Do you work at a start-up? Do you hope to one day? Or, are you building your own start-up? No matter the situation, it’s important for you to brand yourself as a start-up employee. I have my friend Kaitlin Zhang, personal branding expert, here today to tell us why and how you can build your personal brand.
Have you ever watch a TV program such as Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den where individuals pitch their ideas in front of investor? At some point, the investors nearly always ask about the background and qualifications of the person pitching.
What makes a start-up take off?
When I was working in the tech start-up world, one of the most common questions angel investors and venture capitalist asked was about the background of the CEO and the team.
It does not matter if you have the best business idea in the world.
You still need to convince the investors that your team has the skills and experience to execute your idea. This is how investors feel confident that you will produce a return on their investment. Not getting that investment due to lack of employee profile is a type of reputation damage. Reputation damage is the No. 1 risk concern for business executives around the world. 88 percent say they are explicitly focusing on reputation risk as a key business challenge (Deloitte 2014).
So, to prevent reputation damage, it is essential for start-up founders, CEOs and core team members to ensure their personal brands online are on point. Your reputation is only one Google away.
“Your employee’s personal brands make up the sum of your start-up’s credibility.” – Kaitlin Zhang
Corporate vs. Personal Branding
Previously, as a corporate branding consultant, I had the privilege of working with inspiring brands such as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Innovate UK, Google, O2, NatWest, etc. All these companies had media guidelines on how to use their name, logo, images, text in the right way. These are well-crafted memos that ensured everybody who interacted with their brands get the same experience.
For example, one thing that really stood out to me was that The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation never used the word “and” instead of the symbol “&” in their name. This small detail showed their tireless dedication to protecting their corporate brand and reputation.
If great companies go towards such lengths to build their brand equities, how much more should they care about the day-to-day, minute-to-minute impression that their employees are projecting to the world?
Of all executives, 87 percent rate reputation risk as more important than other strategic risks their companies are facing. Of respondents who experienced a reputation risk event, 41 percent say loss of revenue was the biggest impact (Deloitte 2014). So as employees, if your personal brand can enhance the corporate brand and image, then you are in essence more valuable to your employers.
Companies can take a devastating reputation nose-dive from one single tweet by a careless executive. Investors can dismiss your start-up if your team’s personal brand online is invisible.
On the flip side, if all the employees are on-board with building their online reputation and profile, this can boost the company’s reputation and business. For example, when brand messages are shared by employees on social media, they get 561 percent more reach than the same messages shared by the brand’s social media channels (MSLGroup). Now that’s some impressive reach!
How to build your personal brand
Are you in the start-up world? Here are the 5 simple steps to build your personal brands:
- Have a well-polished 1 paragraph biography ready. You never know when the media might come knocking on your door.
- Complete your LinkedIn profiles, link to your company page and promote the company brand on your social networks. Brand messages are re-shared 24 times more frequently when posted by an employee versus the brand’s social media channels (MSLGroup).
- Make sure you track your name and your company’s name in Google Alerts, which is a free tool that tells you whenever a specified keyword is mentioned online.
- Request your employers to host a personal branding workshop for employees. This is a wise investment and many Fortune 500 companies such as Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, BMW offer this training.
- Get professional photos and videos taken.
What is the next step you’ll take to start working on your personal brands online? Let me know in the comment below or via Twitter @KaitlinZhang.
About Kaitlin Zhang
Kaitlin Zhang is a personal branding consultant, speaker, and blogger. Kaitlin works with clients such as include CEOs, executives, politicians, athletes, and celebrities to establish and manage their online reputation so that they can become highly visible, have more influence and advance their business and career. She works in London, San Francisco, Vancouver, Shanghai and travels often around the world.
Follow Kaitlin’s blog at www.kaitlinzhang.com