White Boards, Personal Brands, and Identity Crises

Sometimes I feel like I need a giant white board to figure out my life. Or at least revamp/refresh my personal brand to keep up with society and accurately represent who I am online and in person. When your personal brand reflects positively on your position, your industry, and your employer, you provide more value to your workplace.

At JP, we love our custom-designed white board in the shape of a brain to do so much of our collective thinking. It is there, where we begin to create visual identities for several types of businesses. We start with questions about likes/dislikes, target audience, audience demographics, and messaging. From there, we do internal creative exercises to come up with logos, play with color schemes, research photography direction, create mood boards and anything else to help us paint a picture of the ideal image for a company.

I had a recent epiphany for personal branding that I think satisfies my need for a personal whiteboard, which I will discuss below.

Your brand, my brand, in words

What’s your personal brand? What do people think about you when they first size you up? In person, they’re looking at your clothing, listening to your voice, and interpreting your non verbals (watch this!). Online, they’re looking at your pictures, reading your content and clicking on the links in your profiles. What overall image do you want to portray both now and leading up to the future?

When I think about this for myself, my first reaction is typically, “Oh, no! Who am I?” (They say this is a common characteristic for ENFJs; we’re always searching for our own identities, like a dog chasing his tail.) For any project I work on, I start with baby steps. I have to look outside myself and visualize who I am and how I want to be portrayed. That’s where Wordle.net comes to play (note: you need an updated version of java to use it). Wordle is great for visualizing several ideas, in, you guessed it, word form.

If you haven’t used it before, the process is simple. Enter as many words as you can think of for a particular topic, select your layout and colors, and within seconds, it generates an image for you.

I create a bunch of these, print them out, lay them on the floor, and think, think, think, with a cup of coffee. To start, these are the first 15 words that popped into my head when it came to my current position as Creative Manager:


So that’s step one. Below are the next personal branding steps I have developed using Wordle. Give it a try by entering 15-20 words for each topic and then see what comes up. What huge collective word picture does this create? What conclusions can you draw about your personal brand? Here are four Wordle topics to help you step outside of yourself and take a look at who you are and provide direction for your brand:

Assess Your Current Job. What do you do? What responsibilities does your job entail?
Background Information. What kind of experience do you have? Education?
Personality. How do you describe yourself? What do others say about you?
Future Image. How do you want to be perceived in five years? What skills and/or characteristics do you want evident in your life?

You can use Wordle in a variety of ways. If you have a company and you’re wondering about your company culture, I suggest either brainstorming several words on your own, or asking employees to give you one or two words to describe the atmosphere, attitudes, and norms of your workplace, and then create a Wordle to summarize the information.

In reality, this is all one giant first step to creating your personal brand. Whether you’re creating a company brand or a personal brand, it’s important to work on understanding who you are before asking others to guess, or worse, misinterpret your identity.

It’s a tool to help you gain awareness of yourself before taking any major measures (e.g., getting a makeover or building a website) to move forward. Please let me know how it works out for you!

By Alisa Manjarrez
Find her on Google+