Edited by Victoria Burt

Call it your personal brand, corporate voice, or career identity, what it boils down to is how you are known in your company and industry.

Career reputation can be as critical to your career as expertise, knowledge, and performance, according to David Samuel, business coach and founder of Lean Forward and Go (www.leanforwardandgo.com), a career-advancement company. Your reputation matters in good times and bad. In good times, it attracts career opportunities. “In tough times your reputation helps you survive what I call the life-boat drill,” Samuel says. “Someone’s going to be tossed overboard and you don’t want it to be you.”

However, you can’t actually control your reputation. “Perception and brand are in the eyes of the beholder,” says Samuel. But you can work on it by performing above and beyond customer requests, delivering value, and by creating relationships with people who will talk about you within the company.

Samuel teaches a four-step process in his book, “Personal Branding Power, 65 Proven Strategies for Accelerating Career Advancement.” He calls it PDPC, or plan, develop, promote, and connect. The planning step includes having a clear understanding of customer and company expectations, what you bring to the table, knowing where you want to go, and the steps to get there. The development stage closes any gaps in the plan. “For example, in the planning step you may determine that innovation is a priority for the organization, and employees who deliver innovative projects are in demand,” Samuel says. “If there is something keeping you from being innovative, it may be necessary to take a class to help close that gap.”

The next step is promoting and Samuel starts by asking clients to write down their own personal value propositions. “This is similar to an elevator pitch that states what your value is to the company,” he adds. After you’ve created this statement, it’s necessary to promote it within the organization, on the Web, and on your resume.

“The connecting phase is akin to power networking, or making sure your company is singing your praises,” says Samuel. “You don’t have to blow your own horn if you have the right individuals in the organization who are advocating for you.”

Samuel offers some practical tips for building your career reputation. “First of all, always use ‘business-impact language’ when talking about yourself,” he says. For example, if someone asks what you do for a living, don’t respond with your job title, or a list of responsibilities. Instead, describe what you really do in terms of the impact you make, such as “I reduce product liability, or I improve machine safety.”

Another tip is to take any opportunity to write and speak. This means writing articles and reports that show your leadership and expertise. Also get up in front of people and talk, whether in a workshop, conference breakout session, or chairing a department meeting. Getting your name and face in front of an audience will give a big boost to your reputation.

A third tip from Samuel is to consistently promote your value across different mediums. In other words, think about what message you are sending in your e-mail signature line, your outgoing voicemail message, and in your online profiles such as LinkedIn. Be sure that if you type your name into Google, you come up on the first page and the links go to Web sites that show your expertise and put you in a positive light.

The last tip is to always pick and nurture the right kinds of advocates. Samuel says an advocate is someone who is in your corner when you’re not around. He offers some criteria for choosing an advocate: First, pick someone who knows more about company culture than you do, someone you can learn from. They’ll know the history and power structures. Also, pick someone whose own reputation is good. And third, “choose someone who is committed to your success, because advocacy is most important when you’re not in the room.”