Although she didn’t know it then, Samantha McCoy’s ‘13 love of storytelling as a child was a foreshadowing of a career to come—and her own personal brand.
“I was always writing a story, a poem or a play in my free time,” says McCoy, who earned a master’s degree from UMGC in 2013. “I didn’t know I was building a muscle.”
It’s a muscle that has served her well throughout her career, first in non-profit communications, later in public relations and ultimately as the owner of her own consultancy, Mission Key Communications.
As she built her company from the ground up, she saw how important personal branding is to a consultant-based business.
“It sounds cliché, but what I learned is that for people to really know who you are, you have to interact with them several times,” she explains. “Only then can you lead them to trust you enough to spend their money with you.”
Personal branding refers to how you want others to perceive you, and every touch point matters, from your email signature to how you present yourself online and in person, because people are paying attention.
In short, personal branding can make or break your business—or career. McCoy, who helps executive leaders build their own brands, offers her top tips to UMGC alumni and students looking to make the right impression to get ahead.
Start with self-reflection
Before you can build your personal brand, you have to figure out what it is—or what you’d like it to be. While it may seem obvious, many people have built a brand on LinkedIn or in their face-to-face interactions without realizing it. That’s not good enough if you’re trying to cultivate a brand that supports your professional goals.
“You want to identify where you want to be and why, and self-reflection will help with that,” stresses McCoy.
Then you can be intentional in everything you put out there to ensure it aligns with how you’d like to present yourself.
Choose your personal branding efforts wisely
A key component of personal branding is to be authentic. That’s challenging to do if you’re uncomfortable. That’s why McCoy suggests you begin by participating in personal branding activities you’re already good at.
“If you hate doing videos, start with writing first,” she suggests. “You want to pick an outlet you enjoy doing, because you’re going to have to do it on a regular basis.”
If you start within your comfort zone, you can expand from there and grow your brand with confidence.
Only compare yourself with your previous self
“Resist the temptation to compare yourself to other people,” McCoy insists.
That can be difficult in a world where production quality has gone way up, and even the simplest of video or photo posts can look like it was done by the pros. This may leave you wondering if you should even bother if you don’t have your own glam squad or production team. McCoy says yes.
“The world needs to hear from you,” she says. “You are the only person who can delivery your expertise in your voice. When you do this, you will attract the people you are designed to serve.”
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