How to find your own authentic personal brand

What I learned from a respected and loved diplomat about personal branding.

On a cold New York January day, seventeen European Consul Generals were gathering for their monthly “3rd Monday lunch” at the European American Chamber of Commerce office in the New York Times building.

The topic was personal branding.

For most people, including diplomats, our job and our role have an overall frame we work within, including success criteria, targets, and budgets. We get trained in being excellent at performing in this role, and we might even get trained in leadership and management, ensuring others perform in their role.

Seldom, or never, do we get trained in what our brand has to do with our professional role and our professional success. It is for us to fill in the blanks.

Let me make one thing clear: Personal branding is not a matter of being an introvert or extrovert. It is not a matter of constant narcissistic social media hype. It is not about copying anyone!

Personal Branding Is Personal

A personal brand is your personal guideline. When you know what your personal brand is, what you would like to be known for, your legacy, first, then can you prioritize! Prioritize what you say yes and no to. Prioritize your energy. Prioritize how much time you spend on various activities, tasks, and people.

Without a clear and conscious choice of your brand, you might find yourself spreading yourself too thin, spending time on things that do not fulfill you, or you lose your drive and zest because you do not have a clear direction.

Personal brand equals the identity. The significant advantage of having a strong identity is that people can read us, know us, and know what we expect of ourselves and others.

Just Be Yourself – Tell Your Story

When I was pitched by Yvonne Bendinger, ED of European American Chamber of Commerce NY, on the idea for this lunch about personal branding for diplomats, I immediately thought it would be valuable to have a diplomat that full-fledged used personal branding to brand her or his country.

One person immediately came to mind: Rufus Gifford, Former US Ambassador to Denmark. Rufus came to Denmark unknown and left a much-loved and respected celebrity.

When Rufus Gifford was appointed US Ambassador to Denmark, I lived in NY, and (sorry, Rufus) I paid no attention to who was appointed ambassador to Denmark.

However, when I spoke with friends, they asked me if I had heard about Rufus. They spoke warmly about him. Not one friend, not two friends, but several friends. When it dawned on me that this man did something very extraordinary was when I spoke with my aunt, she said: “oh have you met this charming ambassador Rufus? Now I understand why you want to live in New York.”

One of Rufus’s personal goals as ambassador was breaking down barriers, strengthening relationships, and breaking down prejudices and stereotypes that the Danes had about Americans. He wanted to show the Danes that the USA is a diverse country.  For that, President Barack Obama had given him the advice that he should: “just be yourself, go tell your story.”

Rufus embraced the advice. The job as an ambassador has, like most jobs, set targets and goals, and he used his brand to leverage this. When he left Denmark, the Danes had gotten a much broader view on America and the causes both the Obama administration and Rufus wanted to focus on. He managed to brand the USA via his brand.

They Never Forget How You Made Them Feel

Maya Angelou famously said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I always think that people that I meet at dinner parties that are the most interesting are the ones that give something of themselves. It could be knowledge, emotions, or honesty.  Those who are not afraid of showing who they are, not afraid of being authentic. One thing that those positive, memorable people have in common is that they make people feel good. They do not bully or leverage themselves on behalf of others.

Knowing how you make people feel is part of knowing your personal brand. Rufus made the Danes feel good about themselves; he made people feel good about him and made people feel good about the USA.

A systematic approach 

Since most of us have not learned how to brand ourselves, we have to fill in the blanks ourselves. Using a systematic approach makes it a feasible and fun journey. The Personal Business Plan™ is an excellent tool for that. In ten easy steps, you will be taken on a guided journey and work with:

  • Understanding yourself – analyze your past and present
  • Identifying your drivers – grasp your personality.
  • Reinventing yourself – set your goals
  • Designing your future – plan and execute

Whether we want to go as big as Rufus or use personal branding on a smaller scale is a personal choice. There is only one right, and that is what is right for you. Insight and clarity about your personal brand will make it much easier for you to prioritize what you say yes and no to. Prioritize your energy. Prioritize how much time you spend on various activities, tasks, and people.

Be Yourself Because Everyone Else Is Taken! Oscar Wilde

About the author

Lena Beck Roervig makes people perform, locally and globally – she makes them reach their goals. She is a global executive, leadership, and performance coach based in Copenhagen, New York, and Cannes.  A proven track record of enabling her clients to perform better – be it reaching their personal or professional goals and get closer to living a life being truer to themselves.


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