Personal Branding is Built on Authenticity


Expert Pitch

If you had to pick your theme song, what would it be? 

This is just one creative way that Janée N. Burkhalter, Ph.D., associate marketing professor at Saint Joseph’s University, gets people thinking. “What do you want to be known for?” she asks. “What are you most proud of? What do you value?”

Her task is not as herculean as it sounds; Burkhalter is an expert in personal branding, the ways that individuals and businesses package themselves for a prospective audience. A former marketer of Fortune 500 companies, she understands the intricacies — the mix of authenticity, eye-catching design and professionalism — of what consumers want.

“My biggest piece of advice is to remember that your brand exists on and offline,” says Burkhalter, who serves on the advisory board for Saint Joseph’s Career Development Center. “It is easy to be bold online, but people will not appreciate it if the person they meet is not the same person you showed on Instagram.”

According to Burkhalter, brands are a bundle of attributes, represented by colors, logos, messages, values and services offered. To help discern what your brand is, she recommends undergoing a personal assessment. 

“You need to find inspiration in order to define your brand,” says Burkhalter. “Pull your network into your decision-making process in a 360 evaluation, to understand your strengths and weaknesses.”

When it comes to social media, she beats the drum of authenticity: Do not be a different person in one space or another. “It is a lot easier to live up to your personal brand if, from the start, what you promote is authentic,” says Burkhalter, who points to Michelle Obama and Brené Brown as examples of consistent, honest brands that choose very well what to reveal and what to keep private.

While she advises to not necessarily be posting on every platform, Burkhalter recommends reserving your name or handle across all social media channels — to keep it out of competitors’ hands. She also stresses that you do not always need to create content; reposting articles that resonate with you shows consumers what you read and value, and can save you time and energy.

For people experiencing a career change, like many parents who have gaps in their employment, Burkhalter emphasizes focusing on “transferable skills and common threads.”

“You need to learn how to talk about your experience beyond your titles,” she says. “If you want to move from accounting to marketing, it can be a slow-going process to convince folks that you are the creative, analytic person they need. Show them that you are the creative who can manage the budget or talk across different functional areas.”

Though Burkhalter’s research focuses on entertainment marketing, personal branding is a passion project. “I am an introvert, but I can do this,” she says. “People think you always have to be ‘on’ to have a brand, but I disagree. Helping people see that is really fun.” 

Burkhalter’s enthusiasm for her work shows. Her theme song? “Right now, it is ‘Here’ by Alessia Cara — the perfect introvert song!”

Learn about personal branding from female industry leaders like Burkhalter at the PA Conference for Women, sponsored in part by Saint Joseph’s University on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. 

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