Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is widely quoted as saying “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” It's an intimidating thought — and as true as it gets. This assertion raises three key questions: What is your personal brand? What is your professional brand? Can the two become one?
Personal Brand: It’s Who You Are
Let’s start with a definition of the personal brand. People often confuse their reputation with their brand. There’s a difference. “Your reputation is made up of the opinions and beliefs people form about you based on your collective actions and behaviors,” notes columnist Harrison Monarth in the Harvard Business Review. “Your personal brand, on the other hand, is much more intentional. It is how you want people to see you. Whereas reputation is about credibility, your personal brand is about visibility and the values that you outwardly represent.”
Many of us already have a personal brand but simply don’t realize it. In this digital world, every post we make, every TikTok we record, and every email we send contributes to the formation and curation of our brand. The key to having a personal brand is taking ownership of it and shaping it to represent the values you want to communicate about yourself to the world.
In developing your personal brand, be intentional whenever you can. Periodically, business associates, peers, or friends may post something about you or tag you — that’s typically out of your control. But when you’re deciding what to say and/or where to post, consider the following:
What are the values I want to communicate about myself to the world?
What are the best platforms for showcasing them?
How can I comfortably convey my brand values to the world?
These questions apply to both the digital world and the physical world. Having an active social media presence is an element of personal branding. So is engaging in traditional means such as networking events, business conferences, thought leadership articles, public speaking engagements, and podcasts — and seizing any other opportunities that come your way.
Professional Brand: What You’re Known For In Your Career
This year, there’s been a lot of discussion about individuals and professional brand. Here’s a good explanation from the career portal of the American Speech Language Hearing Association:
“Professional branding is the process of creating a ‘mark’ around your name or your career. This is achieved by having specific strengths and messages that people remember about you. It is how you express and communicate your skills, personality, and values—in person and online. To be truly memorable and impactful, your brand should represent your authentic self. It is the culmination of what makes you unique.”
If this sounds confusingly similar to the definition of a personal brand, it is. This may prompt the question: Can business professionals meld their personal and professional brands? The answer is: yes, you should, especially if you want to excel. Today, a huge component of being a successful leader comes from being credible and authentic. For managers and executives to lead and inspire, they need to communicate a true representation of themselves to their team members and the world.
How to Blend the Two
Merging your personal and professional brands is not tough. You’ve probably already done it by being yourself in both the digital and physical worlds. When sharing content on social media, it's crucial to bear in mind that privacy settings may not stop someone from capturing your post and dispersing it across the digital sphere. Before you publish, consider: “Am I at ease with the idea of everyone seeing this?” If you hesitate, reassess your motives. If you’re confident, ensure the post aligns with your brand. If there's a disconnect, it might be wise to rethink.
Do’s and Don’ts:
Don’t engage in opportunities that won’t support your brand in the way that you want.
Capitalize on opportunities that leverage your strengths and optimize them.
Showcase your accomplishments but more importantly, celebrate the success of others in your world.
Don’t just highlight big accomplishments — give equal, if not more attention to the little things.
Remember to share your thoughts and write your posts in wording that supports your brand.
Crafting your personal professional brand is a unique journey — there's no cookie-cutter approach here. It's all about your own flair and the professional superpowers you want to spotlight. Take the reins and show the world the “you” that you're proud of. Just keep in mind that every post you share, every word you speak, and every step you take help to shape the story of your brand. So, make it a story that resonates and shines.
As Tom Peters, an American management expert, aptly wrote in Fast Company magazine years ago, a message that remains relevant today: "We must all grasp the importance of branding. We are the CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. Being in business today means our primary role is to serve as the leading marketer for the brand known as 'You'."
Kathryn Lancioni is a communication expert and the founder of Presenting Perfection.
Reflect AI by Alphy is a SaaS platform that flags harmful language, including topic, tone, “isms,” confidence, mindset and appropriateness. Our AI language classifier detects risks in emails prior to send, flags conversational missteps (and successes) in video meetings in real-time, and upskills individual communication with targeted and personalized microlearning.