Personal Brand: “How do you want to be known?”


Ginny Clarke

Remember how in high school and college you were labeled? Maybe you were a “Jock,” “Nerd”, “Prep,” “Goth” or “Hipster.” Without even realizing it, you had a brand. Now that you’ve entered the work world, you also have a brand. But personal brand-building at work has far more elements and carries far greater implications than who you asked out in high school.

In public relations, you help strategize, position, and create story angles and pitches for your clients. It comes with the territory. So one would assume you have your own personal brand nailed, right? Don’t assume.

Establishing and managing your personal brand at work is imperative. It can build your credibility, differentiate you from the competition, and give you control over your career.  Whether or not you have a brand, the question you need to be asking yourself is, “How do I want to be known?”

Your personal brand is in large part, how others perceive you. I see it as being comprised of four qualities – Competencies, Reputation, Image and Value. Let’s review all four areas.

  1.  Competencies – Your effectiveness, how you solve problems or lead, your ability to influence or synthesize information – are all examples of  competency areas. You might have more competencies than you give yourself credit for. Furthermore, competencies are what can carry you when you don’t have experience. Get clear about the competencies you have, and those you seek to build on for each role or job you are in.
  2. Reputation – You’re in PR so you know word spreads quickly, especially the bad stuff. Reputations arise from hastily formed impressions. Seek feedback from trusted sources across organizational levels to know what your reputation is. If it needs mending, devise a strategy and implement it quietly. Social media can impact your reputation – don’t rant, complain, pontificate or disparage in cyberspace; employers and prospective employers can and probably are watching.
  3.  Image – Your physical image drives the first impression someone has about you. Your clothing, grooming, tone of voice, presentation skills and manners speak volumes. Resist being too casual in any of these areas. Take it up a notch without trying too hard. Pay attention to how more senior people you admire behave in business and social settings, and emulate them.
  4. Value –  Make sure you are contributing in a way that is of value to the cause, the group or the project. If you are the only one who likes your ideas, you aren’t necessarily adding value in that context. Your value is often linked to your strengths, talents and skills, so know them and deploy them thoughtfully. Your compensation is usually related to your perceived value. Strive to be indispensable, and that means you can name your price.

During the early years of your career, build your personal brand with care. Avoid labels, and create a personal brand that is based on the authentic you. Refine the 4 components of your brand – competency, reputation, image and value throughout your work life. Know how you want to be known, and act accordingly.

Ginny Clarke is a former executive recruiter and founder of Talent Optimization Partners, LLC, a talent and career management firm offering live and web-enabled career management programs and services. The second of her year-long series of career management workshops is tomorrow night (April 4 at 7 p.m. CST).   Ginny is offering a special discount for readers of this blog.  Just enter promo code “CULPWRIT” and pay only $29, a savings of $71.  Get more information and register here.


6 comments on this post.
  1. Bruce Harrison:

    In our graduate classes at Georgetown University, “personal brand” is a topic discussed with corporate communicators (such as Roger Bolton of the Arthur W. Page Society, Greg Elliott of Navistar and Ron Culp, the leader of this great website. Ginny’s guidelines are very good and relevant when applied in corporate executive leadership communication. The traits, skills and habits suggested here help gain respect, standing and–as Ginny notes–value in the C-suite, and makes communication part of the competitive success strategies.

  2. Liz Powers:

    This is great advice! I am graduating and starting my first full-time job at the end of this month. I think that a lot of people in my generation use social media as an outlet for stress & frustration, and you really never know who is watching your every move online. I will definitely keep Ginny’s advice here in mind for a long time.

  3. Tatianah G.:

    This is a helpful article for anyone, especially entrepreneurs and journalists who want to set themselves apart from the competition. As a graduate student, I’m learning more so that I can increase my competencies and overall value to my future clients or employers. In my school and job experiences I noticed that image and reputation is important, so I’ll take all of these points to heart as I establish my career.

  4. Matt Boese - Southeast Missouri State University:

    I really like this post. It’s nice to see what actually makes up your brand, and what people look for in others. I think sometimes people may think they need to quickly build a reputation or social media presence, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
    Being a junior in college, “competencies are what can carry you when you don’t have experience,” is reassuring. I sometimes wonder what I will have to offer a future employer after graduation, and this is it. We all have a unique set of skills that we have learned in school, past jobs, and on our own, and the key is to let people know what you can do.

  5. Amia Warren - Southeast Missouri State University:

    This list indicates some of the most important characteristics of a personal brand. I like the order that Ginny Clarke presents them. Listing competencies first makes sense, given the idea that some personal brands are formed based on other perceptions of an individual. So, knowing how to address situations with or with out experience is vital to one’s personal brand.
    One thing that I would like to see included in this list are beliefs. Though some people go against their beliefs when dealing with certain people, the beliefs always remain with them. The are part of what crafted the individual.

  6. Nick Garlik-Southeast Missouri State:

    The list that you provided us with on establishing your own brand is very true. In the field of public relations the way your clients perceive you is very important. I personally think that the most important thing you listed was the first one on Competencies. Being able to solve problems and being a leader in your agency is very imperative when you are trying to earn the respect of your fellow employees and clients. I made a list of what I personally believe people see in my own brand. This I came up with allowed me to make goals so I can make the changes to improve my brand and hopefully it will help me land the job I want.

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