is contemporary and active in their market? Do they have connections that are business oriented and not just HR oriented? Are these connections just in their own backyard or further afield? Do the groups they belong to infer that they are continuing to learn and network with others?

Talent sourcing specialists will make some conclusions on these types of questions before even meeting an individual by looking at their connections and activity.

Impressions do count

First impressions do count, so one can never under-estimate the power that appearance and verbal communication holds with respect to a personal brand. For example, accepting a public speaking engagement for those that aren't strong in this area is a great development opportunity but ensuring that skills are brushed up upon prior to an event is highly advisable. It is also highly tempting to attend (or conduct) an interview on casual Friday in relaxed dress, yet this may not be brand enhancing. Let us not forget telephone etiquette. Never assume the PA or receptionist's voice doesn't count.

The final word

It is difficult to cover personal branding in just one article. However, some of the simple and basic first steps covered can ensure that every interaction is an opportunity to enhance a personal brand.

About the author

Helen O'Keefe is a Consultant in our permanent recruitment team in The Next Step's Melbourne office. For additional information call (03) 9664 0900 or email