Authentic Personal Branding


September 29, 2009

by Marshall Goldsmith

With all of the social media opportunities today, personal branding is frequently being used not just in personal, but also in professional roles. It can be quite a dilemma for people to brand themselves successfully without losing their real selves in the process.

I am frequently asked questions about branding because of my success at “marketing me.” For a different perspective, I called Hubert Rampersad, an authority on authentic personal branding, and asked about his thoughts on the subject. Rampersad recently wrote a best-seller entitled Authentic Personal Branding: A New Blueprint for Building and Aligning a Powerful Leadership Brand. In it he provides a sorely needed guidebook that shows us all how to build our own authentic personal brand—and just as important—how to persuasively communicate this brand to the world.

Hubert and I talked about his blueprint for authentic personal branding, the connection it has with personal brand coaching, and how his holistic system helps to attract success, build credibility, separate individuals from the crowd, and cultivate happiness. Edited excerpts of our conversation follow:

Hubert, what is authentic personal branding?

The image of your brand is a perception held in someone else’s mind. Personal branding entails managing this perception effectively and influencing how others perceive you and what they think of you. Building an authentic personal brand is an evolutionary and organic process that should emerge from your search for your identity and meaning in life. It is about getting clear on what you want, giving it all your positive energy, doing what you love, and improving yourself continuously.

What are the benefits of an authentic personal brand?

Having a strong authentic personal brand is an important asset in today’s online, virtual, and individual age. It is the key to personal success, and it’s the positioning strategy behind the world’s most successful people, such as Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, and Bill Gates. Everyone has a personal brand, but most people don’t manage it strategically, consistently, and effectively. It’s important to take control of your brand and the message it sends, as it will help you distinguish yourself as an exceptional professional.

How does your innovative approach differ from traditional personal branding concepts?

Traditional personal branding concepts focus on personal marketing, image building, selling, packaging, outward appearances, and self-promotion. As a result, people may perceive you as egocentric and selfish. Rather, your personal brand should be authentic—it should reflect your true character. It should be built on your dreams, purpose, values, uniqueness, genius, passion, specialization, characteristics, and favorite activities. If you are branded in this organic, authentic, and holistic way, your personal brand will be strong, distinctive, relevant, meaningful, and memorable. You will create a life that is fulfilling, and attract the people and opportunities perfect fit for you. This new approach places more emphasis on understanding yourself and the needs of others, and how to meet those needs while staying true to your values.

You mentioned that your system entails a guide for turning personal financial crisis into opportunity. How do you see that working?

Especially in times of financial crisis you need to be independent and redefine yourself in order to create and attract new creative opportunities. Remember what Albert Einstein said: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” Now is the best time to engage in meaningful dialogue with yourself and to build your personal brand to better master the financial crisis with your unique value proposition. This can be realized successfully according to my four-stage authentic personal branding model.

Based on your approach, how do you build, maintain, and cultivate an authentic personal brand?

Building an authentic personal brand consists of four phases:

1. Define and formulate your personal ambition. This means [assessing] your personal vision, mission, and key roles—and make them visible. It is about developing self-awareness and identifying your dreams: who you are; what you stand for; what makes you unique, special, and different; and what your values are.

2. Define and formulate an authentic personal brand promise that you can use as the focal point of your behavior and actions. Your personal brand statement entails the total of your ambition, brand objectives, specialty, service-dominant attribute, and domain.

3. Formulate your personal balanced scorecard. The emphasis at this stage is to develop an integrated and well-balanced action plan based on your personal ambition. It’s about translating your personal ambition and brand into manageable and measurable personal objectives, milestones, and improvement actions in a holistic and balanced way.

4. Implement and cultivate your brand. Personal branding has no value unless you make it a reality. So create and maintain your brand effectively.

How is your personal branding system related to personal coaching?

The personal brand coaching framework involves 15 phases with comprehensive exercises, tools, and activities associated with each phase. It is meant to be helpful to build, implement, maintain, and cultivate an authentic personal brand, which is in harmony with your goals and aspirations. The emphasis is on excelling in everything you do, making the right choices for your future, having a happier and more fulfilling life, and facing new life challenges.

My mission is to: “Enjoy the freedom to develop and share knowledge, especially if this can mean something in the life of others.”