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?