Several years ago, Dr. Daniel Zinnel, CEO of Proteus, decided to wear a bow tie to work every day. As he explained at a recent HealthConnect Fellowship discussion, his goal was to establish a more visible identity – or brand – within his organization and community that would help him become noticed, so that he could better elevate his ideas.
Whether we intend to or not, “our brand is accumulated along the way,” noted Fellow Mike Armstrong. To Zinnel’s point, making an intentional decision about what we want our brand to be can open up opportunities to advance our issues and ideas.
Here are five takeaways from the discussion Zinnel facilitated about how we can build our personal brand strategically.
How we show up physically makes a first impression that can influence whether we are seen or heard, Zinnel shared. Wearing a bow tie took risk because Zinnel was asking to be seen. But by doing it, people approached him at meetings to comment on the bow tie, which gave him a chance to start a conversation on what he wanted to discuss.
To establish his personal brand, Zinnel went through a reflection process that included identifying his top five personal values. Knowing his values made him consider how he wanted to express those values when he showed up in the community. For example, his value of “joy” became inspiration for him to post a “daily dose of joy” each day on Facebook to help him practice this value and share it with others during a stressful time during the pandemic.
The combination of how we look and how we act based on who we are creates a feeling about us that helps others remember us. When people see Zinnel’s bow tie, it reminds them of who Zinnel is as a person and what he stands for. They are then more likely to think of him when it comes to inviting people to conversations or community efforts.
Showing up in settings where we feel as though we must present ourselves differently than who we are can be harmful and limit our capacity to create change. This can be especially true for individuals of color who are often encouraged to adhere to white norms. Setting boundaries and practicing self-care can help maintain energy for living out your personal brand.
“You are alive to live out your brand,” said Fellow Christine Her, “And we need to protect that.”
When we know who we are and how we want to express our identity, we also define who we want to align with and partner with. It can help us make decisions about where to show up and decide when another partner in the work may be best to step into a space where we don’t feel we can be authentic.
“People have a perception of us either way,” reflected Dr. Maria Corona. “Building our brand makes it easier to represent our true selves.”