Rebuild Your Personal Brand by Starting with Strengths

Last Updated Mar 10, 2011 12:35 PM EST

When professional marketers consider changing an existing brand strategy, they have a variety of options. They can tinker at the edges (a new logo, à la Starbucks), change the core messaging (See Lexus) or blow the whole thing up and start fresh (Chrysler under Fiat).

But forget that stuff when it comes to changing your personal brand. You can't, and shouldn't, start over from scratch. Never mind that it's impossible to change your DNA, your personality, your innate strengths. In fact, the best starting point for an effective remake of Brand Me is to sit down with a piece of paper and list your own unique selling propositions. What do you do better than anyone else?

Using the example of conservative commentator Ann Coulter, marketing consultant Dorie Clark makes this point in her article Reinventing Your Personal Brand in the current issue of Harvard Business Review. (The article costs $6.95 to purchase on HBR's website, but is probably worth the investment if you are thinking about how to change people's perceptions of you.)

"What's your unique selling proposition? That's what people will remember, and you can use it to your advantage. After losing popularity to newer, even more right-wing talking heads, the conservative pundit Ann Coulter had to reinvent herself. She didn't entirely abandon her old brand; she reconfigured it to compete in a new marketplace. Leveraging her unique blend of blonde vixen and conservative firebrand, Coulter is now courting gay Republicans who enjoy diva-style smack talk."

And that's a great point. Assuming you have had success in the past and have recognized strengths, those ingredients should be used to "distinctively color your new brand and help you stand out," Clark advises.

By the way, here is a summary of Clark's five steps to successful personal rebranding.

  1. Define your destination and acquire the necessary skills.
  2. Create a unique selling proposition and distinguish yourself by leveraging your points of difference.
  3. Develop a narrative that describes your transition in terms of the value it offers others.
  4. Reintroduce yourself, using digital media and seizing opportunities to showcase your capabilities.
  5. Prove your worth by establishing and promoting your track record.
What's your strategy for rebuilding your personal brand?

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(Photo by See-ming Le, CC 2.0)
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.