Building your Personal Brand without Getting too Personal

There is a scene from Kate and Leopold where Kate (Meg Ryan) is using Leopold (Hugh Jackman) to sell a fat-free butter spread for her firm.

Leopold (to Kate): You know it’s revolting, yet you have no qualms enlisting me to endorse it?
Kate: … What’s the problem?
Leopold: The problem is that, for no reason beyond my affection for you, I find myself peddling pond scum to an unsuspecting public.
Kate: … Sometimes you have to do things you don’t like…. It’s a part of life.

This scene has always stuck out to me as a perfect example of how to maintain your integrity (and how to lose it). If you put your name on pond scum, then your name becomes linked to pond scum.

Don’t be like Kate

Building your personal brand should not have you ejecting every thought and feeling out into the internet like a teenager who just got her first iPhone. It should be a cultivated effort to present your values and your talents out into the world.

If you cannot fully endorse what you are saying, then you shouldn’t post/share/send it.

Using social media to regurgitate everything you see or hear will only cheapen your brand. Having a successful brand means having a successful filter.

What is a personal brand?

In my research, I have seen the term “personal brand” used extensively, but have never seen it clearly defined.

For the purposes of this article, I will use this definition:

A personal brand is the picture you present to the world about your talents, skills, and values through the use of social media, networking, and story-telling.

Start with what you value

It’s easy for me to say that you shouldn’t post what you don’t believe in/support. It’s much harder to be able to determine how to decide what to put your name on.

So…start by being honest with yourself. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What keeps you up at night? What do you really care about?

For me, it’s my family, finding a creative outlet, learning a new thing and helping other people. As I build my personal brand, I try to focus on posting and sharing things that will allow others to know what I value and what I care about.

Decide what you want your brand to do

There is a strategy in education called backward design. The idea is that, when planning your curriculum, you need to start with your end goal and work backwards. If I want my students to be able to argue effectively in writing, then I need to teach them what a good argument looks like. I also need to teach them how to write.

It’s a simple concept, but one which transfers nicely to the idea of the personal brand.  Instead of thinking of a personal brand as a way to get your name out there, think of it as a way to get your name to do something for you.

If I want my personal brand to be able to help me transition to a new career path/ build my business/ attract investors, I need to do x. 

Whatever is will be determined by a combination what you want (and need ) professionally and what you value. Why you do things mixed with how you do them. Once you know the purpose of your brand, it will be a lot easier to nurture and cultivate it.

Tell Your Story. Leave out the boring parts.

When you are formulating your personal brand, you should think of it as a story you are telling. Just like a company sells it’s brand, you need to sell you. Just, a better, more concise you. 

Elmore Leonard’s 10th rule of writing is to “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

Give your clients and employers the Cliff’s Notes version of yourself: the combination of skills, history, and personality that will leave them with the impression you want them to have.

Go read “The Complete Guide to Building Your Personal Brand”

Seriously, it is incredible. Lengthy, but a genuine resource to help you in your career.


Serious as a Heart Attack…

My youngest uncle had a heart attack on Friday.

He is 57. Active. Has never smoked. But he had a heart attack on Friday.

When his brother, my uncle John*, died two years ago, we were all very quick to blame lifestyle.

John was obese. John had a terrible diet. John had spent a long chunk of his life doing some very hard drugs.

We mourned him and gave no more thought to how his genes are our genes.  We should have been more cautious.

My uncle had no symptoms except exhaustion and heartburn. He was driving three hours to meet with a client and just had a sudden urge to lay down. He thought about getting a hotel room to take a quick nap before his appointment. If he had done that, he would have died.

But he didn’t. He called the nearest relative (my mom) and had her take him to the ER. Once there, they discovered a 100% blockage in one artery and 80% in the other. They put in a stint and saved his life.

Since Friday, in between my green beers and festivities, I’ve been researching. And, even though I’m only 31, I’ll be giving my doctor a call Monday morning to make sure heart disease is on the radar.

Infographic of Heart Disease Statistics from CDC


  1. American Heart Association ” Heart Attack Symptoms in Women.”
  2. Allen, Karma and Maia Davis. “Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may have caused up to $200 billion in damage, comparable to Katrina.”
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Heart Disease Fact Sheet.”
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2016 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released December, 2017. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2016, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at on Mar 18, 2018 11:46:00 AM
  5. Macmillan, Amanda. “Never Ignore these 11 Heart Symptoms” WebMD.

Using Science to Make Your Audience Remember What You Tell Them

There is a reoccurring trope in sci-fi where the protagonist takes some drug, has some head injury, or is subject to some government experimentation and then suddenly has complete access to the power of his or her brain (unlike us mere mortals who only can use 10% at a time).

Bradley Cooper did it in Limitless. Scarlett Johansson did it in Lucy.

It’s been done.

It’s also a complete fabrication.

There is no magic pill that will make a person’s brain work better. There are, however, some predictable patterns of how the brain works and learns.

Once you know them, it is easy to structure the way you present your information so that your audience will remember it.

Attention Span

TIME published an article in 2015 making the claim that “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish.”

While it sounds unbelievable, the science is sound:

“Microsoft found that since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.”

This doesn’t mean that people can’t retain information after eight seconds. It means that, given the that the stimuli, or what is presented, doesn’t change, a person will typically lose full interest after that time.

Attention Span

Activating Prior Learning

There is a commonly used teaching tool called a KWL chart. Before reading anything, students are to list what they know about the topic(K), and what they want to know about the topic(W). Then at the end of reading, they summarize what they learned (L).

What this does is activates the student’s prior knowledge of the subject so that the new information they read is associated with the old, already encoded information. While it is not always feasible to make your reader fill out a chart every time they read your post or lesson, beginning with common knowledge can help your reader remember the new information to come later.

For example, start with a popular movie or song that loosely relates to your topic.

Activating Prior Knowledge

7 Plus/Minus 2

The average adult can only hold onto 5-9 individual pieces of new information at a time. This holds true in study after study, and is why phone numbers are 7 digits long.

It is possible to get around this by “chunking” information together, but it has to be meaningful. This is why it is incredibly easy to write out the last four digits of your SS on command, but why you may struggle if someone asks for the last 5.

Rule of 7

Primacy and Recency(Firsts and Lasts)

There are dual phenomenons in the study of memory called the primacy and recency effects. Basically, your brain remembers the first and most recent things when presented with new information.

This is a very simple concept that is easily integrated into how you structure your writing. All it requires is a little planning into where you position your information.

Primacy and Recency


  • Break posts into meaningful segments to keep attention

  • Make connections between the information you are presenting and the information your audience already knows

  • Stack the most important in the beginning of your piece

  • Don’t add more than 7 topics in your piece


After One Week of the New Blog

When I was teaching, I would sometimes require my students to fill out an “exit slip” before leaving the classroom. It was a good, informal way to check if they were understanding what I was telling them.

Because in this blog, I function as both teacher and student, I have decided to give myself an exit slip each week. For science.

Bubble Graph of Blog Statistics
What I have learned:

  • The importance of Alt Text descriptions
  • How to make a picture into a link through Codecademy
  • How to format a table in html for WordPress
  • How to create basic infographics

Next Steps:

  • Inforgraphics Challenge through Venngage
  • Explore Khan Academy for code classes
  • Publish everyday