09/25/2015 05:12 EDT | Updated 09/25/2016 05:12 EDT

The Best Personal Brand Is an Authentic One

A tree of Social media networks at each branch
Fakhri-sa via Getty Images
A tree of Social media networks at each branch

Branding is such a powerful tool. Every year across North America, companies spend billions of dollars in advertising to ensure their products are seen by the masses. The reality is, you don't need to spend a ton of money to put yourself out there. In fact, each and every one of us is already the head of a major brand -- our own.

So, what story are you telling? What legacy will you leave behind when you're gone? I want to share with you some tips to ensure the story being told about you on the web is not only consistent, but authentic. I'm not about shaping the "perfect" reality, because it doesn't exist.

Think First, Post Later

Whether you like to admit it or not, if you've signed up for a social media account, you've already begun the first step to building your brand. Every single tweet, post, share and photo says something about us and just like having a strong public image can make or break a company, it can also do the same to us personally. I'm sure we've all heard horror stories about people who have either lost their jobs or perhaps weren't hired at all as a result of something that has been posted on the internet. Just be mindful of what you post. If you don't want it included in the story of YOU, don't share it with the world.

Get Creative in Your Approach

Giving back to the community has always been a big part of my life (both personally and professionally). When I first started my business, I wanted to make sure that that message was heard loud and clear and that people would associate my personal and professional brand as one in the same. I had prepared a 58-page business plan including all the marketing strategies I could think of to get myself out there. I quickly discovered that unlike a business that is selling a physical product, as a professional speaker, I had to sell myself -- and in a market diluted with individuals who all have very similar stories and approaches, I'd have to do something different to set myself apart. It's one thing to say you give back, but as they say, "actions speak louder than words."

Through the volunteer work I had done with Easter Seals, I had learned about a fundraising event called the "The Drop Zone." The Drop Zone challenges participants by having them rappel 20-storeys off the side of an office building in support of Easter Seals Camps for persons with disabilities.

This is a cause that I hold very close to my heart. I was born with cerebral palsy and went to these camps as a kid, which helped to shape who I am today. So, it was settled, I would do the Drop Zone and raise money for camp, but I needed something unique to set me apart from the other participants.

I would do the rappel in my wheelchair.

When I first approached my girlfriend (now wife) with the idea, she thought I was crazy. I explained to her that not only would I be raising money for a good cause, but also be able to market myself and literally overcome an obstacle which would be good for business and a great way to share my story.

With my plan laid out, I was ready to go, but now I just needed to promote it. I approached a couple friends of mine who happened to host a daytime talk show in my city and asked them to join my team. They both thought it was a great idea and before I knew it, there were five of us on our team. Not only was I able to promote my business on TV at no cost, but we ended up raising over $5,000. I've since gone back and done the event a couple more times, and I'm positive that now when people come across my name, there's an immediate connection with giving back. Mission accomplished!

Digital Footprint (Even After You're Gone)

I realize that rappelling off of buildings isn't going to be for everyone, and that's okay! This is the story of YOU, so that's going to be different for everyone. It makes you wonder though, after you've done all these wonderful things and made sure the story being told is accurate, what happens when you're gone? Believe it or not, you can control that, too.

Facebook has a feature that can assign someone to be the manager of your profile after you've passed away -- eerie, I know. It turns your profile into what they call a "memorialized account." This legacy contact as they call it will be able to act on your behalf and continue to tell your story long after you're gone. Of course, you can always opt to have your account permanently deleted as well. What about Twitter? There's a service called LIVESON that can continue to send tweets on your behalf as well (this one's a little too creepy for me).

Curate with Confidence

Regardless of if you choose to do any or all of the things, remember that you're the one that is in control. No one spends as much time with you as you do, so no matter what your approach is, once you post it, it's out there in the world -- both good and bad. Google your name, see what comes up, if you don't like what you see, change it; there's still time. Be proud of who you are and who you'll become. The internet is a powerful thing, we advertise ourselves on a daily basis and it doesn't take billions of dollars to find that out.


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