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How Do You Manage Your Personal Brand?

With another PodCamp Toronto just around the corner, I’m reminded of Mitch Joel’s spectacular presentation: “Building Your Personal Brand Through Podcasting” at the inaugural PodCamp Toronto. A year has passed and it got me thinking…

Today more than ever, it’s becoming increasingly important to manage your personal brand. If you haven’t done so already, step back, take a deep breath and think about how you want others to see you. Now think about how you interact with people online. Is it consistent with how you want to be perceived both online and offline?

We no longer just need to worry about what people see and hear about us in person — we also need to consider our digital footprints. It’s one thing to control how we portray ourselves online and offline. It’s another when we can’t control what others do and say about us. What gets posted online is easily found and lives on forever in the Google age. Cutting through the clutter is more challenging than ever.

Last fall, I co-presented an information session for parents of middle-school students, helping them understand what their kids were doing online. Within minutes of introducing them to Facebook, they were concerned about their children’s profiles and whether or not their online behaviour would come back to haunt them in the future.


Recently, I’ve been consulting with a recruitment specialist. We’re developing an outreach strategy for connecting with prospective new hires using social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Regardless of what you’re told, when employers are using social networks, they’re checking to ensure profiles of prospective employees are “clean.”. Standing out in the crowd because you have obscenities on your Facebook page probably isn’t the best way to manage your personal brand.

Chef Michael Olsen, who runs the restaurant management program at Niagara College, told me of an old-fashioned way he encourages his students to make an impression on a prospective employer: following an interview or co-op term, he suggests sending them a handwritten thank-you note. Why? To paraphrase Chef Olsen, “Everyone sends e-mail and our inboxes are overflowing. Send a handwritten note and you’ll stand out from the pack.” Think of this the next time you’re pitching a new client. (In case you’re wondering, this chef is no stranger to the digital world. He produces his own podcasts to use as teaching aids and posts videos on YouTube to market the program.)

To bring this subject a little closer to home, I asked three members of the One Degree community to share, in a mere 30 words, how they manage their personal brand. Here’s what they had to say:

Lisa Rousseau from Fredericton, co-founder and COO of WalkingSpree and Atlantic Canadian digital community builder at meshEast shares her thoughts:

“I manage my personal brand by being authentic in the multiple channels (ie. linkedin, facebook, twitter, my blog, etc.) that I interact in online. I also monitor WOM and other sites via RSS feeds for my name, username, blog, etc. Finally I keep an eye on what someone finds with Google search results for my name.”

Michael Seaton of Toronto recently made the switch to the agency side as VP, Digital Marketing at Thornley Fallis. After a well-established career on the client side, he has this valuable advice:

“Find your passion and work it. Read relentlessly. Listen to learn. Question everything. Form opinions and voice them. Keep an open mind. Always take the highroad. Give back to the community. Find a mentor, be a mentor. Be nice.”

Colleen Coplick of Vancouver recently launched 99directons, a social media start-up with One Degree contributor Adele McAlear. She had this to say:

“Consistency in actions, words. My appearance is important and it’s important for me to always (mostly) look pulled together. Try to keep anything negative out of words and rely on humour, sarcasm and the fact that I am willing to help people top of mind.”

How much thought have you given to managing your personal brand?

What would you do if someone posted something negative about you online?

These are just two questions to ask yourself as you continue to try and adapt to an ever-changing digital age.

Photo credit: I’m So Freakin’ Wasted by brbirke


  1. Oliver Bendzsa
    Oliver Bendzsa February 18, 2008

    Thanks for the article. About a year ago I started working on the personal, online brand because most of my vanity hits (Google on your own name) came back with links to previous work I did in PR. I set a goal to change the top search results and it worked. While I’m pleased with this, I couldn’t really quantify (justify) the ongoing effort. I guess I ran out of “what’s next?” motivation. I’d like to hear from others who have seen online personal branding really make a difference. What are some of their objectives around blogging, podcasting, etc.

  2. Mitch Joel - Twist Image
    Mitch Joel - Twist Image February 18, 2008

    I’m sure this will come as no surprise that I consider the notion of Personal Branding as the next frontier in online marketing.
    We used to look for information (Google) now, more and more, we’re looking for individuals (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc…) and this is extending to the point where a Personal Brand can (and does) have serious market-share.
    More on this as my book comes together (which it is 🙂

  3. Geoff Dillon
    Geoff Dillon February 18, 2008

    Great article.
    One other tactical element to consider – building your personal brand is sometimes a defensive measure, especially for people with common names.
    Whether its Facebook or Google, your name is becoming the method by which people will find you online.
    Those with common names will find that building their personal brand is almost like competing for share of voice in a noisy category – either you define yourself, or you leave it up to your customers (those seeking information about you) and your competitors (those with similar names in related industries) to define you.
    I’d suggest the former…

  4. Jeffrey Veffer
    Jeffrey Veffer February 18, 2008

    I think everyone has to manage their personal brand and strive to make the message clear and concise. It helps potential connections to recognize what you stand for and potentially where you want to go.
    But actively managing your brand also serves to signal your ‘uniqueness’ and what makes you stand out from the crowd. In contrast as more and more ‘passive’ information ends up in social networks and other online channels, it becomes a way advertisers get a deeper understanding of your likes and dislikes without much interaction from you. At least take an active role in determining how you want to be perceived.

  5. Eden Spodek
    Eden Spodek February 18, 2008

    Oliver, do you have a plan in case you need to take a more proactive role again? I’m curious to learn how other people’s blogs and podcasts have impacted their brands too.
    Mitch, we’re fortunate you share so many of your thoughts with the community, especially when it comes to personal branding. Can’t wait to read your book, I’m sure it will be full of new insights.
    Good point, Geoff! I’ve had a similar experience with my blog. I’ve applied for a Canadian trademark but there are situations and uses I can’t control. Fortunately, I publish more frequently than the others and stay pretty connected, which helps keep me at the top of the search rankings.
    Jeffrey, I couldn’t agree with you more. Our personal brands should be as unique as we are and used to reflect how we want to be seen by others. Of course we need to be authentic if we want people to believe in us.
    FYI, CBC’s Sunday Report aired a segment on this topic yesterday. You can watch the video clip:

  6. Email or handwritten note? I recently attended an OJT seminar in school. The speaker, who was an alumni, told us that we would stand out from the rest if we sent a thank you email to the interviewer. Although perfectly acceptable, I’m considering the weight and effect of a handwritten note.

  7. Kathryn Lagden
    Kathryn Lagden February 19, 2008

    Great post Eden! Interesting question about what to do when someone posts something negative about you and therefore your brand. Like many I have dealt with negative comments about work I was doing. I think it’s key to get into the discussion early and explain why you’ve made certain decisions and decided to do whatever it is that’s at issue. I expect a similar response when someone posts something negative about your brand would be in order. The person might not agree but at least you’ve added your voice into the mix and the reader can form opinions for him/herself.
    I’ve received 3 handwritten cards since joining my gym 4 months ago. They certainly have stood out more than a form email saying the same thing.

  8. Benjamin Boudreau
    Benjamin Boudreau February 19, 2008

    As a recent BPR grad, I’ve found it very interesting to watch how my former classmates use digital platforms and social media. Personally, I’ve just celebrated a year of blogging, I have an established Facebook profile, and I’ve just pushed myself to get on board the LinkedIn train before it goes mainstream in my neck of the woods. The benefits of Twitter still escape me…
    Others, however, are still using Facebook as a way of sowing the seeds of their debauchery further throughout the web by posting albums like, I Got Drunk #34, without thinking of the consequences. Too many young professionals still think that blogs are for emo kids with angst issues. I mean, COME ON…how much more proof of the power of blogs do you need? And while I’m ranting, how many more HR horror stories do they need to hear before they realize that the web might not be the best place for their late-night dramas and early morning hangovers.
    Don’t send anything by email that you don’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper? No, don’t press send, submit, upload, or post unless you want to see it on the front page of the newspaper, the RSS feeds of the blog scene, or the desk of your potential boss.

  9. Eden Spodek
    Eden Spodek February 20, 2008

    Jen, I’m guessing the point the speaker was trying to make was you should make a point of sending thank you notes to interviewers, regardless of the medium used. Personally, I think thanking people in an email is acceptable but there is something special about a handwritten note.
    Kathryn, Thanks so much for telling us how you’ve dealt with negative comments online. Many of us want to learn more about protecting our personal brands. You’ve got lots of helpful suggestions – I know from personal experience.
    Benjamin, It’s great you’re creating your own online brand to position yourself professionally while you’re still in school. Sounds like some of your peers could learn from your example.
    I agree we need to be careful about what we publish on social networks or any public online space. Although I agree with your comments about e-mail when it comes to professional communication, I’d like to think personal e-mails are a bit more sacred.

  10. Jenny Bullough
    Jenny Bullough February 20, 2008

    Great post Eden! Very relevant in these social-media-saturated days.
    Geoff’s comment above really resonated with me. I got into social media a year ago partly as a defense mechanism. I share my name with a children’s book author in the UK and a yoga instructor in California; they’ve both authored books, so Google favored their listings via Amazon over my own limited online presence. Having a blog and multiple social network profiles changed all that and now the top 5 results in Google are usually me.
    PS. It could have been worse — my maiden name is shared with a Swedish porn star. 😛

  11. Dan Schawbel
    Dan Schawbel March 31, 2008

    You would be surprised by the people that still don’t get it. Discovering your brand is well worth the effort, as it sets you up for success later. The costs are minimal for executing on your brand now due to social media.

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