Gini Dietrich

Four Steps to Create Your Personal Brand

By: Gini Dietrich | June 20, 2012 | 

The discussion around personal branding seems to be one that happens a lot.

It used to be we’d get jobs, we’d grow our careers, maybe we’d work for two or three companies, then we’d retire.

Now we have to worry about our personal brands, just in case we decide to get a new job or start a business or, heck, change careers.

But why do you need to have a personal brand?

Is it to grow a business? Get a book deal? Get paid to speak? Get noticed for that big job you want? Get your first job out of school?

Whatever it is (and it works for all of these things), know what you’re setting out to do before you start.

A Quick Story

A couple of years after I started my business (Chicago-based integrated marketing communication firm, Arment Dietrich), I hired my first second in command.

She came from the corporate side, had a few more years experience than me, and knew how to manage people (I’m a great leader, but a terrible manager). She also is extremely intelligent.

I’ll never forget, after she’d been there for a few months, she said, “Why aren’t we branding this firm?”

My response, at the time, was, “Clients want us to do good work for them. I can’t imagine they’d appreciate our working on building a huge image for us instead of them.”

She just shook her head and said, “Clients pay attention to these things. They want to work with the firms that get a lot of attention.”

It took me a long time (two years, in fact) to understand what she was saying and to take her counsel to heart. It also took a terrible economy and some time on my hands to implement her advice.

What I discovered along the way is she was right. People want to work with people they perceive as successful and at the top of their careers.

Your Personal Brand

Just like we do when we’re researching a company, product, or service, people will Google you before they meet you in person. In fact, they’ll look at how you interact online and off before you’re invited in for a job interview or a new business pitch.

Why leave that reputation to chance?

The very first thing you want to do is create your personal mantra. This will be used in your Twitter profile, your blog bio, your Pinterest description, your LinkedIn bio, your Google+ description…it’ll be used everywhere you need a two or three sentence bio.

In order to figure out your personal mantra, you want to:

  1. Determine your emotional appeal. Do you want build a reputation for being funny and quirky like Erika Napoletano? Do you want to be known for your solid, metrics-driven insight like Jay Baer? Or perhaps you want to provide insights into real-time technology changes, Big Data, and advertising and marketing advances like Mitch Joel? Whatever it is, know why people like you in order to determine your emotional appeal.
  2. Create your description. Think about the industry you’re in or what tangible skills you have in order to create your description. Ask yourself: What field or industry am I in (or want to be in)? What are the words I use to talk about my work (one word descriptive adjectives)? Who is my target audience? Answers to these will help you figure out your description.
  3. Think about your function. Write down exactly what you do (or want to do). It might be something directly related to your career at this very second (graphics, writer, sales, financial planning, culinary arts) or it could be something more broad (creator, organizer, connector). Whatever it is, the following questions will help you determine your function: What service do I have to offer people? What do I do that is different than anyone else? What do I do that makes me stand out from the crowd?
  4. Put it all together. Now comes the hard part. How can you combine what you’ve written into two or three sentences? Once you’re able to do that, you have your personal mantra.

In some cases it will be phrases (see Geoff Livingston’s Twitter bio as an example) and, in others, it will be three complete sentences (see Danny Brown’s bio as an example).

No matter how you write it, your personal mantra will be used consistently across the web as you begin to build your brand. This is how people will begin to perceive you so take control and make it happen!

This first appeared on Peter Sterlacci’s blog as part of his 30x30x30 project.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • rdopping

    So, THAT’s the problem! Crappy personal brand. I get it now. 

    •  @rdopping Oh no. That’s not your problem. 

      • rdopping

         @ginidietrich Oh goodie.

        •  @rdopping LOL!! You know I love you. But what does a sandwich have to do with a properly executed idea?

        • rdopping

           @ginidietrich I KNOW, right? What the…where is everyone?

        •  @rdopping It’s super early! No one comes around until about 8:00 ET.

        •  @ginidietrich @rdopping I just woke up did I miss anything? BRB getting a sandwich.

  • Interesting post. This week is the big whoopdee do Ad Industry Awards in Cannes. I learned that even though 99.9999% of awards have NOTHING to do with clients selling more etc, awards are important. Clients want to work with brands who win awards even if the work they did in no way shape or form helped their clients. So being creative for the sake of spending client money to be creative in Advertising will bring you more money to spend and be creative with.
    It is all about a brand’s cache. We all know plenty of big names in Social Media who make a lot of money shoveling bullshit that never works but sounds amazing because it is catchy and has their name associated with it.
    When I think of Arment Dietrich obviously cupcakes come to mind first and foremost.

    •  @HowieSPM Two things: The first is the big PR industry awards were two weeks ago and we interviewed a bunch of the finalists for Inside PR. I learned the same thing…it’s not about the results (or lack thereof). It’s about making yourself look good for your clients.
      And the other thing is that no one ever got fired for hiring a big PR firm (or ad agency). That’s all branding. Nothing more.

      •  @ginidietrich also remember if the big PR firm messes up they can be sued for money. I often feel that is the basis of trust sadly.

        •  @HowieSPM Not always…I’ve seen plenty of screw ups in my day with no suing. 

    •  @HowieSPM @ginidietrich , So what I’m hearing is that being on the PR side is for the birds.  I’m going to start up a meaningless award with a truly fantastic statuette, something that looks great sitting in a case in the lobby of an agency.  We’ll give non-profits a small discount to look legit.  
      All awards will be judged based on how popular the brand and its employees (especially those employees who have made money by shoveling bull that sounds amazing) are perceived to be on sites like Klout.  It’s going to be great. 

      •  @HeatherTweedy  @HowieSPM THIS IS SO SMART! And you can charge $500 per entry. You’ll be rich!

  • Good advice. So, here’s the question – what’s YOUR personal mantra? I mean, we can all guess or have our own perception of what your brand is, but I’d love to hear it from the horses mouth!

  • Good advice. So, here’s the question – what’s YOUR personal mantra? I mean, we can all guess or have our own perception of what your brand is, but I’d love to hear it from the horse’s mouth!

    •  @lauraclick First, you tell me what you think it is. I’m curious if it matches what I think it is. 
      I’ll play too…I’d say yours is marketing, communication, and running.

      •  @ginidietrich Fair enough! I’d say this…
        Author, speaker and CEO of a metrics-driven marketing firm who wants to be a chef in her next life…or maybe a cyclist.
        Am I close? Though, I wanted to add honest or holds no punches in there. You’re not the person who sugar-coats things. People hire you because you call it like you see it, no?
        You got mine pretty well. I like to position myself as a strategic marketer who is positive and encouraging, but honest about what it will take to accomplish goals. I like to push people to be better. Does that ring true?

        •  @lauraclick That’s pretty darn close, though I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who doesn’t sugar coat things. I’ll let you say that for me. 🙂
          I also really like the philosophy behind why you use a kite in your branding – which is positive and encouraging, in that it helps clients feel comfortable taking flight with something new.

        •  @ginidietrich Fair enough. Just to be clear – I’m not saying you’re mean. Far from it! I just think you’re not afraid to call attention to things that businesses or people are doing wrong and how they can do it better. You do it a very positive way. But, you’re not a me-too person. You have your own voice and you stand firmly for what you believe in. Make sense?
          Thanks for the kind words about my business brand. It took me forever to come up with it, but I loved it once I did. After all, who doesn’t love the image and message of a kite taking off in the wind?! 🙂

        •  @lauraclick Oh I didn’t take it that way at all. I like that people think I hold companies accountable for the crap they do. Now if they’d just listen…

  • This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot as I’ve been slowly working toward a bit of a re-branding or “pivot” with a bit of a new look on the web side of things. This is making me think a bit more as I try to balance the content portion of my work with finding a better “call to action” or at least making my services more accessible. 
    This will be very helpful.

    •  @KenMueller I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

      •  @ginidietrich I think my mantra will be: Coffee, Meat, Bug Gini.

        •  @KenMueller That’s awesome. But will it bring you any business? I mean, I know bugging me will, but the meat and coffee?

        •  @ginidietrich I have a lot of friends who enjoy all three of these. maybe they’ll outsource some of that to me. 

        •  @KenMueller  @ginidietrich hi new site is going to have photos of mark zuckerberg as the wall paper.

        •  @HowieSPM  @ginidietrich That will never happen. Not a fan of the guy.

        •  @KenMueller  @HowieSPM HAHAHAHAH! LOL! Actually, it’s Howie’s  new site that will have those photos. As much as he loves FB.

  • The timing of this post is uncanny considering the changes I’ve been working towards on my site and overall content strategy. 

    •  @jasonkonopinski I wrote it just for you, Jason. Just for you.

  • geoffliving

    Even though I don’t believe in personal branding, I do appreciate the good business tips you point out.  Thank you for including me.

  • gograhamgo

    Love #4. I like to think of it in terms of a tag line. My best advice is to sum up your tag line in 4 to 5 words. Great tips!

    •  @gograhamgo Totally agree! You don’t want to bore people!

  • Interesting and timely post Gini. This is something that I have been wondering about more lately. Where do you weigh in on the personal branding vs company branding? I would say that I am currently branding my company more than myself, but that seems to go against industry trends. I can definitely see the benefits of a stronger personal brand for speaking and writing (both of which I am interested in). If I start to change my branding focus, do I change my blog and social media accounts; start a 2nd blog, twitter account, etc, or somehow try to merge them?

    • You know, we have a Spin Sucks Twitter account that Lisa manages, but it gets a lot less love than our personal Twitter accounts. In social media, particularly, people connect with people. Not companies. Not brands. Not logos. People. So I’ve always felt being yourself and building your company’s brand that way is very effective.

      •  @ginidietrich Thanks Gini – sounds like good advice. I’ve got something thinking (re-thinking?) to do.

        • Take on what you can manage. If I had to manage two Twitter accounts, for instance, something would suffer…most likely the second Twitter account.

        •  @ginidietrich I agree – I am thinking that I will try to transition some of the platforms from Echelon to more of a personal brand. Thanks again!

        •  @ginidietrich I agree – just realized thatmy twitter account is already me : ) although the account is @echelonseo. It’s really my blog that I need to make some decisions about. Thanks again

  • ryancox

    One day @ginidietrich will feature me in a blog post. And on that day, I’m buying $1,245 worth of Power Ball tickets. | Flipping great post. Excellent points, and Gini knows how invested I am in this topic! 

    •  @ryancox What would I saw about you if I featured you in a blog post?

  • Who do you want to be and how do you “help” people see you as you wish to be seen.

    •  @TheJackB Was that a question or a statement?

  • HLeichsenring

    Thank you Gini. Yes, Branding yourself is extremely important, not only for a company, but also for a one-man-show freelancer like me. Coca Cola, Apple and Co. are well known by everyone, but who knows “me”. But it is important, that potential clients are knowing me.
    kind regards from Germany

    •  @HLeichsenring Hansjorg! How are you? Hope you’re well!!

      • HLeichsenring

         @ginidietrich I am fine. A lot of work during the last weeks – which is not too bad for a freelancer 😉

  • deskelf

    @lauraclick @ginidietrich it doesn’t include Step Five: Call Laura.

  • great post, Gini! how would you differentiate between the word that seems to be everywhere these days: authenticity – and building your brand? how do you know if/when you’re being “too authentic” in a post and how do you draw the line between that and the personal brand, especially for a small company?

    •  @itsjessicann I think it depends on your comfort level. The more time you spend online, the more comfortable you get with the personal and professional balance. I know when I started, I was not comfortable at all even voicing my opinion online (clearly that has changed – see @lauraclick comment). Now I know when it’s appropriate to talk about Mr. D or Jack Bauer or my travels and when it’s not. So there really isn’t an easy answer. It just depends no your own boundaries.

  • Personal brands are for suckers who don’t stand for anything and don’t take pride in their work.

    •  @JayDolan Tell that to Oprah.

      •  @ginidietrich I would, but I’m trying to live my best life.

    •  @JayDolan That’s, um, sarcasm right?
      “Jay Dolan writes The Anti-Social Media, which is the best social media satire on the internet. Ever.”

      •  @fitzternet I think it’s important to have clear values that you stand for, as well as doing work that you are proud of and you can stand behind. Putting those out front are a stronger personal brand for most people than most personal branding shenanigans.

  • As small business owners much of the brand we create for our businesses must come from a personal place, but I find the idea of tying up whole identities with our businesses unrealistic, and not absolutely necessary for most of us.
    So I have some issues with the extreme way personal branding is understood by the majority, but I really like the argument your second-in-command made for branding your business. It’s the clincher, if you ask me. Your clients definitely want to be able to brag that you work for them. “Ever heard of Arment-Dietrich? ‘Course you have… Only the top integrated marketers in, like, the world… Yeah, that’s why our brand is tearing yours to pieces… (insert Mafia-don chuckle here).”

    •  @ShakirahDawud I like your point. I know that Write Right is completely me yet not me, if that makes any sense. I think that may be for the best. It leaves room for both me and Write Right to grow. 🙂

    •  @ShakirahDawud We always say no one ever got fired for hiring a well-established brand. People want to work with the best. Period.

  • patmrhoads

    I love this topic. I had the good fortune of hearing two different people speak on this right after I was laid off from my job two years ago. It completely reshaped how I approached my job search, and I’ve continued to apply these principals to how I manage my online and offline identity ever since. Thanks for continuing to share with people the importance this can have on their lives, especially in the new job reality.

    •  @patmrhoads We’re in the Google world and people look you up before they meet you. I don’t care if it’s for a new job or a coffee meeting. You can’t control everything online about you (just like a brand can’t control everything online about them), but you sure can add to the discussion.

      • patmrhoads

         @ginidietrich True, you really can’t control what is said. But how you present yourself to others provides the foundation for that discussion. That’s why, especially for brands, developing a strong identity (intentionally) and a base of fans/customers that positively relate to it can be so important. They become a piece of your brand, and can engage in those conversations on your behalf, both good and bad. The brand takes on a greater life.

  • ginidietrich

    @HowellMarketing xoxxo

  • dainmcquarrie

    @kfreberg Good stuff here! Here are a few ways to broadcast your personal brand once found:

    • kfreberg

      @dainmcquarrie Thank you Dain! Really appreciate it and thank you for the follow! Hope all is well! 🙂

  • But Gert- “what if you are an a-hole?” (liberally stolen from Bill Cosby)

    •  @faybiz Then that’s your personal brand, Fay Biz!

  • Since I’m in college, I feel like I have no idea what my personal brand is yet — and I also feel like that’s okay, at least for now. But I only have one year left of college, so I suppose I’d better start planning out my brand strategy sooner rather than later! 😉 

    •  @annedreshfield I’d say you have a really good start. Community manager and social media (if that’s what you want to do) should find their way into your description. As should your ability to comment intelligently on so many blogs!

  • Karl Gibson

    Great, concise post with heart, @ginidietrich . Sometimes having some time on your hands is when the revelations come.
    When I was job-hunting two years ago, I absolutely stepped up my digital profile on all of the platforms I cared about & knew I could maintain. I’d come from a magazine that was in turmoil and found in  interviews that no one really *knew* what I had done there for years – they knew I’d  helped manage a newsroom but they had no idea what an ‘editorial business analyst’ was. An interview at Warner Bros. (with an executive I’d stayed past deadline for years to help), when she asked me ,”So you answered phones, riiiiight?” was the catalyst that drove me over the edge to fix any professional misconceptions in my own sincere yet assured voice. I wasn’t  a Hollywood spaz and branded myself with that professional distinction in tone: results, not chaos.
     Whether it’s FB, LinkedIn, a blog, Twitter – there’s a way to throw your hat into the ring successfully. Even my blog, which was a random, intimate niche blog helped and I got a lot of positive, private feedback. Branding yourself to the market you’re in and contributing to (as you do in Chicago) with reliable confidence works wonders. You’ve earned it, so keep your eyes on the prize, as they say!

    •  @Karl Gibson OMG. What a terrible way to have to learn this lesson. You definitely came out on the right side, but I’m pretty sure I would have punched that executive in the face.

  • ginidietrich

    @anandp29 THanks!

  • SourceSleuth

    RT @ginidietrich Four exercises to do right now to help you determine your personal brand

  • Bluntly, Gini, I don’t like the notion of personal branding.  It makes me a little bit ill.  My reasoning is part team-orientation and part economics that, “cooperation is best for everybody, but non-cooperation can be best for an individual. This temptation to defect can break even a highly profitable cooperation.”  
    Admittedly, it’s different when you have your own firm.  No issues there.  The first firm I worked for was run by someone you remind me of a lot.  She was high profile, opeds everywhere, slick print outs of those opeds were placed into marketing folders:  it mattered and it mattered a lot, no doubt. 
    Still, as a team member, I find personal branding hard to swallow.  Perhaps because  I grew up in this profession when PR pros were behind the scene.  Our edict was “don’t be the story.”  In an agency, the client comes first.  In a corporation, the company comes first and so on.
    The world has changed.  We write content.  We publish.  Our names go on much of this.  That’s the nature of the business environment today.  Who else is going to do it? 
    A few years ago, I struggle a lot with the idea that my personal reputation is becoming increasingly linked to my employer’s.  But then I saw the opportunity to extend my personal reputation on the company’s behalf and vice-versa.  In the mental struggle,  I’ve decided that the day I’m not happy with our philosophy, our approach, the day I stop believing in the product or the company’s potential, that’s the day I’ll leave.  I’m incapable of faking the funk.  It’s not in my DNA.  
    No company is perfect, but I haven’t had that inclination yet. In fact the deference they’ve offered to my long leave of absence has made me all the more loyal.  
    That said, any name recognition gained should be a secondary effect.  The primary goal, the first purpose is to support the cause, company or organization to which we belong.  I believe that in my heart of hearts.  If we can’t do that, if we can’t put the team’s needs above our own, then we are on the wrong team, have the wrong job or are in the wrong business. 
    Personal branding in my view, leads to a high potential for compromising, in sheer economic terms, cooperation. 

    •  @Frank_Strong Perhaps I shouldn’t have called this personal branding…and your personal mantra instead. You definitely have a presence online and people know you for what you write about, what’s in your social network bios, and even where you work. But Vocus isn’t the only thing about you and people know you for other things. You can’t help that. You have a life outside of your employer (at least I hope so!) and you have a life outside of serving our country. I caught some glimpses of it when I saw you a couple of weeks ago. These are the types of things that make other people want to work with you…either to buy Vocus registrations, use HAPPO, use PRWeb, or even hire you should you ever look for a new job. 

      •  @ginidietrich “Perhaps I shouldn’t have called this personal branding…and your personal mantra instead.” —>  Ouch!  I guess I could have approached that comment with better diplomacy.  I’ll work on it. 

        •  @Frank_Strong Oh no! I didn’t mean to make you hurt. I really like the debate and I appreciate your view on it. I know @geoffliving would agree. Vehemently. 

        • geoffliving

           @ginidietrich  @Frank_Strong Less than you would think.  I’ve dropped the rock on fighting the personal brand movement. I generally don’t like the term/concept based on my experiences with Livingston Communications and my beliefs, but to me I’d rather focus on a positive discussion about customers, experiences and how they build brands and reputations. I don’t think arguing about the word reputation vs. brand in the personal context is productive. It doesn’t help the sector to be ranting over semantics.

        •  @geoffliving  @ginidietrich There’s merit to that line of thinking for sure.

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  • Great tips @ginidietrich . I have found several occasions where I show up in certain search results based on simple taglines or mantras added to social profiles. Anything that deviates from this would clearly indicate it is not me or my brand. Inspired a quick curated post on my blog. Thank you!

    •  @Nakeva Glad I inspired you! I actually saw the post before the comment so now we’re full circle. 🙂

  • This is a very important topic Gini D. I was going to write a blog post about it but I’m just going to vent here instead. I’m going through a personal brand identity crisis. This roughly marks my first year in social media. I started with an idea of a business brand of social Genius. My logo was a white G on bright green box… Oh, and there was no website or actual business, just the idea. It quickly occurred to me that no one wanted to engage with a letter. Then the defining moment of my personal brand happened – I became a superhero!! Flash forward 6 months and now I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. In the latter half of 2011, It was fun to see “how influential” I was. I had no content of my own to speak of but hey, I had a Klout score over 70 so I must be important. I’ve had a blog for 6 months now, that was rewarding, and still is when I actually write. It seems the first year was just “fitting in” and giving the people want. I almost feel that it’s not even worth it anymore because I’m not getting anything out of it financially… Actually, it costs me since it takes away from income producing activity. But, it is worth it.. because while it hasn’t amounted to anything yet, I’ve developed more meaningful relationships in the last year than I had in the past decade (maybe a stretch). I guess that’s the heartbeat of social media when you get down to it.

    •  @SociallyGenius And you have your photography/Instagram love, which is throwing another wrench into the whole thing. I think you need to figure out why you’re participating online. Once you figure that part out, it’ll be easier to decide whether or not it should benefit you financially. There are things  do that don’t benefit us financially, but I know I’m helping the industry or friends and that’s enough for me.

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  • Awesome stuff, Gini.  A great personal story and some very fantastic tips on how to get started on your personal brand.I teach people how to do this (but without telling them that’s what I’m doing), and I love your focus on emotions.I’d add tip 5:5.  Leverage your quirks & flaws.
    The mark of almost any good personal brand is that they’ve taken what some would consider a “disadvantage”, accepted it, owned it, and used it as a selling point.

  • I think it’s also important to figure out WHY you do what you do – what is the real reason that you love your job? This creates a real, honest connection with people that they can relate to. 

    •  @RandyGreene HA! Exactly! That’s pretty much what I just said to @SociallyGenius . Great minds…

  • Since I’m in college, I feel like I have no idea what my personal brand is yet -and I also feel like that’s okay, at least for now. But I only have one year left of college, so I suppose I’d better start planning out my brand strategy sooner rather than later..

    •  @Chineseastrology You have a great opportunity ahead of you! Figure out what you want to do with your career and that begins to mold how you present yourself online.

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