By Lida Citroen, IBCCES Board Member, LIDA360
Everyone has a personal brand – whether you are a politician, celebrity, physical therapist, or teacher — that forms their reputation, in person and online. Right or wrong, other people’s perception of us determines whether they want to work with us, hire us, partner with us, or interact with us.
In the 20+ years I’ve worked as a personal branding and reputation management specialist, I’ve helped define, design and re-direct the perceptions of my clients in industries across education, technology, healthcare, finance, coaching, and many more. I can say with all certainty that your personal brand is directly related to the opportunities you attract and the credibility you hold in your field.
As an Autism professional, you interact with educators, students, parents, administrators and other colleagues, who form perceptions of you that directly influences whether they see you as valuable and relevant to them.
What is personal branding?
In my book, “Reputation 360: Creating power through personal branding,” I offer this definition:
A brand is not something you can just put on paper, like a logo or a glossy photo; it has to be expressed in your actions. A brand needs to represent a set of values, promises and expectations, and meet those expectations at nearly every step.
Your brand tells others what you value, stand for, believe in and will fight for. As you interact with others, they believe in an expectation of an experience of working with you: What will it feel like to work with you? Do I like you? Will I feel safe with you? This is how perception works.
Personal branding starts with you
If your current reputation isn’t serving you well, or you receive feedback that indicates you aren’t seen as valuable, credible or memorable, you can fix it! Personal branding begins by inventorying your assets: What you are passionate about? What sets you apart? What makes you memorable and unique?
As you define and build your personal brand, ask yourself:
- Do people around me feel I am someone who can be trusted?
- Do my clients feel safe and respected?
- Do my actions match my words?
- What makes me different than others who do the same work as I do?
Who is your audience?
The next step it to understand your target audience since they are the people to whom you are positioning your personal brand. In personal branding we strive to make ourselves relevant and compelling to a specific target audience. Targeting those audiences who will find you relevant cuts down on your marketing efforts and makes your “self-promotion” efforts feel more focused.
Create a powerful reputation
Then, you create a reputation strategy that leverages your uniqueness, positions you for the personal brand you desire, and makes sure you stay relevant to your target audience. Consider how you’d like to be known: Are you passionate about advocating for special needs education in the classroom? Are you driven to ensure that every child with Autism receives the same opportunities as their peers? Are you relentless about highlighting the importance of certification for professionals working in the special needs arena? If so, then you’ll focus on building a reputation that consistently reinforces the values you are passionate about.
The success my clients’ experience comes directly from their ability to tap into their passions, create an authentic message and presence, and clearly relate to the needs of their target audience. While this sounds like a lot of work, it actually makes being you a lot easier in the long run. Strong personal brands are rewarded with recognition, opportunity, and fulfilling a life (and career) purpose that ultimately solidifies a meaningful and lasting legacy.