“Hey Hamm. Look, I’m Picasso!” declared Mr. Potato Head in Pixar’s 1995 hit Toy Story. Mr. Potato Head fascinated me as a child because he could become whoever he wanted simply by rearranging his facial features or putting on new costumes. While we may not be able to change our physical features quite like Mr. Potato Head, we can shape our image into a personal brand through social media.
Social media platforms are the Toys-R-Us of the internet. Like toys, everyone on the web is on display for personal associations, clients and employers alike. If we as PR students and professionals are to thrive in today’s world, which is based so much online, having a polished personal brand via social media is all-important. We need to put away our “angry eyes” like Mr. Potato Head, shelve our insecurities and complaints, and put on our best faces in order to connect with our publics.
“While each of us wants to be the star of our own narrative on social media, remember that the way you present yourself, whether professional or personal, should help you achieve specific goals,” said President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi Cohen. In other words, what impression are we trying to make on our publics? While a first impression is made within seven seconds of meeting someone in person, a study from Psychological Science says that a first impression based on a photo is made in only 40 milliseconds.
When a potential employer or client views a social media profile, the profile picture is almost always the first thing they notice. The profile picture is the packaging on the Mr. Potato Head box; it should make the viewer want to unwrap it and see what’s inside. With only 40 milliseconds to make a positive initial impression of your personal brand and prompt viewers to read on, your profile picture needs to be perfect.
Tips for perfect profile pictures
“Is there such thing as a perfect, best profile picture? Interestingly, there’s been some rather great research about the different elements of profile pictures that have the biggest impact on an audience. The psychology and science behind a perfect profile picture leaves some great guidelines on how to influence your audience and possibly gain more followers,” said Buffer Blog content crafter Kevan Lee. Those guidelines include:
- Show your teeth when you smile.
- Try formal dress.
- Define your jawline with a shadow.
- Don’t block your eyes with sunglasses, hair, etc.
- Take a head-and-shoulders or head-to-waist shot for best results.
- Try a squinch (slightly squinted eyes that come across as comfortable and confident).
- Shoot the photo with asymmetrical composition.
My advice is to take a lot of pictures. This is your chance to become a Mr., or Mrs., Potato Head by putting on different facial expressions and outfits. After the photoshoot, upload your favorite pictures to PhotoFeeler to see if they complement your personal brand’s image. PhotoFeeler is a free online tool that will give you speedy feedback on your pictures for business, social or dating purposes. Use the photo that gets the best results for your profile picture.
Setting yourself apart
“Branding today is as much about consistently delivering on your promise as it is about differentiation. You have to position yourself in unique ways in order to stand out from others. You have to meet all of the subconscious expectations and go beyond the mundane to truly impress,” said Marketing Director at Passport Inc., Daniel Bliley.
What makes Mr. Potato Head different from dolls, action figures and all other toys that you can play “dress up” with? It’s his personality, his story, brought to life by Pixar Animation Studios in the Toy Story movies. The heart of all branding is storytelling. Your personal brand tells your story. What makes your story different from anyone else’s?
Introspection is sometimes the most difficult thing for people to do, even for PR people. However, if you can find ways to set yourself apart from everyone else and construct a personal brand, you’re well on the way to becoming an expert in brand building.
Co-Editor of PR Daily, Beki Winchel, said it best:
“PR pros should care about personal branding because that’s their currency. You can get media coverage, build successful conferences, gain clients, build consumer trust and more once you have relationships. Those relationships are built off of how you’ve presented yourself—as well as your accomplishments and abilities. I think one of the biggest mistakes that PR pros make is concerning themselves with their clients’ brands, but not ensuring that their own is on the right track.”
As you’re considering who you are and what makes you different, it’s important to remember that transparency and authenticity, the hallmarks of PR, build trust perhaps more than anything else. Focus on the positive when crafting your personal brand, but don’t leave out all the quirks and imperfections that make you human. Part of the reason we love Mr. Potato Head so much is for his trademark temper.
With 60 percent of employers using social media to research potential employees and 41 percent saying they won’t even interview potential candidates without a social media presence, personal branding online is more important now than ever before. Using social media profiles, any PR student or professional can create a compelling personal brand that presents their best face and allows them to better connect with publics.
Calvin Petersen is a senior studying public relations and business at Brigham Young University. He currently works at Men’s Wearhouse as a wardrobe consultant and can be seen driving around Provo, Utah, in his 1974 Volkswagen Beetle painted red, orange and yellow. He loves a project and is determined to not give up until his vision becomes reality. He is interested in branding and is preparing to work in marketing or corporate communications after graduation.