AMA Baltimore Blog

Professional Development

Building and Staying True to a Courageous Personal Brand

Abby Draper
February 28, 2024 |
8 minute read

“A personal brand is the way that one presents themselves to the world. It’s how someone perceives who you are and what you stand for, and what your story is. It’s the way you market yourself.“ – Kris Jenner, ‘Kween’ of personal branding, for MasterClass

As marketers and strategic communicators, we develop, maintain, and amplify the brands we work with to create a strong, meaningful, and thoughtful voice that represents who they are and who they want to be. We then intentionally complement these brand voices so that they become familiar and easily-recognizable to key target audiences and consumers in general. 

Those professional skill sets are also applicable – and important – to building our own personal brands, which has become more and more important with the constant evolution of word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing, social media, and the Internet in general. 

So, how can you do this? Humble & Wallop, a Baltimore-based integrated marketing and creative agency that I partner with and admire wholeheartedly, has created a five-step recommendation for anyone trying to define their own personal brand. 

 

1. Be Genuine 

To have a successful personal brand, be genuine and consistent. You are not going to be perfect. Sometimes you might have to backtrack or make some changes. The more evidence you have of living out your personal brand, the more people will trust you and feel confident in you as an industry leader. If you are constantly changing your opinions or priorities, your voice may start to feel inauthentic and tough to trust. 

To continue the Kris Jenner quote from above, she goes on to say, “My overall personal branding philosophy is to simply be your authentic self. Do something that you love to do, that you feel like you would enjoy and everything else will flow. Even through some hiccups.” 

I distinctly remember a moment in my career as I approached “mid-level management.” I was told my name and bio would be posted online. The person that was in charge of business development at the time was tasked with writing that bio for me, and I don’t particularly remember everything that was included, but what stood out at the time, and remains with me today is that she described me as “tenacious.” At that moment, I knew that was a way that I wanted to be thought of moving forward so I work daily on making sure my story includes tenacity.

As my career has progressed, I’ve added to the brand of being tenacious, the fact that I approach everything with kindness. The combination of the two has led to some incredible experiences, relationships, and very cool work. Most recently, with the help of Humble & Wallop, I was able to leverage my skills and experience as a public relations practitioner to rebrand and relaunch “Mastering the Room,” an irreverent political podcast by George Washington University College of Professional Studies and its host, professor Dr. Casey Burgat. 

 

2. Stay Focused 

Choosing a genuine specific word, or niche, will make your brand and its voice memorable. It is important that you focus on that tenet before trying to widen your scope to new people or markets. If you do not stay focused, you may find yourself bouncing from one idea to the next, confusing your audiences. 

My trusted agency expert, Samantha Markiewicz, Chief Digital Officer of bread & Butter, agrees – “I think that in an age of rapid-fire news cycles, it’s hard for journalists, brands, and consumers to verify and distill down accurate information. Maintaining a personal brand shows media, brands, and partners your values, your professional intuition, and your motives, and allows a sense of trust. It shows people that you are more than a release, a toolkit, or a brief – that you believe in the work you are putting out and that you stand for something.” 

 

3. Let Others Brag for You 

While talking about yourself and promoting your voice is very important, knowing that others are “hearing” that voice in the way that it’s intended is a strong and trusted testimonial that allows others to believe that you’re authentic. This authenticity will bring more clients, work, partnerships, and opportunities for you on its own. 

This can happen by delivering beyond what people expect from you. When it comes to maintaining my brand of tenacity and kindness, I am always making sure that I exceed the expectations of others through over-delivering, not being afraid to hear “no” and remaining polite and gracious, no matter what. 

Asking others to brag for you isn’t always easy, but I very much recommend asking your network to share their thoughts through LinkedIn recommendations. An example of that is actually from a very dear colleague of mine, Matt McDermott, who happens to also be the president of Humble & Wallop that I’ve known and worked with for 15 years. When asked to write a recommendation for me, here is what he shared: 

“(Abby’s) ideas are audacious, often untameable in the paragraphs of a press release. While I’ve known and collaborated with her for years, her work for Humble & Wallop has provided our team with ringside seats to see how she connects brands to wonder.” 

 

4. Show, Don’t Tell 

While having others share your accomplishments, and sharing them yourself is hugely important, it’s true when they say, “the work speaks for itself.” So, speak your voice and its value through your work. Your audience may be more likely to trust the evidence of your personal brand than they are to take your word for it. One of the things we have implemented this year at Humble & Wallop are four key tenants to what the business stands for. When we review and reflect on our work, we always map it back to our agency voice. I genuinely believe that your work has to amplify your personal brand, and vice versa.

This includes: 

  • Honest Partnership. We challenge brands to create for their audiences, not themselves. We’ll speak up when the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, no matter how uncomfortable the conversations may be. 
  • Streamlined Management. Our creatives work directly with clients, saving projects from a dark hell inhabited by games of telephone, rain delays, and budgets gone rabid. 
  • Speed to Relevance: Culture moves too fast to spend time navel-gazing. Once we have a truth, we put it to work, we test it, iterate on it, and move forward. 
  • Creative Collaboration: Brands deserve a place at the creative table. After all, they’re the ones who take the fall if the work doesn’t work. So we treat them as accomplices and instigators in the creative process.

 

5. Keep Growing

Industries change every day. New trends and technologies emerge, and if you do not adapt, you will not succeed. Stay educated on the latest happenings in your industries with courses and webinars. Let your audience know what you are learning about and what you find interesting or confusing. Including your audience in the learning process will engage them while also letting them know that you are continuing to grow. 

As with all things, time allows for experience. In this industry, no two days are the same, but your story can remain that way if you are open to its evolution. You can’t control what may happen, but you can control how you respond to it. If you find that you’ve lost your voice in a moment of challenge, take a deep breath, learn from it, and find it again the next day. Are there times when I’d rather just “slam the laptop shut til Monday”? Yes. But, my promise of tenacity doesn’t align with that. Have there been moments where I’d like to hang up the phone during a conversation that feels kind of crummy? Absolutely, but that wouldn’t allow me to remain true to the importance of being kind. These are reminders I have to visit weekly, but the growth in the struggle is what makes a personal brand so empowering. 

All that said, building a strong personal brand will work wonders for your career, for your clients and partners, and for your agency or business. Before you make any big moves, take time to consider what you want your brand to be and which market you want to serve. You may not have the perfect brand all figured out at the beginning. There will be a lot of adjustments to make along the way. But, as long as you keep your core values in mind, stay true to yourself, and work hard, you will eventually build a brand for yourself that you can be really proud of. 

 

AMA Baltimore is passionate about helping our community of marketers achieve their goals and becoming everything they envision themselves to be. An AMA Baltimore Membership provides marketers at all levels the opportunity to inspire and ignite the best version of yourself. Whether you’re looking for networking opportunities, professional development, industry resources, fun, influence, involvement, or growth, AMA Baltimore is where you’ll find it all. Let today be the day you take the next step in advancing your personal and professional development. You won’t regret it! 

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Abby Draper

Abby Draper joins the AMA Baltimore Board with her over 20 years of experience in integrated strategic communications and a natural drive to exceed expectations. Abby has managed brands across a multitude of categories and channels to create award-winning, and career-accelerating work from the east coast to the west coast and even abroad.
Abby Draper joins the AMA Baltimore Board with her over 20 years of experience in integrated strategic communications and a natural drive to exceed expectations. Abby has managed brands across a multitude of categories and channels to create award-winning, and career-accelerating work from the east coast to the west coast and even abroad.

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