Just the other day, I tried connecting with a financial services professional over the phone. Instead of getting a live person or personalized voicemail, I was connected with an automated recording that cut off before I could leave a message. I was beyond frustrated.

I’ve also been looking for an individual who can help me produce an Audible version of my new book, PR Works! I was able to secure the names easily enough of a few people who can do this, but when I Googled these names to get contact information and learn about the qualifications of each candidate, nothing turned up. I found myself frustrated again.

When it comes to personal branding, one of the simplest things you can do is to make it super easy for people to connect with you. It goes without saying that having a reliable voicemail system is a priority. I don’t like automated answering, especially for a personal business, but if you have to use it, make sure it works.

Nowadays, most people use the Internet to get a little background on new people they’ve met or are going to meet socially and in business. I do it. You probably do it, too. As a result, strategically presenting yourself online is no longer limited to online dating.

LinkedIn logoHaving a strong LinkedIn profile is critical, as is having a good biography on your personal and/or company website. Include a few details about your passions and interests outside of work in addition to your professional qualifications. Revealing something interesting or unique about yourself makes it easier for people to remember you.

Generating a steady stream of positive content about yourself online will also boost your brand reputation. Imagine a business prospect Googling your name and turning up an entire page of good news about you. This good news could be in the form of media coverage, white papers you’ve written, press releases about your philanthropic endeavors and client work, or posts from your personal blog and social media platforms. You likely already have the content to generate these kind of results. The important thing is to make sure it is online.

If you have a common name or if there is someone else with the same name as you, proactively adding content about yourself online will also help ensure you are the one people find when they Google you. For example, there is a Nancy Marshall Genzer who works at National Public Radio. If you Google my name, a lot of results will show up for her. I constantly work at adding quality content to my websites, blogs and media sites on the Web so people will be able to find me and learn about me. It’s hard to compete with a nationally-known reporter on the search engine optimization playing field, but I do my best, and it requires ongoing focus and attention.

When I look up a person or a business on the Web and I find little or no information, I start to feel skeptical about that person’s professional reputation. Case in point: recently a realtor recommended an office furniture salesman to me when we moved into our new offices. I looked online and couldn’t find anything at all about this sales rep or his company. It left me wondering if he really existed and what others thought of him and his company. He did not get my business.

The same will happen to you, no matter what industry you are in, if you are not willing to put yourself out there. And, when someone is ready to give you a shot at their business, you have to be there to respond. This means having a customer service-focused phone protocol in place and answering email communications promptly. These are the fundamentals of personal branding.