Book Excerpt: Projecting Your Personal Brand

Below is an excerpt from my forthcoming book My Start-Up Life (comes out May 18). This is a "Brainstorm" about creating and projecting a personal brand. Pre-order the book on Amazon today!

Like companies, you are projecting a brand right now. Each of us is CEO of Me, Inc. The question is whether you are going to cultivate your brand to be as truthful and powerful as it can be.
Your personal brand consists of the following:

•    Your name. “Casnocha” is a distinctive last name. “Ramit” is a distinctive first name (whereas “Ben” is not). If your name is “John Smith,” think about a nickname that will stand out.

•    Your physical appearance. We usually remember one physical attribute about somebody. For me, it’s usually my height. For you, it may be your booming voice, your hairstyle, the piercing color of your eyes, or your choice of clothes.

•    Your work. This is the answer to, “What do you do?”

•    Your affiliations. This includes schools you went to, organizations you’re involved in, charities you support.

•    Your network. Friends and acquaintances.

•    Your online identity. What will someone find when they Google your name? You should own the first result—it should be a personal website or blog that you run. You should also own an email address that is your name (for example, [email protected])

Why is it important to think about your personal brand? First, don’t you want to be known for who you are—in all its wonderful diversity—rather than what you do from nine to five? Too often we subsume our own personal identity to that of our employer. Second, wouldn’t you rather someone walk away from meeting you with an impression that you have defined and that is helpful to you? When I meet someone, I don’t want them to remember the name of my high school, I want them to remember that I sell e-government products to cities and also write a blog.

Your personal brand must—must!—be distinctive. A few months ago I was at a business breakfast with about thirty-five high-powered entrepreneurs and angel investors. We started off the meeting by going around the room with brief introductions. To spice it up, the leader of the breakfast said we had to say our name and our passions. I couldn’t believe how many people said their passions were wine and their family! What a missed opportunity. There’s nothing wrong if wine and family are your two passions, but if everyone else is saying that, then say something different. Suddenly, a balding gentleman took the microphone and said, “Hi, I’m David Zack, I’m a compulsive entrepreneur, investor. I’m just your average guy with an accidental passion for the ambitious. I want to create things with impact.” Whoa. I want to talk to him! Introductions at meetings are a great time to project your personal brand. This is not about making stuff up or trying to manipulate or show off; it’s simply about articulating who you are in a crisp, compelling, and memorable way.

I once spent two hours strategizing with my friend Tim over my one-minute introduction at a big meeting. We analyzed what I wanted to communicate, the dynamics of the room, the needs of the other people, and so forth. Tim and I knew this one minute would be the first time many of the people “interacted with my brand”—and that first impressions last forever.

OK, so you want to invest in your personal brand. How do you increase its “equity in the market?” You are projecting your brand every day. It never ends. The people you meet (or don’t), the articles you write (or don’t), the blog you maintain (or don’t), the conferences you attend (or don’t), the book you write (or don’t), the books you read and review (or don’t), the stand you take on a controversial issue (or don’t). Put yourself out there. Spread your ideas. Act. Ask an odd question. Get involved in your community and in discussion groups. Be a physical presence. Own your online identity. Love who you are and project it into the world by touching those around you.

Spend a small amount of time to reflect on what you stand for, how it’s perceived in the market, and how it should be perceived, and then get out there and deploy it! Make it visible!

11 Responses to Book Excerpt: Projecting Your Personal Brand

  1. Pingback: Great Presentations Mean Business

  2. Martha says:

    I think that “branding” has become one of the most overused words of the 21st century. Furthermore, I’m not a product, and feel no need to “brand” myself.

  3. Tim Taylor says:

    If you’re going to say something about yourself it helps if it’s understandable. Considering the receiver’s frame of reference is key.

    As for not being a product, I understand and agree with your point.

    For me, a brand is, quite simply, a promise kept. So, when you introduce and tell someone about yourself, what promise do you make?

    It’s eaasy when you don’t try much because you end up being genuine and that’s a lasting, great first impression to make.

    Thanks for posting more of the book Ben, I’m excited for you.

  4. Tim Taylor says:

    If you’re going to say something about yourself it helps if it’s understandable. Considering the receiver’s frame of reference is key.

    As for not being a product, I understand and agree with your point Martha.

    For me, a brand is, quite simply, a promise kept. So, when you introduce and tell someone about yourself, what promise do you make?

    It’s eaasy when you don’t try much because you end up being genuine and that’s a lasting, great first impression to make.

    Thanks for posting more of the book Ben, I’m excited for you.

  5. Looking at the comments above, I’d be interested to see a post about people — I’m sure there have been more than a few — who’ve criticized you for taking what appears to be such a “business-centric” view of the world, especially at such an early age. I’m fairly business-centric myself, so I can sympathize with the flak you must get, but how do you respond to it?

  6. krishna says:

    Hey, hey, hey…wait a sec…does it all need a conscious effort…Going by what you say (the people, the blogs, the conferences etc.), it’s pretty much what we keep doing all our lives – and hardly we stop to think about `brand building’ while engaging in that, or should we ?

    I’ve noticed some bloggers engaging in a verbal diarrhea (assuming that readers will interpret it as erudition) that sometimes made me think whether they’ve made the post precisely for self promotion – ungettable otherwise. Result, I shun those blogs forever since I get their number with just one read and swear to myself that I’ll never go back. But there are some people that make sensible, well articulated posts that made me wonder about their personalities and I’ve crafted an image of theirs probably much larger than what they actually might be. Some of them are my good friends now. Is that not the way to go ?

    Exuding a streak of one’s personality is best left for inference because any conscious attempts to diffuse it on purpose it would plug it out of the realm of originality and I think that’s terrible.

  7. Anonymous says:

    manipulation is often unregonized, often negatized, and always ethical.

  8. What if someone at that meeting who spoke after one of the self-described wine lovers had said something like, “I, too, love my family, put them first and a fine Cab second – relishing the knowledge that fun times with both often give me great insights about how to build a better (fill in product here) swingset for our playground-making company.”

    The specific detail proves the general conclusion. It is more credible and memorable, yet many smart, well-intentioned people who know their business inside out, begin with the similar-sounding generalizations… including me too many times. Admire you for taking time with Tim to spend two hours on a pithy statement you can share and embody at the meeting.

  9. What if someone at that meeting who spoke after one of the self-described wine lovers had said something like, “I, too, love my family, put them first and a fine Cab second – relishing the knowledge that fun times with both often give me great insights about how to build a better (fill in product here) swingset for our playground-making company.”

    The specific detail proves the general conclusion. It is more credible and memorable, yet many smart, well-intentioned people who know their business inside out, begin with the similar-sounding generalizations… including me too many times. Admire you for taking time with Tim to spend two hours on a pithy statement you can share and embody at the meeting.

  10. Pingback: Great Presentations Mean Business

  11. Dan Schawbel says:

    You are already branded, but you can evolve that brand over time by gaining new skills in your field and experiences in life.

    for further information on Personal Branding, I dedicate my blog to the subject.

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