Personal Branding: What is it and Why Should I Care?

Personal Branding

“Be the real you because everyone else is taken and replicas don’t sell for as much.” – Dan Shawbel

As a PR professional, you’re probably familiar with branding, but have you ever stopped to think about your personal brand? If not, you’re not alone. During the day we’re busy promoting and supporting the brands of the companies and accounts that we represent. Why would we want to think about branding outside of our jobs?

Developing a personal brand is important for every professional, regardless of your job or industry. In today’s ever changing environment it has become more important than ever to embrace the idea of “career management” on an ongoing basis instead of waiting to think about your career until you need a new job.

Managing your career begins with developing and living your personal brand.

What is a Personal Brand?

A personal brand is just that-it’s personal. It encompasses everything that people think and say about you. It’s the sum of everyone’s experiences with you–the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Think about your favorite restaurant or grocery store. You expect a certain level of service every time you go there because they’ve established their brand. The same is true for you. Your personal brand is what people come to expect when they interact with you professionally or personally.

Evaluate Your Brand

Evaluating people’s perceptions of you is the first step in developing your personal brand.

Step 1 – Honestly ask yourself, “What are the five words most often used to describe me?” If you can’t think of anything ask a mentor, coworker, or friend.

Step 2 – Ask yourself, “What are the five ways that I’d like to be remembered?”

Step 3 – Compare the two lists. If what you’re known for doesn’t align with what you want to be known for, then you have some work to do on your personal brand.

People may think about you in ways that don’t initially align with your brand and that’s okay, but don’t stop there. Every company experiences similar problems, but they don’t assume that it’s their customer’s fault. They recognize that while you need to take all negative experiences with a grain of salt, you may be losing a loyal customer if you don’t address it. Take a few minutes to reflect on what part of that interaction you can control and strive to improve your relationship and provide that individual with a positive experience.

Define Your Brand

Now that you’ve evaluated your personal brand it’s time to define your brand. To get started, answer the following questions:

  1. What are your core strengths?
  2. What ONE thing sets you apart from your competition?

Now that you’ve identified the important ingredients for defining your personal brand–how you want to be remembered, your core strengths, and your differentiator – take a few minutes to write your brand essence in the form of a 45-60 second commercial.

I know it sounds cheesy, but writing a personal commercial can be extremely helpful. For example, if you’re looking for a job this commercial can used to answer the question, “Tell me about yourself,” in an interview. If you’re not looking for a job right now this will help you as you meet new people and build better relationships within your network.

Live Your Brand

You’ve evaluated your brand and delicately crafted an eloquent 45-60 second commercial. Now what?

As with any company brands don’t work unless you do. Take every opportunity to represent your brand so people start to believe about you what you believe about yourself.

Here are some areas to help you get started:

Refine Your Online Presence

    • “Google” Yourself. If you haven’t already search the internet to find out what information about you is available. If you’re looking for a job, remember, recruiters can and will use the internet to screen you. If you find something that doesn’t reflect you in the best light, remove it. It’s not worth the risk.
    • Get Social. LinkedIn is essentially a “virtual rolodex” of connections. This makes it a great tool to build and reinforce your personal brand. You can represent your brand in your profile and through the information that you publish and post. You can also include elements of your brand in your Twitter bio and other social media accounts.
    • Demonstrate Your Brand. If you have a blog or online portfolio make sure to represent what’s important to you so the network you build online has the same impression of you as your in-person connections.

Build Real Relationships

There’s no excuse to avoid networking in today’s connected world. Take advantage of the opportunities available to you through professional associations, community groups, and organizations to meet people and begin to build real relationships with real people. Technology has allowed us to connect with people faster than ever before, but it is no substitute for getting to know the real person.

Personal branding is important for every professional. It’s a part of your career whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. It’s not just a buzzword or a new trend. It’s principles are timeless.

Be real and be the best you that you can be. Work hard and demonstrate what’s important to you to the people around you. In the end you’ll be able to look back at how you’re remembered and see that by striving everyday to stay true to your personal brand, you’ve left a legacy.

11a4f30Ruthann Campbell is a marketing and communications problem solver that specializes in getting the right message to the right people every time. She graduated from Pensacola Christian College with a bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations and currently works as Marketing & Communications Coordinator for a non-profit organization in Tallahassee, FL. You can connect with her directly to network or share ideas on LinkedIn or Twitter.

New Pros Chapter Spotlight: PRSA Georgia

prsa georgia

PRSA Georgia, PRSA’s second largest chapter, has a vibrant, growing Young Pros group. Founded in 2004 by two current PRSA Georgia members, PRSA Georgia’s Young Pros special interest group engages young pros by finding fun ways to get together, learn new things and meet other new PR pros.

Currently, PRSA’s Georgia’s group is comprised of about 20 young pro members, four committee members and two co-chairs, Daley Michael and Sarah Bell. This month, The Edge sat down with Daley and Sarah to learn a little more about what’s going on down in Georgia.


The Edge: What kind of programming you’ve put together for New Pros?

Sarah Bell: We try to mix it up with a variety of topics that appeal to the young professionals in our industry. In the past year, we have hosted events ranging from Being Indispensable – How to Adapt and Succeed in Your Career, Starting Now!, How to Drop the Y from YP: A Panel Discussion with PRSA Georgia’s Veteran YP’s, PR Trivia Night, Crisis Communications 101: What Your Boss Hasn’t Taught You, How to Build Lasting Relationships with the Reporters who Matter, etc.

TE: How does your group fit into the bigger picture of the chapter?

Daley Michael: We try our best to engage new PR pros and recently graduated PRSSA members who move to Atlanta and are looking for a way to get connected in their industry. As the second largest PRSA chapter in the country, we have a vast and experienced network of PR professionals who can help them transition and provide career development opportunities. The YP special interest group tries to create opportunities to help young professionals get plugged into the community and the PRSA Georgia chapter.

SB: We also partner with other special interest groups to host events. These events provide a good opportunity for our YP members to get to know others in the chapter and involved in other areas.

TE: What resources do you provide for New Pros?

DM: At each paid event, we provide a tangible takeaway for attendees to bring home with them. The handout captures key points from the meeting that they can easily reference in the future.

SB:We also offer a couple of free events focused on networking and socializing as a means to connect not only members, but potential members considering joining PRSA.

TE: What are the benefits for your members?

DM: Connectivity, learning opportunities, professional development, sharing key learnings, occasional free food, delightful beverages at select events, good company.

TE: How do you engage and recruit New Pros?

SB: The primary way we recruit new pros is by hosting free networking mixers a couple of times each year. These events typically attract a good number of non-members and oftentimes our members will also bring their colleagues and friends as well. The mixers serve as a great way to build relationships with members and non-members alike and provide many opportunities to get to know one another better.

TE: What advice do you have for New Pros for using PRSA to their best advantage?

DM: Get connected! Don’t be afraid to attend events, even if you don’t know anyone. You never know where your next job might come from and PRSA is a great resource for not only job searching, but also becoming better at what you do.

TE: What is the best way for New Pros to get involved in the PR community?

SB: Join PRSA! Attend conferences, join a committee, submit awards, network with your peers in the PR community.

Book Preview: “Public Relations for the Public Good: How PR has shaped America’s social movements”

public relations

Editor’s note: The below Q&A with Shelley Spector previews her forthcoming book, available in August. 

You have a forthcoming book coming out this summer, “Public Relations for the Public Good: How PR has shaped America’s social movements.” Could you provide a synopsis?

The book (co-authored with Lou Capozzi) explores how public relations activities have been used to make social movements more successful.  While they were not called “PR” at the time, nor did they involve “professional” PR people, these historical milestones were, nevertheless, powered by people who understood public opinion and how to influence it. So there’s a lot to be learned about strategy, messaging, impacting attitudes, and measuring one’s impact.

The topics in the book include a wide range of topics spanning the 20th century: including, the Triangle Shirt Waist factory fire, the Harlem Renaissance, anti-smoking campaigns and civil rights campaigns.  To me, the most exciting thing about the book is that my students wrote most of the chapters.  This was for the class I teach at Baruch College/CUNY:  “From Plato to Twitter: A History of Influence, Media and Public Opinion.”   It’s exciting that our students have a chance to be published!

IMG_0609What inspired you to write the book?

While I find PR history fascinating, I find PR in history even more fascinating. When you look at historical events through the lens of PR, it often reveals PR in its purest sense. With social media dominating much of the workday of PR people, it’s important that young professionals understood that the Internet is just a channel, just like TV, film, word-of-mouth, carrier pigeons, pony express and cave drawings. It’s the message that counts, not the medium.

IMG_0611You’re also the founder of the Museum of Public Relations. How did the museum begin and what is your favorite artifact or resource within it?

The museum was the brainchild of Edward Bernays. What a wonderful way to preserve historical documents, books and artifacts that tell the story of our field. The first collection we received was from Bernays himself: two dozen first-edition books from his library, artifacts from the Light’s Golden Jubilee, original newsletters published by his wife and business partner, Doris Fleischman. 

I have a few favorites: The 1966 press release announcing the formation of the National Organization of Women (N.O.W.) with Muriel Fox and Betty Freidan as contacts. The issues of magazines from the 1930s that explore the burgeoning new PR field. The photographs of civil rights marches in the 1960s and collection of anti-slavery literature from a century before. And, of course, Bernays’s inbox.

FullSizeRender_1And what are some other examples of early public relations throughout history?

Every PR student learns about Bernays’s campaign to promote bacon and eggs, or Ivy Lee’s counsel to the Rockefellers.  Some of the best campaigns, though, are ones that are not mentioned in the textbooks. You can find wonderful examples of modern PR at work throughout the 20th century. Take for example, the campaign to raise public awareness for the polio vaccine; the “Meatless Tuesdays” program during World War II; the campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; and the promotion of the Works Progress Administration during the Depression.  Some of the best “PR” programs may not be called “PR” but are every bit as much “PR” as Bernays’s campaign to boost sales for Ivory Soap.

You are an adjunct professor at Baruch College as well as president of Spector & Associates, working with aspiring PR pros every day. What is your go-to piece of advice for new professionals in the public relations industry?

Get as much “real world” experience while you’re in school or immediately after graduation. You want to be able to walk into your first job interviews with an impressive portfolio of work that displays, not only your “PR” skills, but your professionalism, creativity and drive. That may mean taking on internships (whether paid or unpaid) whenever and wherever you can.  We see young professionals apply here who already have four of five internships under their belts. This shows us that he or she is truly serious about making a career in this field, and already has the required skills so they can hit the ground running from Day One… One other suggestion, equally as important:  Become familiar with the organization before you even send your resume in. Chances are, you’ll be asked, “So why do want to work here?” “What attracted you to us?”  You’d be shocked to see how many have no idea beyond, “I saw your post on Indeed.”  The more time you spend researching the company the better that interview is going to be.

 Any additional information you’d like to share about the Museum of Public Relations?(I’ll include a note about how it’s open to the public by appointment, link to website, etc.)

The museum has a very active online presence, with 90k views on our website and 6,800 followers on the Facebook page, representing some 60 countries from every corner of the world. We have hosted a dozen classes so far this year, some over Skype.  We also host events for organizations, such as PRSA and the Plank Center, as well as give tours for PR agencies, such as Burson Marsteller, Weber Shandwick and Ketchum.  Scholars come from all over the world to do research here, as it is the largest and most complete repository of books and materials documenting the history of the field.

Editor’s note: The Museum of Public Relations is free and open to the public by appointment.

Any other book recommendations or “must reads” for PR professionals?

I would recommend the writings by Bernays and Lee (you can find them through our Facebook page).  Although their work was written nearly a century ago, Bernays and Lee remain the top writers of our practice. Their writings are as relevant today as ever.  

I would also urge everyone who aspires to succeed in this field to read the New York Times every day.  Keeping up with the news is essential in this business.

shellyShelley Spector is the president of Spector & Associates. She has counseled some of the world’s largest defense, technology and communications companies — from Exelis and ITT to HP and AT&T — and has won more than four dozen awards, including the Silver Anvil and Gold SABRE.  Prior to founding Spector & Associates in 1991, Spector worked at Hill & Knowlton and  RuderFinn, and served as press relations manager for the American Stock Exchange. She is an adjunct professor at the graduate level at NYU and Baruch College/CUNY.  Spector is also founder of the Museum of Public Relations. Spector earned a B.A. Journalism at the University of Rhode Island and an M.S. at the Newhouse School, Syracuse University.

Picking your battles: brand engagement


Everyone loves brand involvement, but there are times and places for it. A brand should know when to pick a fight or to just let it go. Let me show you three examples of good, bad and the okay in brand engagement. When mentioning a celebrity or brand you are picking your battle and it is best to evaluate all outcomes before name dropping. Social media allows ways to build loyalty or look awful.


Bad Example: Watch for someone known for rants

Since 2009 when Kanye infamously stole Taylor Swift’s moment at the VMA awards, we should know that he is outspoken. He later wrote a song about making her famous for his latest album, but Pizza Hut UK did not get the point. Kanye went on a Twitter rant about how he was in debt, but could still afford designer clothes and furs. Carter’s clothing and Baby Gap was smart enough not tweet to Kanye that they might be a cost-effective alternative. However, Pizza Hut UK didn’t consider that. It was hilarious at first because they tweeted for him to fill out a job application. The laughter ended when Kanye replied, “He needed more money in order to bring more beautiful ideas to the world.” Pizza Hut UK made matters worse by tweeting a fake resume with multiple spelling errors and a reference of Taylor Swift that was crossed out. It ended up poorly reflecting on Pizza Hunt in the end.

Okay Example: Beyoncé and Red Lobster

In the lyrics to “Formation,” it stated when they would frequent Red Lobster. Beyoncé is a hard person to say something about and she has her fan base the Bey Hive, which can sting you if you say something particularly negative about Beyoncé. Although Red Lobster saw a 33% increase in sales the week of the release of Beyoncé, they faced criticism because it had too much of a pun. In addition to a lack of response time, they also stated they had “Cheddar Bey Biscuits.” The tweet received over 14,552 retweets. However, the tweet garnered positive and negative reactions from people.

Great Example: An Internet star is born and a Chewbacca Mask

When Candace Payne broke the record for Facebook Live views, Kohl’s ran to support her. They surprised her kids with their own Chewbacca masks as well as a monetary credit to Kohls’. Candace could be viewed as an ad for Kohl’s because she mentioned them and their product. Needless to say, that mask sold out on Internet sites. Kohl’s won by thanking her for her loyalty. Not to mention that Payne seems like a grateful person because she reminded her children to give thanks. Unlike a celebrity, Candace Payne is a normal person who happened to stumble upon a brush with fame, which makes Kohl’s seem like a relatable brand that is appreciative of their loyal customers. This will be interesting to see if over the next few weeks Kohl’s stocks increase for a company that has been experiencing a drop in stocks.

emma-hawesEmma Hawes is currently working as a freelance social media content creator, while attending graduate school online at Purdue University. Hawes has a bachelor’s degree in communication, with concentrations in journalism, public relations and broadcasting from Mississippi State University. In college, Hawes was a freelance broadcasting technician, working behind the scenes for games with ESPN. When she is not behind her MacBook, iPhone or camera, she enjoys watching comedy, reading and cooking. Her fictional idol is Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation.

10 PRSA member benefits you should be using to network & grow your career


The main draw of joining a professional organization like PRSA is its plethora of member benefits. Among them are the oft-missed resources to connect professionals of both similar and different backgrounds no matter where they are in the country. Networking, in any of its forms, can be overwhelming, particularly for new pros. So how can we use PRSA’s tools and benefits to network and grow our careers?

First, it’s important to know what’s out there for you to use. New pros have two types of networking tools to use: those available to all PRSA members and some that only New Professionals Section members may access.

For all PRSA members:

Member Directory

Know a member that you want to connect with? Moving to a new city and want to connect with some members of your new chapter beforehand? PRSA’s member directory can help you. The member directory allows PRSA members to search for other members using a variety of criteria. Whether you want to search by name, location, designation, chapter, expertise, section, organizational setting or industry, the member directory is the place to go. Click here to search the PRSA’s member directory.

Twitter Chats

If sending an email to a stranger isn’t quite up your alley, you’re not alone. A great way to meet other PRSA members organically is by participating in the organization’s monthly Twitter chats. Professionals in a variety of backgrounds and experience levels tune into these chats and share their experience on whatever the topic at hand is. Feel free to like, retweet, reply to and follow any members participating. After the chat, if you’d like to talk more with particular members, tweet at or direct message them. Click here to follow PRSA on Twitter.

MyPRSA Forums

The forum is an online message board hosted on PRSA’s website. Members may read threads, post their own questions or comment on those posed by others. There are different threads for professional interest sections, including New Professionals, current issues, and topics in PR. The forum is a great way to ask advice from other members in a somewhat private setting. Click here to access the forum.

Chapter meetings & events

All chapters host meetings and events for members. Attending a happy hour or presentation is a great way to meet other professionals in your area and make connections. Attending is also a great way to get your foot in the door and participate more within your local chapter. Click here to find contact information for your chapter.


PRSA’s international and regional conferences are another great example of how to use your PRSA membership to meet other professionals. Regional conferences are hosted throughout the year by the organization’s 10 districts. PRSA’s annual International Conference is hosted each fall. While attendance is not limited to PRSA members, registration is always discounted with a membership. Click here to learn more about PRSA events.

PRSA Connect

PRSA Connect is a new benefit launched earlier this year. This online community makes it easier to collaborate and stay connected with your peers. You can join discussion groups and boards relevant to your interests, search for colleagues with similar interests and backgrounds and share resources and information within your community groups. Click here to access PRSA Connect using your MyPRSA login.

For New Professionals Section members:

New Pros LinkedIn Group

Members of the New Professionals section may request to join the section’s private LinkedIn group. Their members can post questions and relevant articles and engage with other section members from across the nation. Click here to visit the New Professionals Section’s LinkedIn group.

New Pros Facebook Group

In addition to our Facebook page, where you can find updates from the section and articles of interest to PR pros, members can join our Facebook group to chat with other members, discuss topics of interest to new pros, ask questions and more. Click here to join the New Pros Facebook group.

Section Twitter Chats & Google Hangouts

As a section, we host monthly Twitter chats and Google hangouts for members to participate in. Each one has a specific topic to be discussed and some have special guests attending to provide some insight from their own experience. All members are encouraged to participate in these chats and hangouts as a great way to learn and meet other section members. Click here to view scheduled chats and hangouts for the rest of 2016.

Section Blog

The New Professionals Section also has a blog chock full of resources, tips, and advice for new pros. Anyone can read the blog, but it’s entirely written by section members. Each month focuses on a particular topic and is a great way for new pros to showcase both their writing skills and expertise. Click here to check out the upcoming topics and volunteer to write for the blog.

As you can see, there are plenty of resources out there for new pros members to use to network and further their careers. What are your favorite tools and benefits available to PRSA members? Share them with us on Twitter using the hashtag #MemberMonday.