Personal Branding in a Digital World

What is branding? Is it a tagline, a visual icon, a jingle? Or does it stand for something more? What is personal branding? How are our deepest and most personal values – what we stand for – reflected in what we do online and how we present ourselves in a business context?

I just attended the first in a series of workshops facilitated by Michael B. Maine (who I met through Twitter). Michael is a specialist in socially responsible marketing and social entrepreneurship, and is both staff and student at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI), a pioneer in the sustainable MBA degree.

There are so many good things to say about this workshop. The majority of the attendees were members of Michael’s cohort or instructors at BGI, and I have to say: Wow, I have never seen a group of MBA students more excited about being in MBA school. (I am not affiliated with BGI in any way, this is just my personal observation from one evening). I was nowhere near that excited about getting my MBA!

MBA-stuff aside, I learned as much about information delivery as I did about personal branding. The workshop was in the evening (6 PM – 9 PM), in a downtown conference room, with about 15 people seated around a long table, a whiteboard (which we didn’t really use), and a wonderful sideboard of fruit, bread, cheese, and a few other goodies. This made it more comfortable and intimate for everyone. Michael works completely without Powerpoint, too (thank you!).

Michael started with a brief speed-networking exercise where we paired up to learn about our neighbors and then shared with the group what we had learned. What a diverse group of people: an urban farmer, an undergraduate at the University of Washington, a mountain climber, a “knowledge genius” – so many great stories to hear. One of the attendees kicked off the evening by sharing her personal story as a generalist, a lifelong learner who is seeking “Right Livelihood”, a term I plan to research further.

We moved on from there to several written exercises to further define and refine our personal brands:

  • Listing which activities brought us the most joy as children
  • Choosing from an extensive list of adjectives to describe ourselves
  • Answering three key questions: Who Are You? What Do You Do? Why Does It Matter?

I walked away from this workshop inspired and energized, with some new insights into who I am, what kind of a job I want to create for myself and some of the important needs I must satisfy to feel happy in my professional life.

Perhaps the most important insight for me was to remember what I loved to do as a child – which things took me away, out of myself, for hours and hours. For me, those things were playing on the piano and reading books. I think it’s important for me to remember that before I launched myself on a career path, got educated at a bunch of fancy schools and became an engineer, programmer, mother. wife, and business person… I was a little girl who just liked to play endless arpeggios by ear on the old upright piano in the living room. Just thinking about it brings me back to a place of peace, a place at once outside and within myself. I want to make sure that whatever I do professionally with the second half of my life involves a piano and that sense of being lost in the music.

If you want to know more about Michael and his workshops on personal branding and other marketing and branding-related subjects, visit his website If you want to go straight to register for one of Michael’s followup workshops (and my guess is they will be sold out), you can find them on Eventbrite.

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