Personal Branding: Be True to Who You Are

By: Andrea Conrad

Andrew Hetzel summed it up perfectly at a recent PRSA Detroit held at Identity. Personal branding is all about being true to who you are.

I agree.

This event challenged me to take a look at my own personal brand. I’m a much different person inside and outside of work than I was right out of college, but am I where I want to be and am I being true to who I am?

The panelists and moderator did a quick exercise before the event. They wrote down words that described their own personal brand. Then, they asked their co-workers, friends and/or family members for words that described them.

I did the same right before writing this post.

Here are my words:


Here are the words from others:


Pretty spot on. And, I didn’t cheat!

Back to the event. The event focused on defining and deploying your personal brand to help you create, build and maintain relationships with colleagues, media and other professionals. Panelists provided real-world advice on establishing or enhancing your personal brand and empowering you to realize your full communications potential at every stage of your career.

Here are some of the takeaways I gained from the panelists:

“It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to try new things. That’s how you learn. Figure out your passions and be genuine.”
– Sara Bloomberg, Weber Shandwick Detroit

“Put yourself in uncomfortable positions and continue to learn.”
– Christiana Lumaj, Ford Motor Company

We do this a lot in college and early in our careers. During my time in CMU’s IPR program 10 years ago (wow, 10 years ago…), I was a feisty little thing with an outgoing, fun and curious personality. I did whatever I could to make myself stand out among other grads.

I was involved in multiple organizations, I volunteered, I completed five internships and I asked a ton of questions. I was trying to find myself and a career path.

In college, we are figuring things out on our own (with the help of professors, of course) and starting to figure out who we want to be and what we want to do.

However, the learning doesn’t stop there. Neither do the mistakes (well, there are much, much less as time goes on). That’s what makes us grow into polished, experienced professionals.

“Understand the role that each social channel plays.”
– Sara Bloomberg, Weber Shandwick Detroit

“Know your audience.”
– Andrew Hetzel, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

There was a lot of discussion about content to share on personal social media channels. Be wise about how and where you share content. For me, I put everything business-related on my LinkedIn and Twitter because I know my audience on those channels. All personal content, unless I write a really great blog post or attend a cool event, goes on my private Facebook, Instagram and/or Snapchat (yes, I just admitted to being on Snapchat).

It’s your choice how and where you share content, but just ensure it’s professional if it’s public. And if it’s not, be careful with your follower or friend base. Social media is pretty powerful.

“Keep relationships personal. Meet face-to-face, pick up the phone and have a conversation. Make your relationships more than online-only.”
– Christiana Lumaj, Ford Motor Company

In a digital world where we’re stuck behind screens all day, it’s important to pick up the phone and have in-person meetings. I can have email conversations all day long, but until the person hears the tone in my voice, they may not really understand what I’m trying to say. Let’s look at online dating for instance. Yes, I met my future husband online (ask me which app later), but texting gets old after two days. You don’t really start to get to know the person until you talk on the phone and go on dates.

At work, it’s great to have a paper trail with emails, but if you have a “get sh*t done” mentality like I do, pick up the darn phone!

“Just be you.”
– Roy Sexton, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System

This man inspires me and is a true example of being true to who you are. To start the event, Roy broke out a tune of Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Of course it was to get our attention, but he believes the song and the original film reflect how important it is for us to remain open-minded, open-hearted and flexible in this life to truly be successful.

My hope is that, after reading this, you too will be inspired to take a closer look at your personal brand and make sure it matches up to your vision. After all, you can control it!

And just like Roy sang:
If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Wanna change the world?
There’s nothing to it

There is no life I know
To compare with
Pure imagination
Living there, you’ll be free
If you truly wish to be