Personal brand

Is your personal brand distinctive?

If a friend or business associate were to describe you to a complete stranger, what would they say? Does considering that make you feel a little paranoid?

Many of us professional marketing folks spend a good deal of time working on our commercial brands. But branding isn’t just for business any more. Even if you’re not looking for a new gig, defining your personal brand is seen by many experts as a new “must do” for success in your personal and professional lives. With a solid personal brand, you can be sure how you’ll be characterized, even when you’re not there. But how do you build a strong personal brand?

When you think about it, a personal brand can be a confusing concept. After all, between our personal, professional and family relationships, we fulfill different roles at different times, often switching between them from one minute to the next. But we tend to trust people who behave consistently and predictably most of the time. So how can one person have a unified personal brand that works in all facets of their lives?

Strong brands of any kind are made of three essential ingredients: Focus, distinction, and trust. That means focusing on one central “What do I stand for?” idea; being distinctly different from other brands that compete in the same consideration set; and performing in a consistent way that lives up to your promises.

“Managing Brand U: 7 Steps to creating your most successful self,” by Jerry S. Wilson and Ira Blumenthal presents a well-organized and easy-to-follow process for building a solid personal brand. I like it because it follows many of the best practices we espouse at StudioNorth in our brand-building process for commercial clients. In a 2008 blog post, Wilson writes, “We all have the opportunity to determine how others see us. We are in charge of our own brand. The space between how you are viewed by other people and how you want to be viewed by other people is the place where you begin to build your brand.” We refer to this “space between” as a “brand gap.” Identifying brand gaps reveals the opportunities to strengthen your brand with fine tuning and unity.

Following best practices, Wilson encourages his followers to do some personal brand research by asking several of your closest friends for a candid list of 25 words that best describe you. Then do the same for yourself. Compare, and find your “brand gaps.” We suggest you also do the same in your work life and family. This creates a somewhat more complex brand map, but really helps reconcile the many “brands of you.” And it provides direction for strengthening your personal brand—closing those brand gaps with image, language, and actions that are consistent with your desired perceived brand.

What’s your personal brand in 10 words or less? Blog it here today. Then ask your friends and family for a few words on what they think you stand for. Compare and find the gaps. You may be surprised!

For more on this directly from Jerry Wilson, visit