Successful Personal Branding

Last Saturday, I was on my way from midtown Manhattan to Newark Airport when a Porsche Cayenne passed me.  It had a vanity plate that said, “DR DBK.”  I’m not a vanity plate guy, the regular old plates I got from the State of Colorado are fine with me.  On the other hand, I do like to figure out the message on vanity plates.  This one seemed pretty simple.  The woman driving the Porsche was a doctor and her initials were DBK.  I could be wrong, but I’d be willing to bet on this one.

As a career success coach, I advise my clients to create and nurture their unique personal brand.  Vanity plates are one way — not a particularly good one in my opinion — to brand yourself.  I have a friend who has two cars with vanity plates.  One says “FST BRK,” and the other, “SLM DNK.”  He has branded himself as a basketball fan by his “fast break” and “slam dunk” plates.  The New York Knicks logo on the plate further defines his brand.

Let’s get back to Dr. DBK and her brand.  She is obviously proud of the fact that she’s a doctor.  She should be.  It takes lots of time and effort to become a doctor – whether she is an MD or PhD.  I know, I spent a lot of years in grad school – and a lot of money – to earn my Dr. credential.  Interestingly enough, I seldom use it.

Personal branding is not difficult conceptually.  I tell my career success clients that it involves two things:

  1. Figure out how you want people to think of you.
  2. Consistently and constantly act in a manner that will get them to think of you that way.

Easier said than done, however.

When I was creating my brand, I came up with the term “common sense” easily enough.  Several of my friends and career success coaching clients told me that those two words most often come to mind when they think of me.  I was comfortable with the common sense moniker.  I want to be known for my common sense, my ability to simplify complex problems and arrive at simple, easy to implement solutions. 

But then I ran into a bit of a problem.  What is the word that should follow common sense?  Because of my academic credentials, “doctor” and “doc” were the first words that popped into my mind.  I rejected them for two reasons.  First, people might think that I was a medical doctor offering common sense advice.  Second, “doctor” or “doc” just didn’t seem to fit with “common sense.”  The three words just didn’t go together in my mind. 

I considered other alternatives.  One was “guru.”  That was even worse.  “Common Sense Guru” sounded too pretentious and new age to me.  I could see people creating mental images of me sitting around in my pyramid with crystals all over the place.  “Common Sense Coach” fit OK for the career success coach part of my business, but was too limiting.  Besides being a career success coach I am a speaker, author and blogger. 

One day I was having a conversation about this with one of friends and mentors.  I was complaining that I couldn’t seem to get the correct word to go with the common sense part of my brand.  I said something like, “I don’t like Doctor or doc.  I don’t like guru.  I don’t like coach.”  They all have problems, but mostly, they’re not me.  I’m just a guy.” 

She said, “What’s wrong with Common Sense Guy?”  My first reaction was negative – too pedestrian, too common, not enough pizzazz.  However, the more I thought about it, the better it sounded.  I think of myself as a guy – someone easy to talk to, easy going and unpretentious.  And so I became the Common Sense Guy.  I get a lot of positive comments on this brand.

Dr. DBK doesn’t have the hang up with branding herself as a doctor as I do – and that’s good for her.  Your personal brand should be something that resonates for you.  It should attract other people – but not everybody.  I’m sure some people are put off by the informality of my Common Sense Guy brand.  That’s OK.  They probably wouldn’t like how I approach my work anyway.  On the other hand, while some people may be put off by Dr. DBK’s brand, others – especially those into credentials — will like it. 

Your brand should be comfortable for you, and it should resonate with others.  My Common Sense Guy brand does that for me.  I hope that Dr. DBK’s brand does the same for her.

The common sense point here is simple.  If you want to become a career success, you need to create positive personal impact.  Creating and nurturing your unique personal brand is an important key to creating positive personal impact.  Your brand should be uniquely you.  It should communicate who you are in a few words.  It should be how you want other people to think of you.  Once you choose your brand, you need to consistently and constantly reinforce it.  You need to act in a manner that gets people to think of you as you want them to.  Take it from the Common Sense Guy and a seasoned career success coach, a strong personal brand will help you stand out from the pack and get noticed.

That’s my take on building a strong personal brand.  What’s yours?  Please take a few minutes to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  If you have created your personal brand, please tell us how you chose it and what you do to reinforce it every day.  As always, thanks for reading.


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  1. Hi Bud:

    Very informative and insightful article indeed. Personal Branding is undoubtedly gaining buzz in today’s web 2.0 world, however a lot of people associate it with subject matter experts and celebrities in their own niche. I personally feel that personal branding has much to offer to professionals and jobseekers, as it can help them stand out in the crowded job market.

    But the bigger question is, how do we bring personal branding to masses? Will it still be considered a personal brand? Its all about finding your niche and using the optimal tool to project it in an effective manner.

    We art are doing our bit in providing jobseekers and professionals those nifty tools to create a web 2.0, online personal brand. Would really like to know your inputs on it. What do you think about it and how can it be further improved.


  2. Nasr:
    Please send me a link to your site and I’ll let you know what I think.

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