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How to brand yourself

By Tricia Ryan


At the Marketing Chefs we are often asked to help companies find and define their brand statement.  Recently it seemed that a number of friends and business associates were looking for help in re-positioning themselves or providing a bio that fit their current experience level.

As I read the typical/standard bio which contains information like:

  • Business successes
  • Personal interests
  • Tenure in your job market.

I was asked by these people how they might re-define themselves in their bio’s.  I started to look at a series of bios on line on websites for information.  I also pulled out a copy of the bookBe Your Own brand by David McNally and Karl Speak.

Here are some quick tips and tricks for helping you create or update your bio…


Rules about bios…..
Bios are written in complete English sentences in the third person, unlike a resume, which is written in an abbreviated first-person style (on a resume, "managed company" stands for "I managed the company"). Bios tend to be written more tightly than a resume. They often comprise only a single page and emphasize selected roles and achievements rather than offering an inventory of your entire career.
Well-written bios have a "voice." As pitch-pieces, they make a targeted, persuasive argument about what to think about you. This is a departure from conventional resumes, which should come across as dispassionate factual recitations that allow readers to draw their own (hopefully inescapable) conclusion.
A biography repeats your name throughout, making readers feel they know you on a first-name basis. By its very nature, this document can get away with using more stirring language than is appropriate for a resume. As Carleen McKay, a consultant with Right Management Consultants in Atlanta, notes, "A good biography is a factual document, a great bio is a factual and creative document and an exceptional bio is a factual, creative and memorable document."
That said, the tone of your bio shouldn’t cross the line from being confident and positive to inflated puffery, unsupported self-praise or a wowie-zowie sales pitch. It should never compromise your image of professionalism merely to grab a reader’s attention.

Some questions you can ask yourself to begin to outline your bio….

Some questions you might want to think about include:

    • What makes you as a person special or interesting?
    • What kind of effect have you had on the world? other people?
    • What are the adjectives you would most use to describe yourself as a person?
    • What examples from your business or personal life illustrate those qualities?
    • What events shaped or changed your life?
    • Have you overcome obstacles? Taken risks? Gotten lucky?
    • Would the world/the business/the charity be better or worse if you had not lived/worked/participated? How and why?

To help you get at some adjectives that might help you in supporting how you describe yourself.  Consider two exercises…

  • One from doing a psychographic profile.  The example I use here is using DISC. 
  • Or you can do the exercise in the book Be Your Own Brand which is based upon identifying your value statements and organizing them.

Here is a sample of some adjectives that I generated for a colleague that does fund raising using the DISC profile (find it online and pay $50.00 to do one for yourself.

For example:

  • Likes a fast pace, new activities, change, and variety
  • Quick to act and creates a sense of urgency in others
  • Enjoys challenges and competition
  • Can move forcefully to get results
  • Uses direct, action-oriented approach to solving problems

Sandra tends to be forceful, direct, and is likely to convince others of her point of view. She tends to be independent and confident of herself. She may enjoy challenging tasks and is not likely to shy away from difficult jobs. She tends to like competitive situations, new activities, and feeling important.

Any of these types of words can be used. To add energy, tone and personalization to a bio.

The second approach was using theBe your own Brandbook. The book approaches a profile by addressing your competencies (our role with others), then your standards (how we do it) and then your style (how we relate to others).

So words we could work with might look as follows for Sandra our fund raiser…

Competencies  - Our role with others

  • Communications specialist
  • Friend
  • Wife
  • Mentor
  • Leader
  • Fund raiser

Standards -  How we do it

  • Enthusiastic
  • Energetic
  • Professional
  • Humble
  • Collaborative
  • Friendly
  • Outgoing
  • Friendly
  • Fun
  • Compassionate
  • Open-minded

Style -  How we relate to others

  • out of the box thinker
  • demonstrates attention to detail
  • savvy
  • innovative
  • thorough
  • results oriented
  • smart
  • superior performance
  • highly flexible
  • extremely disciplined approach

The idea is to use these three categories of headings, generate words that can be associated with the personality of our fund raiser Sandra.

When we are done we have one more step that is to translate these words into a Brand Platform & Brand Promise for Sandra.

Here are two possibilities we could use for Sandra…

Sandra’s Personal brand platform = e.g. Enthusiastic – Brand Style
Personal brand promise = e.g. “Enthusiasm that will make your day”


Sandra’s brand platform = e.g. Disciplined Approach – Brand Standard
Personal brand promise = e.g. “The discipline to achieve second to none results


How should/could bios look?
Here are three examples of biography styles….

Dr. Judith Smith

For executives and professionals, owners of closely-held businesses and other clients requiring expert assistance with financial, business, tax or estate and retirement planning, Dr. Judith Smith brings a wealth of experience. For more than 15 years, she has earned a reputation for providing skilled and practical guidance as a business consultant, attorney, financial planner and nationally recognized authority on individual, business and estate taxation.
Prior to starting her own consulting firm, Judith was director of estate and business analysis for the London Life., specializing in meeting the business development and planning needs of closely-held business owners and professional organizations. Her areas of expertise include:
  • Executive Compensation Planning
  • Individual Financial, Tax and Retirement Planning
  • Evaluating Investment and Insurance Products
  • Asset Allocation and Portfolio Management Strategies
  • Planning for Business Continuity and Transfer

Earlier in her career, Judith was associate professor of taxation at Eastern College in St. Davids, Pa., where she taught courses in estate and gift tax planning for the CLU and CFC programs. While there, she wroteEstate and Gift Tax Planning Guide, a text still in use today, and she authored and editedIncome Taxation Guide, published by the College. She also is the author of a comprehensive split-dollar manual presently used by Union Labor Mutual Life agents nationwide.
Judith previously had worked as a Tax Supervisor with a Big-Eight accounting firm, with responsibility for developing its financial and estate planning department. For several years she also ran her own law practice in Malvern, Pa., working primarily with small businesses and professional organizations.
Judith holds a Master’s of Law in taxation from Princeton University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She earned her CLU and CFC designation from the University of Pennsylvania.
She is a member of the Association of Advanced Life Underwriters (AALU) and the National Association of Life Underwriters (NALU). Celeste was past chairman of the Insurance Subcommittee of the ABA Tax Section Committee on Small Business and Closely-Held Corporations. She also serves on the Tax Section’s Committees on Personal Service Organizations and Continuing Legal Education. She is a member of the Insurance and Lifetime Planning Committees of the ABA Real Property, Probate and Trust Section. Long active in community affairs, she has spoken throughout the United States on a variety of tax, insurance analysis and other financial planning topics.

Executive Biograph y

Executive Profile
Mark Smith
Mark Smith’s 25-year career in real-estate and land development and investment and asset management has included general management, consulting and entrepreneurial experience with major national real estate developers, a Fortune 500 conglomerate with 30 operating subsidiaries, an international hospitality chain, a capital management firm and successful start-up businesses.
Mark served most recently as managing general partner of Green Willow Associates in Chevy Chase, Md., a limited partnership, where he directed site selection and acquisition of regional shopping center sites, negotiating financing and leasing, obtaining zoning, permits and regulatory approvals and recently structuring the sale of an integrated development "package" to Israeli investors for $41 million.
A lawyer by training, Mark started his real-estate career as assistant general counsel for World Quality Suites International following four years on the staff of U.S. Senator Osgood Z’beard. At WQSI, Mark headed the Acquisitions and Development Committee before being recruited by SureStand Corp. in 1973 to manage its motel, apartment and residential development subsidiary. As vice president of development, Mark both structured developments of up to $75 million and managed operations of the subsidiary itself. In 1984, Mark joined the Overture Division of Cascade Leisure Development Co. in Boise, Idaho, where he was responsible for all phases of shopping-center and ski-resort development, including debt financing, government approvals, tenant negotiations and construction management.
Mark later returned to his home city of Baltimore as executive vice president of property and acquisition for Ascutti Corp., a nationwide real-estate investment, management and development company. There he managed a $420 million diversified portfolio of 60 apartment complexes, two 300-room hotels and commercial projects containing over 700,000 square feet of space. In 1994, Mark was named chief operating officer of Hartanft Capital Management, with full P&L responsibility. He also personally managed a diversified portfolio of office, strip and apartment projects, successfully turning around a score of distressed projects, and increasing portfolio NOI by over 14% on revenue increases of 7%.
Mark is a 1971 graduate of the Law School of the University of Maryland and earned an Executive M.B.A. from the Simon School in 1980 while working full-time. He holds a B.S. in Commerce (Accounting and Finance) from Montana State University.


A Shortie Biography

Mark Smith
In the course of a diverse 25-year career in all aspects of real-estate development, investment and asset management, Mark Smith has proven to be a skilled executive, visionary entrepreneur and an adroit trouble-shooter and turnaround expert. He has worked on the staff of a U.S. Senator; served as assistant general counsel in charge of acquisitions and development for a world-wide hospitality chain, World Quality Suites International; managed a $420 million real-estate portfolio for a nationwide real-estate investment subsidiary of a Fortune 500 conglomerate; and served as chief operating officer for Hartranft Capital Management, with full P&L responsibility.
Mark has developed successful ski resorts in Idaho, salvaged floundering apartment and strip shopping center projects from Atlanta to Philadelphia and packaged and sold a $40 million shopping center development project to Israeli investors. He has created successful start-up businesses and, as a consultant, saved numerous enterprises and projects from failing. He has been tossed in the East Coast real-estate crash of the early 90’s and survived to live another day. Few real-estate executives can boast the depth and breadth of Felix’s expertise and experience.
Mark holds both J.D. and M.B.A. degrees, from the University of Maryland and the Simon School, respectively, and his undergraduate degree is in Accounting and Finance.


Benefits of this bio exercise….
Besides the self-marketing benefits of a biography, an advantage to writing this document is the actual writing of it. The process of thinking through, prioritizing, characterizing and expressing your career profile forces you to review everything you know about yourself -- and make it explicit. As you write, you see and log this vision of yourself into active, articulate memory. That done, you can retrieve it when you want and trot it out either with your pen, word-processor or your mouth. I look forward to your comments on this blog.
Wishing you an awesome and prosperous week.
Tricia Ryan  Principal, The Marketing Chefs