3 Keys to Building a Professional Brand During the WFH Era and Beyond | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

3 Keys to Building a Professional Brand During the WFH Era and Beyond

May 4, 2021

By Alyssa Merwin

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People of all stripes are reimagining how to build their professional brand, as tens of millions of Americans have been working from home and typically not traveling to get business done. And as we discover (or affirm long-standing beliefs) that work can be performed virtually, the hallmarks of in-person networking — name tags, business cards, handshakes, coffees and/or martinis — have been parked on the edge of the road for the time being.

Whether addressing coworkers, strategic partners, or customers, your reputation has gone virtual. People have recently noticed more about your live video background, your ability to manipulate a mute button and your comments on social media than they have appreciated your creativity during a product brainstorm or your savviness in a sales pitch.

While building a professional brand during this work from home (WFH) era has been difficult for everyone, the good news is the challenges can be overcome. After working for nearly two decades in the technology sector, I’ve learned foundational principles transcend medium or setting. Regardless of whether you’re looking to drum up business, advance within a company, build credibility in an industry, or land a new job, my advice is the same — be authentic, add value, and stay focused on your audience.

Here are three keys to bolstering your professional brand in the WFH era and long thereafter.


Start with Character

Developing your professional brand begins with character, which is portable to in-person or virtual environments. Offline or online, people with a superb brand offer smart and timely solutions to tricky problems, are gracious with what they’ve learned, and act appropriately in different kinds of situations.

Another way of thinking about the relationship between character and your professional brand is that it starts in your company, but inevitably flows out into the world. The character that once shined through conference room glass, for example, is now reflected digitally. Character is a cross-platform currency. And all of that impacts the titles you ascend to, the salary you make, the speaking events you’re offered, and the business opportunities that you develop.


Aim for a Personal Touch

Eye contact still matters during pandemic-era meetings — it’s just accomplished differently. So, when speaking during video calls, try looking directly into your camera (not at the crowd of squares) to make the interaction more eye-to-eye personable and similar to offline exchanges. The participants on the other side will be sure to notice.

One should follow up important meetings of any kind with a personal touch. If you are communicating with multiple people who are looking for a business partner or hiring for a job, don’t send everyone a blanket follow-up. Every person had their own objective, so show that you heard them by sending a personalized Thank You note to each individual.

Also consider varying the medium, depending on the person. While an email follow-up might be appropriate in most cases, text messages, handwritten Thank You notes, and even voice notes can be a great way to connect more personally and stand out from the crowd.

Perhaps most importantly, show them you are a listener and a critical thinker. This aspect of “asynchronous” business dealings is more important now than it’s ever been. In other words, if you make it a goal to reduce — not contribute to — the larger world’s messaging noise by being authentically one-to-one with folks, your professional brand will be rewarded.


Strike the Right Balance

Finding the right equilibrium between adding value and getting business done can be tricky for some folks, but it doesn’t need to be. Just be authentic. Don’t force engagement or lean into gimmicks/a schtick for your brand — be yourself.

No matter what the situation, you should remember that active listening is more important than your desire to say something — ask questions and respond to what other people share. And when you do share, be useful by including examples of great work, tips on productivity, valuable work lessons and life experiences.

Data-driven charts and other content, whether it is your own or passing along from another source, can help substantiate a point or assertion. It is a great tool when used well, but it’s not always required. Sometimes a well-informed opinion or hypothesis can be just as effective.

In closing, while this pandemic has dramatically altered how we interact with one another, it hasn’t changed the fundamentals of building a professional brand. Whether it’s your colleagues, customers, or peers, be authentic, add value and stay focused on your audience. If you do, you will achieve purpose and develop the relationships your career and company need.

Alyssa Merwin is VP of sales solutions at LinkedIn.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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