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Who Are You? The Art of Personal Branding

Posted At: September 26, 2012, 2:09 P.M.
by Nicole Hohman

Who are you? Unless you are completely self-assured, this question may seem a tad daunting. Whether trying to “find yourself” in your college years or struggling through a mid-life crisis, you spend your entire life haunted by such a simple question.

Can you be classified by a select few adjectives? What makes you stand out in a crowd?

For PR professionals, the question may be worded slightly different: What defines your personal brand?

It takes extensive self-reflection to identify what makes you distinctive. Now, imagine encompassing all aspects of your personal and professional lives and selling yourself as a brand.

Personal branding, especially online, is a difficult task to conquer. You make choices daily that can affect your personal brand — from whom to friend on Facebook to what particular message you decide to post in under 140 characters.

With so much riding on your personal brand, what if you mess up? What growth opportunities does personal branding hold?

With a cohesive personal brand and confidence in what your brand signifies, there are many prospects for extension — from a magazine or book to possibly a product or company.

Ivey Hamby, PR graduate from UGA and director of Niche Publications at Athens Banner-Herald, believes you must be true to yourself, your audience and your product to have a successful personal brand. Hamby is in the process of starting a new fashion magazine, IV — a unique take on her own name. This bold move has the potential to take her personal brand to the next level.

“The success of IV is a direct reflection of my professional career. I have to be extremely careful and considerate with everything involved in IV,” she said. “I feel like people hold you to higher standards when you brand yourself and have a product or publication associated with your name.”

Hamby is aware, though, that there may be lasting implications if the magazine does not take off as planned.

“Personal branding can make or break some people. One wrong turn and you’re ruined, or one ingenious idea and you’re the go-to person of your industry,” she said. “Personal branding is a perfect combination of calculation and transparency.”

Author Meghan Lemery did not hesitate when publishing her book Please Pass the Barbie Shoes — she knew, without a doubt, who she was and what she wanted her brand to convey.

“My definition of a brand is what forum you use to get your voice out there,” Lemery said. “Please Pass the Barbie Shoes signifies humor, faith, strength, resilience, vulnerability and raw, emotional honesty. This is my voice that I want to share and pass on.”

Her character, Sabrina Davis, strives to express the significance of women empowerment — a topic Lemery is exceptionally passionate about. As a psychotherapist, Lemery feels both the book and future branding can only strengthen her career.

“I think that anytime you are inspired to build something – a brand, family, career, home or even simply a new outfit – whatever vision excites you can only add sparkle to your life,” she said.

Lemery’s use of a book as a platform to communicate her personal brand has led to product spinoff and the prospect of a book series. From Sabrina Davis’ frosted pink lips to her vanilla musk scent, Please Pass the Barbie Shoes has given Lemery the opportunity to brand a make-up line.

“I am in the infant stages of branding, but I can only see growth from here and for Please Pass the Barbie Shoes,” Lemery said.

Although the sheer influence personal branding can have is unknown, PR practitioner Jill Dufour Kanzler was ready for the challenge. Kanzler, founder of Jill Kanzler Public Affairs, was confident enough in her accomplishments to open a PR firm under her name.

“I think personal branding has been a positive move,” Kanzler said. “Public affairs is a business of relationships, advocacy and persuasion. It is all about my personal integrity — who I am, who I know, who I have built relations with and how I can achieve my client’s goals.”

If done correctly, personal branding allows consumers or clients to feel they have access to you and your lifestyle. Kanzler believes that being genuine, transparent and confident are the keys to success when building a personal brand.

“The more people know me, my experience and my connections, the more I can become successful in business in the future,” Kanzler said.

Next time you find yourself questioning your identity, be conscious of how to properly exude confidence, portray your thoughts online, and combine your personal and professional matters. Most importantly, show your authenticity.

Personal branding, though fairly overwhelming, can guide you to an entirely new point in your career. Once you discover who you are and what you are willing to share with the public, you can raise your personal brand to the next level.

Where can a personal brand take you?

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  1. Post comment

    This is a great article! The importance of a brand cannot be stressed enough. A brand must be consistent, concise and most importantly an accurate and positive reflection of whomever it represents. I agree that a brand must be genuine, transparent and confident. A brand should be able to stand alone and still convey the message it represents. It is also crucial that a brand be transparent. The truth will always come out; therefore it must be an accurate representation. The combination of the story about Barbie shoes and the opening question of “who are you” do a good job of reminiscing the times of Barbies and our past, as well as looking toward the future and the importance of being a self dependent woman. Overall, this is a great article with many interesting and true points.

  2. Post comment

    I found this article to be a great read, especially as a first-semester college senior. In a few short months, I will be applying to jobs and trying to figure out “what comes next.” This article shows the importance of keeping all of my social media sites, as well as anything I post online, in good taste and of promoting myself in a positive light. It is so common for employers to look around these sites to try to get a better look at who they want to hire. This article was great for me to read in preparing to enter the workforce this coming May. The success stories shared in this article were great encouragement and examples of how important personal branding is.

  3. Post comment

    This is a great article and extremely relevant to today’s young professionals. As a marketing major with a specialization in professional selling, it is crucial that I know what the brand image of the products I am trying to sell. I have to be a product expert, which always includes being a brand expert. This is translated into my personal brand as well. Unless I know exactly what it is I want to say about myself, I am just another name on a resume. In the Sales Program, we are given many opportunities to meet professionals at corporate events, career fairs and professional development workshops. Every professional recruiter I have had the opportunity to meet has given me this advice: “Be able to tell someone in 5 minutes exactly who you are and what they should know about you.” In other words, what is your brand?

  4. Post comment

    I have thought about personal branding a lot as I get closer to being a PR professional. I actually thought about writing an article along these same lines for Platform next semester. My take on the topic is that sometimes as professionals we have to promote ourselves before we can try to promote a client. We have to build trusting relationships with the media that we will be working with before we can pitch our client to them. This trust can be built up over time and be aided by our personal branding. Once we establish ourselves in the industry, our name is really all we have. It becomes something that other media professionals recognize and it either encourages or discourages them to want to work with us. Great post!


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