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ATD Blog

The 3 Ps of Personal Branding


Thu Jun 11 2015

The 3 Ps of Personal Branding

Rita Balian Allen, president of Rita B. Allen Associates, focuses on building relationships with clients to assist individuals, teams, and organizations to maximize their talent potential and create strategies for growth, development, and success. She spoke with the Senior Leaders & Executives Community of Practice about how to build your personal brand. 

Q: What is your definition of a personal brand, and why is it important to have one? 


A: I define one’s personal brand as what differentiates one person from another. How do you set yourself apart from others, what do you want to be known for, and what makes you who you are? Sometimes it can be a distinct talent or unique skill. Many times, it’s your personality or approach that differentiates you. It’s about how you set yourself apart. 

Q: Why is it important to have a personal brand? 

The economy has rebounded, but it’s cyclical and will always go up and down. In our competitive marketplace, you have to be ready to manage your own career, so that no matter what the economy is doing, you will be marketable. 

Today, it’s not enough to be a generalist. You need to have a specialization, because organizations are interested in that. If you look at the current demographics, there are four generations in the workplace, and that number is creeping up to five. The expectations are different among the generations, people of different generations communicate differently, and their motivations vary. You have to work with all the generations to be effective and achieve results. You have to be able to find alignment in goals and values. 

Additionally, we’re in a global marketplace. More than ever companies are doing business with customers, vendors, and staff all over the world. Many organizations look for leadership potential among their employees, and look to unleash that leadership potential at all levels. So for all of these reasons, it’s important to know how to distinguish yourself and what you want in order to be able to own your career. I think it’s the difference between being in the driver’s seat rather than going along for the ride. 


Q: How does someone create a personal brand? 

I have come up with the three Ps for marketing oneself: preparation, packaging, and presentation. Preparation is about defining and identifying your brand. Packaging is about creating and building your brand. Presentation is about articulating and enhancing your brand. 

This is a cumulative process. If you don’t perform your due diligence and spend the time on the preparation part, then your packaging will not be as strong. Preparation is where you define and identify your differentiators by doing self-exploration; it’s a deep dive to assess your strengths, your values, your developing areas, your priorities, and your interests. It’s getting intimate with what you have to offer. What are the realities of what you do well, as well as what your goals are—short and long term. 

You also need a vision for your career. Where do you see yourself down the road? Once you establish that, you can start planning how to get there. 

Preparation could be a combination of sitting down with a pen and paper to list your strengths and weaknesses, opportunities, challenges, threats, and obstacles. It could be going online and taking some formal assessments; there are dozens available. Another possibility is to keep a daily journal, capturing what you enjoy doing, as well as what you don’t enjoy Another option is to use resources such as Career Anchors by Edgar Schein, one of many resources out there. The other important piece is to ask others for feedback, such as colleagues, peers, team members, managers, leaders, friends, and family. 


In addition, need to keep an open mind and be flexible, because even though you have vision and direction of the journey you want to take, there are paths that come your way that could mean different and excellent opportunities. You don’t want to close the door on those. 

Packaging is about how you build and create your brand. Your resume and bio are the obvious places to start. You should always have those up-to-date, not only when you’re looking for a job. It’s important to take stock of your accomplishments throughout your career. You need to have the ability to tell stories about your track record. 

Another important factor is belonging to professional associations. How visible are you? How active are you within your community, your industry? Do you work at building relationships and have strong networks? Do you stay well-read about best practices, and upcoming trends? Do you continue your education—whether it’s an advanced degree, taking a training class, or just reading books? You want to create content expertise and be identified as a thought-leader, so when someone thinks of your field, they think of you. 

One important piece of packaging is social media. You have to be careful about what you’re putting out there. You need a strategy. Don’t use Instagram if pictures don’t deliver what is important for you. At the very least, all professionals should be on LinkedIn. It’s the common professional place to network. Be mindful about what you’re putting on that site. Don’t have a LinkedIn account if you don’t use it effectively with substantive information. Make sure you have a thorough profile on LinkedIn; make sure you have some recommendations; and make sure you post there regularly. 

Presentation is how it all comes together. The first priority is to always work on communications—your listening and interpersonal skills are vital. You need to be out there building relationships. It’s not all about self-promotion. It’s about being your authentic self and staying true to yourself. It’s also knowing what you have to offer and advocating for yourself effectively. 

It is crucial to work on building a strong network, strategic alliances, and partnerships. It requires give and take—you need to decide how to give back and be of service to others in your network. You have all kinds of people in your professional circle including mentors, advisors, champions, and sponsors. You also need to be those things for others. You need to initiate ways to help and stay connected, not just when you need someone. That’s the ultimate “No-No.” You always need to practice professional etiquette. 

Also, presentation is about practicing your delivery again and again—telling stories about what you have accomplished with others. If you tell a story, it’s not bragging. 

Finally, the three Ps are a great way to empower yourself and to manage your career. 

Q: What kinds of actions or statements should a person avoid on social media in order to protect her brand? 

Generally speaking, you have to project who and what you want people to see and think when they hear your name. That is different for everybody depending on what field they’re in. It’s about making sure you’re staying true to your brand. Keep it professional and be authentic.  

I think it’s best not to address controversial subjects online. Personally, I try to stay away from politics. In the kind of work I do, it doesn’t matter what my opinions are on politics. Don’t forget that it’s 2015, and something you say innocently on social media could be turned around or misinterpreted. Social media statements never go away. 

Q: If someone posts a false or unflattering comment about you on social media, what's the best response? 

My philosophy is to always stay positive. I don’t think there is any benefit or value in getting into a debate or argument on social media. It defeats the whole purpose of social media, which to me is about expanding your network and visibility, sharing resources, knowledge, and information. Sometimes things require a response, but keep it positive. As the saying goes, “Kill them with kindness.” It’s unprofessional to do otherwise. 

Q: If you need to overcome a negative turn of events in your career, what are some ways of dealing with it in your branding and turning a negative into a positive? 

Consider Martha Stewart. She has done an incredible job of creating and articulating her personal brand through peaks and valleys. I say stay focused on who you are, your value, and what you offer. If you’re authentic and honest, things will come back to where they should be. 

We all have challenges. I see all experiences as learning experiences. Even if you have negatives, you can’t let it bring out the worst in you. Don’t dwell on the negatives, be bitter, angry, or blame others. Focus on what you do well, always be your authentic self and stay positive. 

Q: How can you enlist others to help promote your brand on social media? 

If you focus on building deep, mutually rewarding relationships, it will happen organically. Networking and building relationships is like tending a garden. You have to hope the sun comes out; you have to weed and water the garden; and you have to give it TLC. You need to put time and effort into nurturing your relationships too. 

My business grows mainly by referrals and my marketing initiatives, because I spend a lot of time building and nurturing relationships. In doing that, I am building credibility, creating trust, and developing content expertise. 

You also can be strategic by reaching out to be a good mentor for others and identifying new people you'd like to meet. Be targeted about which relationships are strategic for you and know that enlisting others comes after a long process of creating, building, and nurturing mutually rewarding relationships.

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