Career Insights

Blurred Lines.

Exploring the Blur Between Your Organizational and Personal Brand

Brand. What is it?

For some it is a nebulous and abstract concept that is challenging to define. I love turning to the definition shared by Marty Neumier in his book The Brand Gap; it is equal parts simplicity and depth. According to Neumier, Brand is who you are, what you do and why it matters.

Organizational brand shows up in your logo, photographs, marketing materials, physical space, website and blogs. It is not any one of those things. It is the totality of all of those things. And, there is one final critical component to brand — how your audience receives, processes, and overlays meaning. It makes sense that some would find it hard to understand, conceptualize and operationalize. And now, the current circumstances we face on a global level appear to have made it all the more complicated because our personal brands are inextricably connected to our professional brands. 

The lines between who we are at work and who we are at home have been blurred to the point of being nearly indistinguishable. To me, it is a game changing reminder that we have to remain vigilant about our personal brands. When I refer to a personal brand I am describing who you are as an individual, outside of any broader company affiliation. Your personal brand will certainly show up to the workplace but also has a life outside of it. It is the totality of your personality, experiences, education, passions and interactions. Your brand is who you are known to be and how others experience you.

When Personal and Organizational Brands Collide

I consider my personal brand to be a major celebration of creativity, encouragement and the pursuit of joy. My brand is tied to storytelling, creative expression, a genuine love for others and everyday adventures. These same ideals show up when I arrive at the office daily but they express themselves differently outside the workplace. For example, my blogs are much more infused with my voice and tone than when I write professionally on behalf of my employer.

Recently, I was faced with how to represent my personal and professional brand simultaneously, while working from home and teaching our two young children. One stand-out experience that highlights the complexities was the day that I provided an interview to the local news as a mom, sharing my experiences teaching during the pandemic, and then later that day I provided an interview to the same station (different reporter) as the spokesperson for the University.

One day. Two roles. Both had to show up.

It is easy to assume that our role will speak for us and that the organization we attach ourselves to will define us. However, your personal brand must still exist beyond the role you have, the letters next to your name or the title on your business card. It must be linked to who you are at your core. Aligning your personal brand with your career trajectory is one way to ensure long-term success and happiness within the workplace but it must be more than that. Your personal brand will have significant overlap with the organization you work for but there cannot be a total eclipse. Your personal brand must have a foundation and strength that transcends circumstances.

Recognizing that your personal brand is of critical importance prompts action.

  • What books are you reading to continue your personal growth and development?
  • How are you continuing to challenge yourself in the workplace?
  • Are you making daily decisions that are in alignment with who you are as a person and professional?
  • Is your current role one that allow you to pursue your passion and make the biggest positive impact possible?
  • Does your schedule have adequate margin to allow for moments of reflection and recalibration?
  • Do you know how to answer the fundamental brand questions: 1) Who are you? 2) What do you do? 3) Why does it matter?

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