Building your Brand as a Practitioner
When you think “brand,” you probably picture iconic symbols, like Coca-Cola, Starbucks, or FedEx, right? Do you think of your own name and reputation as a brand? If you don’t, you’re behind the curve and losing ground fast. Today’s market is all about credibility, and to build credibility, individuals and small businesses must establish and build a personal brand. It takes diligence to establish a reputation, but the potential payoff is big. Really big. Career-making big. And thanks to the Web, all you have to do is share your experiences and knowledge.
You probably already have, but maybe you aren’t thinking in those terms. You have social accounts, right? Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr…if you don’t…well, you must. Just pick a couple to concentrate on, or use an aggregate service like HootSuite to manage all your social media from one place.
Separating your personal and private life
If you have a Facebook page and you use it to talk about your private life, argue politics, or post 8 million pictures of your dog Sparkles in all his cute little handmade costumes, you might not want to use that as your professional account. It’s perfectly okay to invite your real-life friends to your new professional page, but the key is to remember that potential clients, professional peers, and employers are going to see it. If a picture or two of Sparkles sneaks in, that’s ok—in fact it adds warmth and personality—but keep that sort of thing to a minimum. And never, ever post anything you would not want your employer to see; even if you own your own business…your clients are your employers. Your image should be polished, professional, calm, and informative. Use your professional network to make contacts and share knowledge.
Know yourself, know your audience
Knowing your audience is important when establishing your brand. The style and colors you use should reflect both your own style and your audience. To see examples of this, compare PrAACtical AAC to SpeechTechie.com –same industry, very different look and feel. PrAACtical AAC looks like home, family, mom, early schooling. Traditional, warm, homey. Speech Techie is geared to professionals who use technology in their practice. Each represents a niche within the profession. Your task is to decide who you want to speak to – Moms? Kids? Teens? Other SLPs? – and make your tone, colors, and style adhere to that group. Your audience also says something about your personal style. Some people are all warm and fuzzy, some are serious and intellectual, some are interested in advocacy or science, and for some it’s about making learning fun. It will be a lot easier to sustain momentum and think of new things to write about if you stay true to your style and personality.
Word of Mouth
Some people may consider other SLPs as competition, but times are changing, and that’s a terrible attitude to have. Once you start thinking of others in your profession as your support network and stop viewing them as competition, they can become valuable colleagues. When you’re just getting started, reach out to other professionals and make connections. Be friendly and engaging, ask interesting questions, and they will be happy to connect with you. One of the most powerful things you can do is comment on other SLPs’ blogs and profiles. Intelligent discussion expands knowledge and puts your name in front of other people’s contacts.
A well-established brand is a selling point…a foot in the door. The time and energy you put into building your personal SLP brand could provide the extra oomph to rocket your career to real success by landing a big contract or research grant. Think of it as an investment in your future. You don’t have to start big. A Facebook page is a good starting place. But you should start.