A Brand Called You

What exactly is a personal brand?

Regardless of age, position, or the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, one of our most important jobs is to be head marketer for the brand called YOU.

Your personal brand is the way your values and talents are deliberately expressed through your profession, skill set, online presence, communications style, and even clothing. Your personal brand represents what you stand for in a way that both defines you and sets you apart.

By branding yourself, you will:
  • Establish yourself as an expert in your field
  • Build a solid reputation within your company or industry
  • Increase your notoriety and improve your perceived value in the marketplace, as 85% of all jobs are filled through networking
  • Operate with more authenticity
  • Increase your confidence

“When your personal brand is a genuine expression of your core values, it focuses your attention on actions you should be taking as well as making clear what you should avoid,” says Stew Friedman at the Wharton School of Business. “The result is better alignment among the different parts of your life, which creates a greater sense of purpose and more coherence and optimism.”

Lady Gaga is her brand. Since the start of her career, she has had the ability to change consistently throughout her career. This made her stand out from other performers. Without sacrificing her core values, she adapts her personal brand over time. On a smaller scale, your brand will also change over the course of your career.

How to Define or Refine Your Brand:

In 15 words or less, write down what is it about YOU and what you do at your company that makes you different.

  • Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your colleagues.
  • What have you done recently to make yourself stand out?
  • What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? Your most noteworthy (as in, worthy of note) personal trait?
  • What is the feature-benefit model that the brand called YOU offers?
          • Do you deliver your work on time, every time?
          • Does your internal or external customer get dependable, reliable service that meets its strategic needs?
          • Do you anticipate and solve problems before they become crises? Does your client save money and headaches just by having you on the team?
          • Do you always complete your projects on time and within budget?
          • What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, distinctive value?
          • What do I do that I am most proud of?
  • Determine your emotional appeal: How do I make people feel? How do people benefit from working with me? What words do others use to describe me?
  • Write your mission statement, to guide you as CEO of Me, Inc. What turns you on? Learning something new? Gaining recognition for your skills as a technical wizard? Shepherding new ideas from concept to market? What’s your personal definition of success? Money? Power? Fame? Or doing what you love? However you answer these questions, search relentlessly for job or project opportunities that fit your mission statement. And review that mission statement every six months to make sure you still believe what you wrote.

How to Test Your Brand

An executive coach can send out an email to peers, leaders, internal customers, and direct reports requesting input on your current brand. It might sound like this: 

My name is _______, and I am Barbara’s executive coach. We need your help on an item in her development plan. Your responses will be kept confidential. She will know what was said but not who said it.

When you think about Barbara what three adjectives would you use to describe her personal brand?

Click on reply and send me your thoughts.

If you have a solid and well-crafted brand the list will be short, and several people will use the same adjectives to describe you. If your brand is a mystery to others, the list will be long and all over the place. For example:

Weak Brand List

  • Inquisitive (2)
  • Passionate Wildly 
  • Bold Consistently 
  • Intense Passionate (4)
  • Creative Emphatic (5)
  • Ambitious
  • Provocative
  • Perceptive
  • Thorough
  • Proactive
  • Solution-oriented
  • Communicative
  • Diligent
  • Impatient
  • Passionate
  • Dedicated 
  • Methodical
  • Expert 


  • Fearless (6)
  • Wildly creative (7)
  • Consistently insightful (5)
  • Passionate (4)
  • Emphatic (5)

Work on your brand plan with your coach and in a year, try the same exercise. You will see dramatically different results, which will let you know if your branding is working. Fine tune your branding strategy, plan again, and repeat until you have the short brand list that best represents you.

When it comes to branding, there are no rules except:

Never be hypocritical. Avoid doing things that go against your brand or what you advocate. If you experience a failure in your area of expertise, address it openly and head-on with those in the know. When it is resolved, reflect on it and use the experience and the learning to further strengthen your expertise. Do not publicize it in an effort to show remorse or to explain to everyone your logic seeking their approval and reassurance. Failing in new areas is okay, because you’re not trying to be an expert in those. If your failures become public due to circumstances outside of your control, confront the issue and explain it, don’t avoid it, or you’ll seem deceitful. You’d rather people learn about your failure from you than someone with no sympathy.

Key to Success

The key to any personal branding campaign is word-of-mouth marketing. Your network of friends, colleagues, clients, and customers is the most important marketing vehicle you’ve got; what they say about you and your contributions is what the market will ultimately gauge as the value of your brand. So the big trick to building your brand is to find ways to consciously nurture your network of colleagues.

It is simple: you are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called YOU. Start today, or the people with strong brands will run circles around you and your career.

Tom Peters (The Brand You 50 : Or : Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an ‘Employee’ into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and Passion!) said about one of the keys to a successful long-term career is “to become a free agent in an economy of free agents, looking to have the best season you can imagine in your field, looking to do your best work and chalk up a remarkable track record, and looking to establish your own micro equivalent of the Nike swoosh. Because if you do, you’ll not only reach out toward every opportunity within arm’s length, you’ll make a noteworthy contribution to your team’s success and put yourself in a great bargaining position for next season’s free-agency market.”