EVENT REPORT: Owning Your Personal Brand

By Monique Bae

Tucked in the back of the bustling Book House Cafe in Jinbocho on March 29 were 10 people enjoying a two-hour workshop held by Ruth P. Stevens, a founding member of SWET and a globally recognized marketing professional and adjunct professor at NYU Stern. In “Building Your Personal Brand as a Freelance Professional,” Stevens provided tips on how to set ourselves apart and put a spotlight on the meaningful work we do.

1) She began by defining what a personal brand is and why it’s worth caring about (we all have one, whether we know it or not). 

2) After getting clear on what our personal brands were, Stevens guided us through coming up with a “core” (What do you do?) and “point of differentiation” (What is unique about what you do?) to craft a personal branding message (professional or personal). For those looking to rebrand like I was, this was a good chance to think about what we want our future selves to be known for.

3) Personal branding messages in hand, we were ready to communicate that to the world. Of course, we do not have to do what doesn’t feel natural or comfortable for us. She provided 5 tactics for us to choose from (or combine) for establishing our brands: (1) volunteering (hello, SWET!); (2) writing (I think we know a little something about that); (3) speaking; (4) networking; and (5) boosting online visibility (no, you do not need to be on every platform). 

4) On the topic of social media, special attention was paid to LinkedIn, and the parts of our LinkedIn profiles we definitely should not skimp on (profile photo, headline, bio, cover photo, skills, and endorsements, URL). Although LinkedIn lacks the strong brand recognition it has in neighboring countries China and India, it is still worth it for Japan-based participants to have a LinkedIn profile to serve as a credible and professional portfolio that clients (in and out of Japan) can go to.

5) Spruce up your LinkedIn profile and consider sending Stevens a tailored LinkedIn request. That is what I did. The possibility of her scrutinizing my profile was good motivation to get mine in order. 

6) Pay attention to what is tied to you online. What comes up when people Google your name? No website? Make one with a professional-sounding domain (preferably your own name).

The rich content was broken up by questions as well as opportunities to apply Stevens’ strategies, such as creating a brand statement and an elevator speech (with feedback!). This was not only my first formal introduction to SWET, but a workshop that happened at a much-needed time when I was struggling to clarify my personal branding as a creative writer. Several weeks later, I have a new website and a clear brand message that succinctly explains the kind of writing I do. You can be sure that I will be adding it to my LinkedIn profile when it is ready.