By Amy Thomasson
As association management professionals, we know that branding our organizations is important, but what about your personal brand? At the 2019 Holiday Showcase, Jacqualine Price Osafo, MBA, CAE; Membership and Development Director, Water Quality Association, and I facilitated a discussion on the meaning, implications, and challenges of personal branding.
What is personal branding?
We defined personal branding as how you market and differentiate yourself to others. It’s the unique combination of values, skills, and experiences that make up you. Personal branding is an ongoing process with no expiration date. It’s strongly correlated with building and growing your network. A successful personal brand will speak for itself and your network will promote your brand to others. Personal branding is not only about the self, it’s about taking the best of you and using it in service to others.
What personal branding challenges are members of our industry facing?
- Creating a consistent identity across all digital and in-person communication channels – From social media, to in-person network, to day-to-day interactions with your coworkers, every written, spoken, and nonverbal communication is a reflection of you, so how do you establish consistency across all platforms? Your digital presence is a great place to start, as it allows you the space to thoughtfully craft and refine your message and your image. Consider beginning with a professional headshot and a compelling one to two paragraph biography that you can use on your personal social media, as well as anytime you are represented on another organization’s website or at one of their events.
- Addressing and optimizing messaging regarding career or life pivots – Some of the pivots discussed during our forum included the transition to motherhood and transitioning into association management from a different field. As someone who has experienced both of those changes in the past five years, I’ve focused on what I’ve learned from both of those adjustments, including time management, prioritization, and discipline, that I can apply to my role now, as well as future roles.
How are your peers using their networks to enhance their personal brands?
- Utilizing the benefits of weak ties – One of the most referenced research papers of the past half century is sociologist Mark Granovetter’s, “The Strength of Weak Ties.” While most of us think of our relationship networks as consisting of family, friends, and current colleagues, Granovetter stresses the importance of utilizing weak ties to enhance our networks and open up new opportunities. Ties outside our core network expose us to new career opportunities and diverse perspectives. Through utilizing weak ties, we build stronger networks.
- Building a personal advisory board – From Abraham Lincoln’s ‘team of rivals,’ to Ronald Reagan’s ‘kitchen cabinet,’ leaders have long understood the benefits of establishing a cohort of admirable colleagues to provide wisdom, inspiration, perspective, and accountability. If you don’t have one already, begin taking inventory of your network and noting your top shelf (kitchen cabinet) and negative (junk drawer) relationships.
What are some association professional currently doing to brand themselves?
- Optimizing their digital presence through LinkedIn – LinkedIn has more than 260 million active monthly users and if you’re not one of them, you’re missing out on a prime opportunity to grow your network and your brand. From crafting an all-star profile, to creating content, to engaging with others, LinkedIn is a personal branding powerhouse. For tips on how to optimize your LinkedIn presence, check out this article I wrote for FORUM magazine.
- Taking advantage of volunteer opportunities –Volunteering outside your organization enhances your visibility and credibility, while growing your leadership skills. Take advantage of the endless opportunities available for motivated, reliable volunteers through Association Forum, community groups, or cause-based organizations.
Whether you’re a recent graduate, senior leader, or somewhere in between, you can engage others in the brand of YOU. Take note of the steps your peers are making, and make 2020 the year you take brand YOU to the next level.