Are You Branding YOU?

December 4, 2015
Joanna Williams

Have you ever thought of yourself as a brand? That was the premise for the CPRS Hamilton Mentorship Program workshop held on November 10, 2015. Mentor and marketing PR professional Hilary Sadler put together an excellent presentation on personal branding. Here’s a summary of her presentation.

Mentees were encouraged to begin thinking of themselves as their ‘own personal brand’ to get a start on promoting themselves in their professional career. The hope is to encourage reflection on professional goals to help set them on a path for future employment.

Mentor Cynthia Janzen posting her top brand choices.

The session began with an interactive brand exercise where everyone wrote the name of a brand on a sticky note for each of the following questions:

  • What is your favourite brand?
  • What is the make of your car?
  • What is your favourite beverage? (coffee or soft drink)
  • Who is your best friend? (first name only)
  • What is your greatest asset?
  • What is your strongest weakness?

This encouraged the group to reflect on specific products and what actually makes a brand. As it turns out, the brands you prefer can reveal information about yourself, including what you like, your own values, and interests.

Why do I need a personal brand?

We know that a brand is the product, logo, and packaging, but it also includes most importantly, reputation. We pick brands that we connect with, that are recommended by peers, and that are reliable. According to Hilary, there are two components to a brand: image and reputation.

Employers and networking contacts are seeking to identify what makes you unique. They will evaluate your resume, cover letter, business card and portfolio, but they will also analyze how you dress and act, and the way you conduct yourself on social media accounts, to get a good impression of the whole package. This is your personal brand.

According to the Personal Branding Wiki, personal branding is defined as:

“The process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence.”

Everyone is their own brand. Social media profiles, previous job and volunteer experience, and the way you conduct day-to-day business tells people about the kind of professional you are. Your reputation is a part of your brand, and it’s important to make sure your brand represents who you really are.

How do I discover my brand?

Your brand makes you unique. It’s a combination of your personality, values, image, and actions.

Think of yourself in terms of what you can offer – what makes you unique over others? This includes your accomplishments, experience, and even attitude. To help see what sets you apart from others, you need to honestly describe yourself. This is done through a personal evaluation where you think about your:

  • Physical appearance
  • Personality
  • Language
  • Work ethics
  • Values
  • Family
  • Circle of friends
  • Image

Understanding your ‘edge’ can help with career development, as you figure out where you want to take your career. Answer the question: What added value do I have?

As you think about all these different elements, you will start to put together your own brand identity. Consider: What would I look like as a product? Personal brands, along with product brands, require a strategic approach that continually evolves.

Make connections and network with industry professionals you respect. Over time, these people have demonstrated their integrity and earned trust, and they may be able to offer some career advice or suggestions. Perhaps joining a professional association will move you in the direction you want to be.

How do I communicate my brand?

The best way to communicate your brand is through your reputation. This takes time and experience, but every interaction counts, including networking, volunteering, and extra-curricular involvement.

Once you define your brand, stick to it, and build your brand as you build your career. Then make time to develop and promote yourself. In PR, we’re often too busy promoting others. We need to take a step back to carefully review, and strategically and authentically, present ourselves. Take a close look at how you are being viewed by peers, and compare that with how you want to be viewed. Is there a gap? If so, you may need to see what’s causing this disconnect. Often, we see ourselves differently than others see us. Everything you do should naturally reflect who you are.

As you would with a new client, perform an audit. Take a critical look at all of the following assets; better yet, have a colleague, mentor or classmate provide some objective recommendations. Remember, packaging counts and details matter.

Career marketing assets include:

  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Professional references
  • 30-second elevator pitch
  • Networking
  • Online networks (including LinkedIn profile)
  • Website
  • Public social media profiles
  • Involvement in a professional organization (such as CPRS Hamilton)

Personal branding: A six-step process

  1. Self-Assessment
  2. Research
  3. Decision Making
  4. Networks & Contacts
  5. Resources (letter/resume/portfolio)
  6. Interviews/landing that ideal job

Where do I start?

Start by setting a career goal. As you perform a self-assessment, and get input from others, uncover your natural talents and what you really love. It may take a lifetime to reach your goal, but as Hilary put it: “Most of us need to work for a living so why not go after the perfect career for you? It’s never too late or too early to uncover your dream.”

The information in this article is based on a presentation put together by Hilary Sadler, Manager, Marketing & PR at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, and CPRS Hamilton Mentor since 2013.

Personal Branding Resources

Compiled by Kim Sopko and Rosita Carobelli-Zukowski, CPRS Hamilton Mentorship 2015-16 Co-chairs