FEATURE Craig Russell Lewis
Image Credit: Elizabeth Fraiberg, photographye3.com

Your Life. Your Brand.

by Allecia Vermillion
Become the person you want—without making silly resolutions.

A bunch of lofty plans announced after three glasses of champagne? New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken. Lasting self-improvement is a daily task, and one that doesn’t require dramatic action. Branding strategists have long trumpeted the professional benefits of treating yourself as a one-person corporation. However this approach can also reap benefits in your personal life. We culled together easy ways to create your own identity in both the digital and terrestrial worlds.

Build a personal network
As in business, having a broad range of contacts can dramatically improve your personal life. Start with what you have, says Melissa Dawn Johnson, a global branding and personal transformation strategist based in Atlanta. Scan your address book and create value out of those relationships. Send an invite to happy hour, pass along an interesting article or ask for insight into buying a condo or cooking with a wok. "The goal is to keep that rapport," says Johnson. "We’re moving at light speed; people meet each other all the time, but don’t keep that connection."

Develop your tastes with social media
Posting photos and messages on sites like Facebook and Twitter that reflect your individuality can also help develop personal interests and tastes. Logging time on social media is a great way to learn about trends as they unfold.  "You can start connecting with people who share common passions and interests, so you’re building a community," says Johnson.

Manage your visual brand
We know Steve Jobs for his black turtleneck and Conan O’Brien for his cockscomb hair. Your appearance tells a tale and fortunately it's extremely easy to manage. Liz Goodgold, author of personal branding guide Red Fire Branding, says a hairstyle, body part, hat or memorable glasses can help establish and reinforce your personal brand. She also recommends embracing the phrases you say frequently as part of your identity—think of Emeril's “Bam!” According to Goodgold, “If you cannot be imitated, you are not a strong personal brand.”

Avoid the Mel Gibson effect
"Be authentic" is a vague piece of advice, but Goodgold says it’s critical. "If there is a conflict between who you are and who you are trying to be, you will have an explosion." Though this sounds like an exaggeration, Goodgold points to Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps and Michael Richards, who shocked Americans by displaying traits that didn’t mesh with their public personas. Goodgold calls this the Mel Gibson Effect. For non-celebrities this can be as simple as honoring your southern accent or the fact that you think techno music is lame.

Mind your grammar, even in the digital world
Beware—your online persona isn’t always appropriate. Austin-based training consultant Antoine Lane says he sees too many habits tolerated in text messages—like using emoticons or abbreviations like “U R” instead of “you are”—seep into other communication. This doesn’t fly with people who aren’t steeped in the digital realm, and it can reflect badly on you. Use proper words, he says, until you get to know someone. Then lapsing into your own personal vernacular can help establish a connection with that person.

  • Allecia Vermillion is a freelance writer, tremendous food nerd and editor of Seattlest.com. Hence it should come as no surprise that she lives in Seattle.