Ad Club of Buffalo Panel ~ Being [and Building?] Your Own Brand

Most people can quickly deliver their organization’s elevator speech when prompted, but what is your response when asked what “your brand” entails?

Tuesday night’s Ad Lab presentation by the Advertising Club of Buffalo featured a panel of local creative executives, entrepreneurs and brand leaders exploring the topic of “Being Your Own Brand.” Nearly 70 members and guests turned out at Templeton Landing along the downtown waterfront to network and participate in the multi-layered discussion on the ever-expanding (and expounding) industry narrative on branding in the congested, comprehensive digital age of sharing personal content. 

The panel consisted of Jordan Hegyi (Owner of Riveter Design), Warren Stanek (Owner, Warren Stanek Photo), Patrick Finan (Founder of Block Club & City Dining Cards) and Jeff Pappalardo (Creative Director at Crowley Webb).

Ad Club President Charlie Fashana did a great job of moderating and keeping the discussion on track concerning the pros and cons of personal branding and summarized key points from last month’s Wall Street Journal article on co-branding between employees and their companies (“Your Employee Is an Online Superstar. Now What Do You Do?).

While Fashana noted the four major steps in personal branding ~ development, creation, communication and maintenance, the panelists agreed that personal branding, whether or not it is supplemented or supported with social media outlets, relies on consistent performance, your developing portfolio, trust and your ensuing reputation. Furthermore, being true to yourself and projecting passion for your profession will always go a longer way than any excessive, engineered self-promotion. Fashana recommended trying the “three-adjective test” to describe your brand and then test it out on others to see if it translates clearly.

As a panelist pointed out, ensuring that the quality, relevancy and accuracy of your online contributions align with what your stakeholders expect from you is what should always guide your approach to harnessing social media channels for conveying your brand.

Factors to consider and questions to ponder in the blossoming debate about the importance or need for articulating and maintaining your brand for career expansion include:

  1. What are your ingredients to bolstering your brand? Consider your good name, logo, expertise and the ratio of hard and soft skills that comprise your service differentiation, promise and delivery.
  2. Does your brand represent particular values, unique skills, niche services or is your mission or pursuit of brand equity based on a strategic plan?
  3. What are the pros and cons (boundaries, accepted industry best practices, local market awareness, potential conflicts) of elevating your personal brand above and beyond or tangential to your organization’s or agency’s brand? Think a little selfishly in terms of your future in the market when assessing your efforts on fine-tuning your brand.
  4. Are you able to discontinue distribution of non-professional conduct, i.e. venting about work-related situations, delving into hot-button political or social issues or posting vague statements that could be misconstrued by unintended audiences leading to unforeseen circumstances.
  5. Have you fallen in love with your perceived online superstar status? Has it inflated your work or social ego or prompted you to assume you are due higher salary expectations?
  6. Regardless of your rank or length of tenure with your organization, acting like an agency partner wherever you go will always serve your reputation well and allow you to refine or adjust your brand without any past disparaging behavior or negativity diluting your credentials.
  7. If you damage your brand with any snafus, mixture of personal and professional content or controversial posts, how will you be able to polish it again, and will that impact your ability to protect your organization’s or clients brand?

With the proliferation of social media profiles and online personas, the subject of personal branding has certainly become an entity that was underdeveloped, or perhaps widely understood across sectors but never truly dissected on an academic level, until the last few years, and the nature of these discussions and assertions of best practices yields two compelling notions:

1. Should personal branding, and the essential accompanying virtues of etiquette, protocol and professional courtesy, be an undergraduate course added to the curriculum for students majoring in business, marketing, design or public relations?

2. For everyone else in the midst of lengthy careers, how was your pre-social media brand different from what it is now? Do you recall what you did to shape and foster how your work was received and perceived by others?

For #1, I think it is a promising concept for universities to consider, or at least department chairs to move toward developing a mandatory seminar or optional elective that brings in industry leaders from varied disciplines to share their perspectives on the topic over the years and with the onset of new media technologies. Sure sounds like a fun class for future professionals to pursue within their scholarly track.

For #2, your industry reputation, name and brand already thrived on the quality and timeliness of your work, creativity, enthusiasm, communication and customer service before the real-time visual toys made it quicker and easier to broadcast your persona, projects and productivity. Thus, the bottom line in the dialogue about best practices and nuances of personal branding comes down to professional development and the need to constantly improve yourself in a very competitive career landscape for many disciplines. As the event preview cogently stated, in today’s free agent economy, you are your most important client – so, how do you make yourself stand out?

[The Advertising Club of Buffalo is hosting its holiday mixer for members and non-members on Thursday, Dec. 13 at the Empire Grill. Attendees are encourage to bring canned goods that will be collected for the Food Bank of Western New York].

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