Are YOU a brand?

cattle brand

Are you a brand? Yes you are, whether you like it or not.

As a professional adviser for the Michigan State University Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, I was approached recently to help secure a speaker for a professional development session on personal branding. I put the word out on Twitter to mid-Michigan folks, asking them who came to mind when thinking about who has built and maintains a solid personal brand.

A number of people replied with the same answers, so that was a good sign that those folks nominated as having a “solid personal brand” truly do. I was honored and humbled to be among those listed. I think it’s rewarding to know that the work I’ve done to put myself out there in a way that is open and sincere in all facets of my online and real-life encounters is paying off.

I also was somewhat surprised, however, when one person asked why everyone is so worried about their personal brand and if this was a symptom of the “me, me, me” philosophy complained about so often lately.

It got me thinking about different perspectives on this issue. I believe everything you do in your personal and professional life is building or dismantling your personal brand. It doesn’t matter who you work for — you as an individual are responsible for your brand. It starts as a young college student building that first resume and continues throughout your career as you add on job experience, professional  references and personal online identities.

Obviously, my opinion isn’t the only one — so let’s hear yours. Are you a brand? If so, what are you doing to build and maintain it? If not, why not — I want to hear the other side of this argument as well.

For reference, I’m pleased to share the other nominees for those in mid-Michigan cited by at least a few people as having a solid personal brand:

(Photo courtesy of Lucinda Surber)

9 comments on “Are YOU a brand?

  1. Great question posed and it really made me think: Would these people have such a strong personal brand without their company? Is a personal brand an extension of your company’s brand? I think in most cases your company or whatever you’re representing strengthens your personal brand.


    • I don’t think it HAS to be attached to your company. I think it happens to be that way because alot of people who have strong personal brands tend to be outgoing and allow people to know what they do for a living, and the company they work for as well.

      For example, I hardly know anything about what Ari does, but I feel he has a strong personal brand from getting to talk to him in person, and follow his tweets and his family’s antics around Greater Lansing.

      I think alot of people attach corporate branding to the people who work for said corporation and then associate them with it, but it doesn’t have to be a progression of recognition and association like that.


  2. Good point, Ari and thanks for the PRSSA mention. But I think Nick brings up an interesting point and I’m going to use him as an example. Nick Lucido, your name is recognized by almost every student at MSU involved with PR and many professionals as well. However, you are not tied to a company (yet).

    I think a personal brand is whatever you want it to be. For professionals, yes it does deal heavily with the branding of a personal company but I think Nick is a wonderful example of student branding. Nick, you do a fantastic job proving to people what you are all about even though you are still learning it yourself. Branding is key to students who will one day, hopefully, be tied to a company they care about as well.


  3. Having a brand implies that one has something to sell or offer. If you are working on developing your personal brand, you should ask yourself if you do indeed have something to offer, or if you’re just shamelessly self-promoting. Don’t be a Paris Hilton.


  4. What makes a personal brand? What we’re really talking about here is “Reputation”. I think of branding as the Nike Swoosh, or the Apple Logo or “Spend More Money at Menards” – things a kindergartner would recognize and associate with a company or product.

    Yes, a person gets known for something, and we all know them because of that one thing they do, but is that really a “brand”?

    Are brand and reputation interchangeable?

    Does a person now need their own logo or catchphrase, or is simply being an advocate for something enough to earn them a personal brand?

    How do you distinguish a personal brand as your own, versus an extension of your company’s? Does that matter? What if you move to a new company? Does your personal brand have to change if it was mainly tied to your company?

    I don’t know if I have a personal brand. Does being short and being Ari’s sidekick count? Can someone enlighten me as to what they might think mine is? 🙂


    • I’m replying to my own comment-since apparently lack of sleep has brainwashed me into wanting to spend MORE money at Menards, when in fact, you’re supposed to SAVE big money at Menards. 🙂


  5. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Are YOU a brand? « Here Comes Later [] on

  6. Everybody is a brand, whether they admit it or not. What you do everyday creates “Brand You” and if you don’t proactively create, manage and sustain that brand, other people will do it for you.

    I used to work in graphic arts (prior to anybody knowing what a personal brand was). There are two types of designers: those that are active in the community and strive to become known, and those that figure their work should speak totally on its own merit and view any promotion as beneath them. I was the former.

    Throughout my 12-14 years in that field, I feel I did good work. I did not work for myself, but clients would follow me wherever I went. I had 6 employers in that period and I never actively looked for a job. People came to me and asked me if I wanted to work for them. Toward the end of my career in that industry, I found out that I was making almost double what the other people at the (now-defunct) firm were making.

    Was I twice as good or worth twice as much? As much as I’d like to think so, the answer is “probably not”. But I was a known entity that popped into people’s minds when they needed Photoshop or pre-press work done.

    The guy that sat next to me at my final graphic arts job was the self-proclaimed rebel that never went out into the community, believed that the work should stand totally on its own, and that it didn’t matter what people thought of him or his attitude… or if they even liked him. Last I knew, he’s had 4 jobs in the past 6 years with each job making progressively less than the job before. Nobody knows his name. He’s not a sought-after talent, even though he was way more talented than I was.

    We both had personal brands. The difference was I made my brand work for me. The other guy was forced to work for his brand.


  7. I don’t know the other people cited. I only know you. But we’ve never met. Yet your name is familiar to me. Your brand is more familiar to me.

    Side note: Are branding and familiarity intertwined? If I remember John’s face but not Mary’s, despite meeting them the same time, does that mean John is more of a brand?


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