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7 Ways You're Tarnishing Your Personal Brand

branding, marketing
Most customers will get their first impression of your company's brand online, so it's important to continually manage your brand presence, even offline. / Credit: Brand image via Shutterstock

Despite your best intentions, your efforts to build your personal brand could be backfiring. Although the goal of personal branding is for others to have a positive image of you, people often spend too much time trying to build it up and forget about what can tear it down.

From using low-resolution online photos and poorly designed websites to being a constant self-promoter, here are seven ways you can damage your personal brand, sometimes beyond repair:

Unprofessional photos. One of the quickest ways to damage your personal brand is to use amateur photos on your social networks. While your message might be more important, one of the easiest ways to remember people is by how they look. Because people will see your online image often, your photo should portray a sense of professionalism. Using a selfie or a blurry photo doesn't send the right message. Invest in a professional headshot, and use that photo across all of your networks. You want that high-quality photo to be the first thing people imagine when they think of you. Another critical mistake is to not have a photo at all. The Twitter egg and LinkedIn silhouette — the default images that are attached to accounts when the user doesn't include a photo — also send the wrong message. It's suggesting you either don't really care about social networking or that you don't know how to use the tool to your advantage — and neither message will boost your personal brand. [10 Tips to Develop an Authentic Brand]

Lack of quality content. Your words should always match up with the brand you're trying to build, and that includes your words on social media posts, blog entries, books and speaking engagements. It's important to make sure that when others read your words or listen to you speak, they are left with the impression that you're smart, insightful and really know what you're talking about. It is critical to spend time thinking about what you plan to write or say, and how that fits in with your overall messaging. You must then work hard at crafting a blog post or speech that others can easily understand. Your messaging should appeal to as many people as possible. So, if your thoughts are too complicated, boil them down so they can be understood by everyone, not just the people in your industry who know the lingo. You should come off as authoritative, thus allowing you to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Additionally, it is important to do some serious editing before you post anything for others to read. Spelling or grammatical mistakes are easy to spot, and can be a huge turnoff.

Poorly designed websites. One of the first places people will look for you is online. If you don't have a website, or have one that looks cheap, your personal brand could take a serious hit. If your website hasn't been updated in months and offers no relevant information, visitors will think the same things about the person behind the site. Your website needs to be professional and vibrant, and must have regularly updated content that will encourage visitors to keep reading. If you are serious about building your personal brand, it's important to invest in a professional-looking, easy-to-use website with information worth reading.

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Inconsistency. To build up your personal brand, your message must be consistent. If you aren't staying on point with your messaging, your viewpoints and your image, then you and your brand will lose credibility. When you stray from your overall message, your personal brand can become confusing and lose value. Just like with your photo, you want others to immediately know what your personal brand stands for when they think of you. If your message isn't consistent across all channels — including social media, blog posts or just talking with others at a networking event — your personal brand won't seem authentic.

Failure to build offline. While you can build your personal brand tremendously online, neglecting the more traditional channels could cost you. Don't forget to get out from behind the screen to meet and interact with people in person. Go to networking events, volunteer for public-speaking opportunities or simply meet up with others for a quick cup of coffee. Each of these methods offers the opportunity to show people the person behind the online image, and help them realize you're truly authentic. If you never meet people in person, you aren't giving yourself the chance to leave a lasting impression that only a conversation or handshake can do.

Too much self-promotion. While part of building up a personal brand is telling others about who you are and what you stand for, talking about only yourself and your accomplishments won't get you anywhere. You don't want to seem as though you're constantly trying to sell yourself to others. Instead, share industry news and details that show your personality and more subtly demonstrate the knowledge you offer. Comment on trending news stories that are relevant to your industry, via social media or blog posts. Maintaining the right balance is critical. Too much bragging about yourself and your business will make people think you are a narcissist — not exactly a personal brand worth building.

Lack of professionalism. When you are trying to build your personal brand, you are always on display for people to make judgments. That means acting professionally both online and offline. When online, you can do tremendous damage by posting inappropriate photos or offensive messages. While you might think adding a photo of yourself and friends taking tequila shots at a bar will show how fun you are, to others, it could come off as childish and unprofessional. Even if it was only one shot and the only sip of alcohol you had in the last six months, it can still send the wrong message to those following you. When offline at industry events, be careful not to be rude or disrespectful to those you are networking with. Though you certainly won't agree with everyone you meet, it's important to treat everyone with respect. Because you never know who is watching or listening in, it is best to act as professionally as possible in situations in which your personal brand is on display.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.