A Brief Introduction of Personal Brand Management

“Do I really want to go through the same door to work every day for 41 years like my Dad did?” This question, asked by Tom Peters, marked the birth of personal brand management as a career development concept. Personal brand management means a) thinking of yourself as a brand that people have perceptions of, and b) taking action to control how people feel about you (who haven’t met you yet), attracting better career opportunities.

If you’ve never the heard of the concept of “Brand You” before, think of employers as shoppers walking through a giant supermarket, where job applicants line the shelves to be chosen. Pick me, pick me! they cry. How do employers decide which applicants to buy? Aisles and aisles of undifferentiated candidates make their decision difficult.

In order to stand out, personal brand management means thinking of yourself as CEO and marketer of Brand You, then differentiating yourself to stand out from the competition.

Multiple personal brand management methods can help you define and promote Brand You. Today we’ll take a look at two of the most established personal brand management methodologies: William Arruda’s 1-2-3 Success! Reach Personal Branding Process, and Dan Schawbel’s Me 2.0 Personal Branding Process.

Let’s now take a look at William Arruda’s and Dan Schawbel’s personal brand management methods, both of which have gained acceptance in the career development world. (Brief descriptions of both systems are copied directly from their original authors to guarantee the authenticity of their methods).

Let’s start with our first personal brand management method, William Arruda’s Reach Personal Branding Process. William Arruda, dubbed the Personal Branding Guru by Entrepreneur magazine, created the 1-2-3 Success! system, and also established the first personal branding certification program. Through his program, you can become a certified personal branding consultant – pretty cool. His work and speaking engagements have inspired thousands and his book Career Distinction breaks down the personal branding process in detail. We highly recommend his book to help you stand out in the job market.

William Arruda’s Reach Personal Branding Process

Phase 1: Extract

Unearth your unique promise of value.

“Give your brand context. Before you can clearly describe your personal brand, you need to look at the big picture: your vision, and purpose. Your vision is external. It is the essence of what you see possible for the world. Your purpose is internal. It is the role you play in supporting that vision. Additionally, your personal brand needs to be tied to your goals.

You uncover your authentic brand by identifying:

  • Your vision and purpose
  • Your unique strengths and differentiation
  • What others think about you
  • Your values and passions
  • The competitive landscape
  • Your target audience”

Read about the Extract phase on Reach’s website >

My thoughts: Arruda’s “Extract” phase is by far the most thorough and effective way to uncover your personal brand that I’ve come across. People often mistakenly skip this step, and head straight to the steps that answer: “How do I promote myself?” They often wrongly assume that they are 100% clear about their vision, values, strengths, passions, audience, etc. Career Distinction does an excellent and thorough job of guiding you through the soul-searching process required to lay a genuine and rock-solid foundation for your personal brand.

Phase 2: Express

Build your personal brand communications plan.

“Identify the ideal combination of communications tools to reach that audience effectively, while ensuring that you’re standing out among the numerous others who are offering seemingly similar services. List your brand attributes, create a brand statement and even your personal brand tagline.

Develop a strategy for making your brand visible to those who need to know about you so that you can achieve your goals:

  • Document your target audience demographics and psychographics
  • Evaluate all potential communications tools
  • Identify the subset of tools that will reach your audience and support your goals
  • Manage the all-important three C’s of personal branding
  • Build your personal brand communications wheel
  • Identify key content themes
  • Craft your Personal Brand Statement (PBS)
  • Prioritize communications activities to provide maximum impact
  • Establish a communications plan with goals and milestones
  • Develop a plan to link your brand to all that you do

The output from the Express Phase is your comprehensive personal Brand Communications Plan.”

Read about the Express phase on Reach’s website >

My Thoughts: Arruda’s emphasis on establishing milestones makes the “Express” phase very powerful. For example, crafting your personal brand statement is useless if you don’t have a communication plan to spread it. Also, Arruda hits on something that many personal branding authors miss: documenting your target audience’s demograhpics and psychographics. Without a deep understanding of your audience, there’s no way to compellingway express your brand to them.

Phase 3: Exude

Manage your brand environment.

“Align your brand environment—that is, everything that surrounds you—with your personal brand. Your brand environment is made up of your:

  • Office/Work Environment
  • Home
  • Image and Personal Style
  • Leisure Activities
  • Volunteer Efforts
  • Professional Organizations/Associations
  • Professional Network

Evaluate your progress by using metrics such as formal or informal feedback from peers. Also, remain relevant to your target audience by evolving with the times.”

Read about the Exude phase on Reach’s website >

My Thoughts: The premise of the “Exude” phase is this: since your brand is 100% authentically you, every aspect of your life should back it up. Arruda’s inclusion of leisure and volunteer activities in your brand environment is difficult for many people to master. In a perfect world, these will automatically align with your personal brand. Remember, your personal brand is YOU through and through, not just your professional self.

The next Personal Brand Management Method we’ll cover is Dan Schawbel’s Me 2.0 personal branding process. Dan has been described as a “personal branding force of nature” and is one of the most popular bloggers in the world blogging about personal branding. He is also living, breathing proof that actively branding yourself will elevate you above your competition and lead to incredible opportunities that were previously inaccessible.

Dan Schawbel’s Me 2.0 Personal Branding Process

Step 1: Discover your brand

“Brand discovery is about figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life, setting goals, writing down a mission, vision and personal brand statement (what you do and who you serve), as well as creating a development plan. The goal is to equalize this equation: Your self-impression = How people perceive you.”

Read about the Discover phase in Dan’s article about it >

My Thoughts: Like Arruda, Schawbel doesn’t suggest marketing yourself unless you have a deep understanding of what Brand You means to you and others. His “self-impression = others’ impressions” equation makes the concept of a brand easy to understand. The goal is to make your impression of yourself the same impression that the world has of you.

Step 2: Create your brand

“The sum of all the marketing material you should develop for your brand is called a Personal Branding Toolkit. This kit consists of the following elements that you can use to highlight your brand and allow people to easily view what you’re about: Business card, resume, cover letter, references, portfolio, website, blog, LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile, Twitter profile, video resume, wardrobe and email address.

Put on your personal PR hat and start to promote your materials.”

Read about the Create phase in Dan’s article about it >

My Thoughts: In contrast to Arruda, Schawbel focuses more on practice than theory. He emphasizes concrete and actionable items, making this step easy to dive into. For the Gen-Y audience who have shorter attention spans, this might prove a more attractive method.

Step 3: Communicate your brand

“Evangelize: Although you are the chief marketing officer for the brand called you, what others say about your brand (especially if they are respected and well-known) is more impactful than what you say about yourself. This means that you should try and find people who will help promote you when you aren’t even in the same room.

Pitch media: Instead of spamming reporters, do some homework and figure out who covers what. Almost all newspapers and magazines have online versions and blogs now, which are easier to get into.

Search Engine Optimize (SEO): Ranking high for your expertise is extremely important. Reporters, conference organizers and customers are constantly using search engines to find expert sources, cool stories, speakers and solutions to their problems. If you’re at the top, they will contact you.

Attend events: Getting out into an area where people are already interested in what you have to say (an industry event), is where you can do some real networking. Remember that people don’t know about you until they hear about you from your mouth or from a 3rd party.

Speak at events: When attending events isn’t enough, speaking at events can satisfy your personal PR craving. It will be hard for you to speak without becoming known first though, which is why this falls after attending an event.

Create your own event: The only thing bigger than being a speaker is actually starting your own event or event series. When you do this, you are perceived as a leader and a go-to-person at the event.

Comment on blogs: Bloggers love comments. If you comment on every blog in your industry on a consistent basis, people will get to know you based on your avatar (go to gravatar.com) and your brand will flourish.

Write articles: Article writing is a great marketing tactic. Depending on your writing portfolio and the strength of your brand, you can write for magazines, online sources or blogs (like Mashable!). There are also online article directories that you can submit your work to, such as ezinearticles.com.”

Read about the Communicate phase in Dan’s article about it >

My Thoughts: Again, actionable items are the emphasis here. Schawbel’s experience with web tech like SEO and blogging, and his proactive approach to making yourself visible are emphasized in this stage.

Step 4: Maintain your brand

“Online ‘spring cleaning’: As your brand grows, you must ensure that all the online assets that you have control of grow in the same respect. This means that you need to constantly update your LinkedIn profile so it contains your latest contacts, experience information, and summary. It also means that your physical resume has to be updated, in addition to your video resume and so on.

Careful listening: People are going to be talking about you in various places, such as Twitter, blogs, social networks and more. You need to keep track of what they are saying, so that you can respond accordingly. There are many tools out there to help you such as Twitter search, Google alerts, and more. By listening to your industry, you’re able to react and better position yourself, as the economy changes and your niche isn’t as relevant anymore.”

Read about the Maintain phase in Dan’s article about it >

My Thoughts: The fact that “Maintain” is a separate step after “Communicate” is important, because it implies that a continuous effort is required even after you’ve communicated your brand. Just like a business, you should be monitoring what people are saying about Brand You. Schawbel does a great job supplying knowledge and tools to stay in the know about your brand.


Both William Arruda and Dan Schawbel have created excellent personal brand management methodologies. One is not better than the other. However, they each put emphasis on different aspects.

Arruda does a standout job covering the first stages of the personal branding process: extract/uncover/discover your brand. Buy his book Career Distinction if you’re looking to do some soul-searching and laying the foundation for a genuine Brand You.

Schawbel focuses more on actionable items after you’ve uncovered Brand You. What do you do once you’re ready to start promoting yourself? Schawbel (who walks the talk) and has proven that following his advice will help you stand out in your field.

Have you tried Arruda’s or Schawbel’s method? Do you know someone who has? Join the conversation and leave your thoughts below.

Learn More About the Personal Branding Gurus

William Arruda

William Arruda is the head of Reach Communications and the co-author of Career Distinction.

Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the blogger behind Personal Branding Blog and author of Me 2.0.


Add yours
  1. 1
    Meg Guiseppi

    Thanks for bring these two wonderful programs to peoples’ attention.

    I recently completed the Reach Certified Personal Branding Strategist program and can attest to the “soul-searching” aspect of the initial “Extract” Phase. The process was at once somewhat painful — to dig deep — and energizing.

    Part of this first step involves a 360 assessment that you have people who know you best complete. It’s very gratifying to get such compelling and positive feedback from people who know you.

    Throughout the 12 week certification program, I learned much about myself and how to connect my passions and talents to the work I do.

    As a C-level executive career services provider, I’m much better positioned now to help my clients uncover and differentiate their unique promise of value for career fulfillment.

  2. 2
    Dan Schawbel

    I appreciate the plug here. There are many similarities between both of our processes, and I certainly think that you can create a brand on paper unless you have discovered it. There is one piece you’re missing from my process, which is “maintain.” If you read the 2nd mashable article, you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s all about maintaining your presence and growing as an individual.


  3. 3
    William Arruda

    Dan and I both agree that personal branding is based in authenticity and that uncovering and understanding your brand is a critical part of the process. Dan has done an excellent job of establishing himself as a personal branding expert for the Gen Y audience. He is incredibly passionate about personal brandng I respect his.

    Thanks for the post. It is great to see how others relate to the Reach personal branding process.


  4. 4
    Pete Kistler

    Great to hear from the gurus themselves. Dan – you’re right, it looks like this post was originally published with the entire end cut off! The rest of the post is now here, including a breakdown of your “maintain” stage, the conclusion, links to your sites and books, and headshots with your smiling faces.

    – Pete

  5. 5
    Paul Copcutt

    Pete – congratulations on a well put together piece. Very objective and good insight in to the two approaches.

    Being one of the first Reach certified strategists globally I have been involved with Reach for over 5 years and have always found William very responsive to the changes in the landscape – the newly launched version 4.0 of the 360 tool being a good example.

    His co-author Kirsten Dixson has also been instrumental in launching the Reach Branding Club and the On Line Identity Certification – so I do feel that Reach has equal appreciation of the social media/blogging aspect in communicating and living your brand.

    I have watched Dan and have marvelled at his focus and ability to grow his own personal brand incredibly quickly and effectively – using the many tools you mention – that particularly appeal to his niche of Gen Y. I pre-ordered his book a while ago and am eagerly awaiting its arrival.

    There is certainly the place for both approaches (and others) as each client is unique (as they should be!) – what can work for one client will not for another so the more tools, apporaches and ideas I have as a strategist – the better I serve my clients.

    I also use ideas from the books on the subject by Tom Peters, Peter Montoya, Robin Fisher Roffer, Catherine Kaputa and D’Alessandro among many others and as personal branding continues to evolve, I believe that more specialist books on the subject will surface – watch this space!

    Just my toonies worth

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