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Personal Branding (II): What’s in a Name

By what name do you present yourself while you shake someone’s hand at an event? How do you sign at the end of your emails? What do you go by on LinkedIn? Let’s see the correct answer.

Welcome to Part 2 of the Personal Branding series we are doing. Now is when things start getting really interesting…

It’s no secret the Internet is the today’s tool that gets you hired, fired, loved, hated and everything in between. But before we show you how to build up your image (online and off), it’s important that you can be reached easily. Unless you’re the boss of Inditex, there probably isn’t a reason for you to play hard-to-get. Especially if you are searching for a job, building connections or simply being known. In those cases, you have to get people to search for you and guarantee you can be found.

Let’s start off with an exercise: open Google  in several new tabs and in each search:

  • your nickname (what you like being called or are known as)
  • the name you go by (what you tend to use in introductions and social media)
  • your full name (what your identification documents say)

I have to clarify that this exercise could vary upon your nationality. For example, Germans usually have 2 names (given name(s)+father’s surname), Bulgarians have 3 (given name (s)+father’s given name+father’s surname), but the Spanish can have quite a few. And that’s before anybody gets hitched – marriage always complicates things! Let’s see an example for the importance of a name.

From Just Another *Insert-Your-First-Name-Here* to a Recognized Personality

Have you heard of Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso? If you didn’t even finish reading that name – it’s Pablo Picasso for short. Yeah, probably you’d know who I was talking about even if I said just “Picasso”. However, that surname is actually quite common in northwest Italy, but if you type it in on any search engine, there’s definitely no confusion as to who you mean. Of course, there are many, many people that have reached this success. I say “Britney” – you say “…” and I know you guessed it. But this level of personal brand recognition is incredibly hard to achieve so let’s be realistic and start from the bottom.

The Guessing Game

I’m sure you know this situation: you meet someone important, you chat a bit, they tell you their LinkedIn/Facebook name, you go home, search for them and 100 people appear with that exact name. Hmm, which one is your person? So annoying! What if you really need to ask them something?

So, let’s go back to the search results. How did yours go? Now, do you want another practical example? You don’t know me so let’s see if, when and how you can reach me. That way I’ll show you how I brand myself. (The results may vary according to your browser cookies, location, and language.)

  1. My first name is Emilia. Google it. No, I’m not Emilia Clark, though who wouldn’t wish to be her. And Emilia Hult is amazing (that’s why she has 51.5k followers) but I’m not her either. You get the idea, I don’t come up in the first in the first 15 pages. Sounds pathetic, but it’s normal.
  2. Everyone around me knows me as Emilia Stefanova. Of the 84 200 results, I checked the first 5 pages and on them, only 3 results are about me (accounts on websites I no longer use so I haven’t rebranded them). My name is quite popular in Russia, Bulgaria and a few more countries so this is tough…
  3. Now search “Emilia Ivaylova Stefanova”. Don’t forget the quotation marks! All correct.  Because even though there are more people with this name, nobody registers with all 3 names, therefore I get to use it for myself.

So for example, when I meet someone at an event, I say my full name which usually generates a confused look and a maybe a laugh because it sounds super complicated. But that makes my presentation memorable and when I send that person an invite on LinkedIn or write them an email, my name reminds them of me. We’ll discuss more tips and tricks about face-to-face personal branding later on in this series.

Full Names, Nicknames, Fun Names

Now I’m not saying it’s not easier to just introduce yourself by your first name, but success also isn’t easy. Therefore, find the gap where you fit in on the Internet. It may be your full name, it might be an extra nickname. Fun fact: At one point, I went by a nickname when I was writing lyrics for well-known musicians so that when I was mentioned in the media, it’d be clear that’s me. But then I got into Marketing and decided to be more professional so that died down. But in general, nicknames can be useful when you stick them into your name – they are memorable!  Say you are an architect named John Smith. Why not go by John “Jo the Architect” Smith? How cool is that?!

Never forget that the Internet is incredibly INTERTWINED. We’ll discuss how to take advantage of that in next week’s article but for now, this concerns your online presence. I guess you’ve already opened another tab with your main social media profile so as to not forget to change your name there. That’s great, but please open a few more and do the same for your Twitter, Blog, Instagram and whatever else you have that reflects your brand. An amazing person like you should be easy to find, easy to reach and easy to love! See you next time!


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