Are You Branding or Being Branded?

By Colleen Eakins, July 02, 2014

“A personal (brand) is more than just a creative name, cute logo, or a complimentary card; it's a promise of value, it's a distinctive voice, it’ s a core message, it's passion driven by purpose, it's a positive impact that creates an impression.” – Bernard Kelvin Clive

What does your personal brand say about you? Are you branding yourself, or are you being branded? Say what? Huh?

Trust me, I can see you knitting your eyebrows together and scratching your head. Well maybe not literally, but I imagine that’s what you’re doing right now. I’m sure you’re thinking or saying to yourself, “I’m just trying to live – find a job or start this business."

When I ask ‘are you branding yourself or being branded,’ what I’m really asking is ‘what does your online persona, or lack thereof, say about you?’ (click to tweet)

From the quote above, what’s the value, distinctive voice, and core message that your personal brand says about you online? I know that I’m asking a lot of questions, but the purpose is to make you think, search for, and examine the answers.

Time for an Exercise

To answer the first opening question, let’s perform a little exercise: open up a new browser window or tab and “Google” yourself. Make sure you come back!

On the first page of results, what did you see? Did you even see yourself? If you did, and you didn’t know anything about yourself, what perception would you create (Tweet this)?

If a bunch of blurry and bad photos from social media profiles popped up in the image results, visually, you don’t look very good. If, from a content perspective, only private or public social media profiles with questionable postings came up, you don’t sound very good either. You do not have any value to offer, a voice, or core message for people to listen to and develop a perception about you.

Why Does It Matter?

If you’re looking for a job or new career opportunity of some sort, you’re missing the mark, because:

“62% of employers use the Internet to discover additional information about a job candidate. About half (48%) use Google or other search engines to research candidates; 44% research the candidate on Facebook; 27% monitor the candidate’s activity on Twitter; and 23% review the candidate’s posts or comments on, or other rating sites.” (source)

Yikes! Things just got real with those stats.

It matters. Even if you’re not currently looking for a job, you can expect similar behaviors from people you are presenting your business idea or pitches to.

How Do You Fix It?


Take a Headshot

Take a better photo, and I don’t mean a selfie (click to tweet).

That is, unless you’ve mastered the art of setting the self-timer and/or using a monopod extender or selfie rod to take the photo yourself. Traditional selfies are too close-up and tend to be too provocative or silly to be taken seriously on a professional level.

It’s okay to show a bit of personality, but fill the frame with a bit of “environment” (that isn’t your bathroom mirror) in addition to your face. A good rule of thumb: make sure that the distance is far enough to be able to take a photo that includes no less than your head and shoulders and fills at least 75% of the photo. Also make sure that whoever is taking the photo has steady hands to reduce camera shake and take a clear picture.

Start Blogging

For those of you with really common names, you can differentiate yourself from the masses by scoring the domain name for your name and blogging. If someone else beat you to the punch, add your middle initial and make sure it’s on your resume, as well. Potential employers will Google the full name you provide on your resume or application.

Don’t know what to blog about? Choose three to four strengths, values, or passions of yours from a career perspective and build article topics around them. Remember, you’re trying to show people what you can bring to the table. Commit to writing at least one blog post per month.

If blogging sounds too intimidating, find blogs that align with those three to four strengths, values, or passions of yours. Read them and leave comments with well-written opinions on the topics they post about. Your comments around the web on other sites, in time, will start to show up in a Google search for your name.

Clean Up Your Profiles

If you’re a big user of social media sites, go through them and remove anything that might be of questionable character to a potential employer. It doesn’t matter if your profile and content is set to private. There’s really no such thing as privacy when it comes to social media.

At the end of the day, it’s online real estate that you don’t own and can’t completely control. At any given time, they can change their terms and conditions, privacy settings/format, etc. and potentially expose what you thought was private.

Do you have social media profiles, but aren’t active or rarely post? Then you need to either close them so you don’t come across as a dud, or go through them to make sure the 3 or 4 random posts you made during the past year don’t give a negative impression.

Even if you rarely post, if everything you posted was frivolous, negative, judgmental or of questionable character, that’s the opinion someone will have of you. It may not really be who you are, but that’s how you’ll come across to a stranger.

Use LinkedIn

If you’re social media shy, at the very least you should open a LinkedIn account and completely fill out your profile. Think of it as your resume on steroids (Tweet this). Add connections from jobs you have worked and volunteer opportunities. Ask them for a recommendation to add to your profile.

Aside from potential employers performing simple Google searches on applicants, recruiters often use LinkedIn (and have premium accounts) to search for and find job candidates. If you’re looking for a job, you want to make sure that you’re a relevant and viable candidate that’s included in their search results.


You’re in charge of your personal brand. Not doing anything and being careless or reckless with your personal social media profiles shapes a perspective that brands you. Taking charge of your personal brand online doesn’t have to be an arduous task; unless you’ve been virtually word-vomiting all over your profiles. (Clean up on aisle 4!)

Doing all, or just a few, of the tips mentioned above will allow you to take control of your brand. Taking control allows you to determine what value, voice, and core message people will perceive you to have.

Colleen Eakins

Colleen Eakins

Colleen Eakins is a freelance graphic designer that approaches design from a marketing perspective. According to her, "anyone can make a pretty picture, but is it effective?" Colleen's designs answer that question with a yes. When she is not busy saving the world from bad kerning, she enjoys going for a run (trot), playing with her dog and staying active. You can see all that she is up to on Twitter (@ceakinsdesign) and Instagram (@ceakinsdesign). More Articles by Colleen Eakins