#BlogHer15 Recap: How to Build a Meaningful Personal Brand

The following post details a professional development session that took place during the annual #BlogHer15 conference in New York City July 16-18 . A meeting of brilliant female media minds, #BlogHer15 is considered the world’s largest conference for women content creators. It lived up to its reputation of being an authentic, inspiring and informative symposium that succeeded in highlighting the power of women in the business world. This is MBA@UNC's recap of the conversation that took place during the session “You as a Brand: Breaking Free to Build a More Authentic, Meaningful Personal Brand.”

Nancy Davis Kho of Midlife Mixtape moderated a captivating #BlogHer15 conversation between Annie of Ethical Thinker, David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria, Heather Barmore of No Pasa Nada and HeatherBarmore.com, and Kat Kinsman of Tasting Table. The panel’s discussion centered on developing and refining your personal brand, and each speaker acknowledged that it is difficult to walk the fine line between you and your brand. They detailed the challenges they have overcome and shared best practices they have learned while evolving each of their own personal brands. By the end of the session, attendees left with a greater understanding of how to establish their online identity.

Kho led the course of the discussion, hitting on big, common points of contention faced by people struggling to define their own personal brand. Among her questions for the panel, Kho asked the panelists to define what personal brand means to them.

The first to respond, Leite said, “Personal brand for me is where you originated, what you are about. It is that indefinable thing that is you, that is inseparable.” Among the attributes that define his own personal brand, Leite highlighted humor and authenticity. Leite noted that it is important to be yourself. “If you start with where your passion is and what you believe in and how you see the world, that starts going from inside to out,” he said.

Kinsman approached Kho’s conversation starter from a different angle. For Kinsman, personal brand starts with the question she always asks writers: “What is a story you can only tell?” She was forthright in calling her personal brand weird, warm and vulnerable.

Both Annie and Barmore had similar sentiments to contribute. Annie referred to a personal brand as being “how other people see you at the end of the day,” and Barmore explained that a personal brand is “whatever people say about you when you are not in the room.” Barmore went on to expand her answer: “It is the first thought that comes to mind when people are thinking or speaking about you.”

While their definitions complemented each other, the attributes Annie and Barmore used to define their own personal brands varied. Annie referred to herself as a critical thinker, outspoken and as someone who asks questions, whereas Barmore categorized herself as a yogi, CSPAN-watcher and wine aficionado.

All four panelists were willing to offer advice to people who want to be more deliberate about their brand. They all seemed to agree that a personal brand can be confining. “Being in a box is not the right thing because that box is not you,” Leite said. “You are bigger than that box.”

Barmore added that it is “a very natural thing to move out of that box because you are always going through new transitions in life.” She does not believe it is possible to remain stagnant because people evolve over time. How a person thinks changes as they have new experiences.

When Koh asked what each panelist wished they knew before building their own personal brand, each speaker agreed that it is important to make sure your brand is consistent across all platforms. Continuity is key. They also advised that waiting for permission to be anything is a waste of time. Do not get hung up on titles and credentials — make your personal brand your own.