Building your personal brand: Is what they think of you any of your business?

By Ginny Mackin. In 1978, my college roommates and I were sitting at our friend Fitzy’s kitchen table. Her mom, Alice, gave us some powerful advice.

We had just had a run-in with a group of “mean girls.” One of the girls had said some nasty things about a member of our squad. Alice looked at us across her teacup. “What they think of you is none of your business,” she said.


Alice coached us to ignore the gossip. She said that their opinions and behavior said much more about the character of the “mean girls” than about our buddy.

Indeed, who cares what the mean girls thought?

How freeing. I carried Alice’s advice with me in my social life for years. Being over-encumbered by others’ opinions of me removed a social burden and built my confidence.  I listened, but I became a steward of my own brand rather than letting others define me.

That was tested during my first job in New York. I quickly learned that perceptions mattered. My professional reputation dictated what meetings I was included in, whether my ideas were considered and how people treated me overall. The game had changed.

In this column last month, I shared why paying attention to your personal or leader brand is good business (Business Today January.). We worked on a “reason for action” and developed a purpose statement.

The next step is to gain an understanding of how we are perceived. After all, having an accurate view of stakeholders’ perceptions of us, including the gaps between how we are viewed today—and how we want to be viewed—is critical to developing our strongest brands. There is a balance between listening to others’ perceptions and taking control of your own reputation and brand.

So was Alice, wrong? I don’t think so. At times in our lives, it is authentic and right to give less credence to others’ opinions of us. It frees us from social pressure and anxiety.

But in business, we are our reputations and brands. Why wouldn’t we do everything possible to be clear about ourselved—including how we are viewed—and intentionally become and demonstrate the very best versions of ourselves?

Managing our brands is similar to change management. In change management, we name and analyze our target audiences to understand

1. Who they are

2. What they think

3. What is going to influence their thinking so that a change can be successful.

It’s the same process as in building your brand. It is essential to know the specific groups or people most important to influence with your brand so that you can achieve your goals.

Let’s develop a stakeholder plan. Assume you are a real estate broker who wants to shape your brand and build your business.  Create a four-column chart with each of these steps as input into a column. It should look like this…

A. Name 5 individuals or groups. Be specific.

Example: Prospective home sellers in the area who may be downsizing in the next 2 years.

What are my stakeholders’ current perceptions of me?

Example: I am viewed as a younger, less experienced sales agent who represents first-time buyers.


C. How do I want to be viewed by my stakeholders? Complete the statement “I want to be known as someone who …”

Example: I want to be known as an experienced and trusted listing agent who is skilled at understanding the unique needs of clients while listing, marketing and selling their homes quickly and for the highest price.


D. What are the gaps between how I am viewed today and how I want to be viewed, and how do I address them?

Example: I am viewed as an inexperienced seller, but I actually have deep experience listing and selling homes and am very loyal to current and repeat clients.

Identifying your stakeholders and assessing their perceptions helps you begin to develop your action plan. Focus on the next step and ask yourself:

What immediate actions can I take to ‘close the gaps” and reposition my brand with my critical stakeholders?

How do I get on their radar? How do I demonstrate that I can help them? How do I get in front of them? Should I manage my time differently? Do I have friends or colleagues who might make introductions for me?

Going through a stakeholder perception process is a worthwhile way to focus your energy and actions on building your brand and building your business.

Keep Alice’s advice in mind: Don’t let others define you. And balance that with an authentic understanding of your stakeholders and yourself.


NEXT MONTH: Establishing your unique value statement is the heart of your personal brand. What is it, how can you define it and what do you do with it? Get ready to differentiate yourself from the pack.

Ginny Stone Mackin is the principal of Grace & Stone Communications, LLC. Based in Cornelius, Ginny led communication functions at Ingersoll Rand, Duke Energy and Wachovia Corp. She also held management roles at Bank of America, CPC International and Bonwit Teller Stores.


2 Responses to “Building your personal brand: Is what they think of you any of your business?”

  1. For entrepreneurs, there are few facets as valuable as a personal brand. It’s how people perceive you and, more importantly, it determines the business you’ll see in the future. Utilizing social media and other such platforms smartly can help with brand building.

    Posted by Robert S. | February 13, 2020, 1:51 pm
  2. A brand is something significant to a business. It is the identity of your business and makes way for business success. The method you select your brand will show you how well you are in the track of work in the industry. Brands can be one way for huge profits.

    Posted by Andrea Charles | February 19, 2020, 1:30 am

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