Connecting Yourself and Your Organization
We're One, But We're Not the Same
It doesn't matter if you're a private practice doctor, roofing contractor, shoestring startup, film director, restaurateur, or CEO of a Fortune 500 company. You're in a double bind: you reflect on your company and build its brand and image, but at the same time bringing your own image and your company's image too close together is a mistake. Non-profits and startups have this problem all the time: founded by someone passionate, they struggle to differentiate the leader and the organization. Larger businesses, especially publicly-owned corporations, have the opposite problem: leaders often don't associate their behavior at all with the processes of the organization, even if it begins to destroy it (think Dov Charney from American Apparel). Your first step, then, is to both link yourself and differentiate yourself from the organization. It's all about balance.
Our Brands, Ourselves
While we often like to pretend that the people in an organization aren't as important as the work it does, anyone that's had bad service at a restaurant or complained about the quality of a flight on a U.S.-based airline (in other words, everyone) knows better. In fact, we all go places that might not serve the best food because the servers are great, or we go to happy hour at the neighborhood bar without all the pretty people because the bartender knows our names. We buy products because we trust Tony the Tiger or the Quaker Oats guy, see value in the Prius even if it's not much better for the environment, and stay loyal to our sports teams because...well, because they're our teams (Cubs fans understand this more than anyone). So remember, the story your organization tells is key, and that comes from the relationships you build through that organization. For your employees, your customers, and your investors to all understand what you believe in and are working is one of the most important things you can do.
When thinking about how to connect your personal brand and your professional brand, try to think about what they have in common. Do they care about other people? Are they invested in natural beauty? Are they both devoted to family, or adrenaline junkies, or hip/edgy/urban? Everything that makes you a person doesn't have to be in your personal brand, and everything in your personal brand doesn't necessarily have to come into contact with the organization. However, limiting the public side of those things is important. Your personal brand should convey and develop (meaning, make sub stories for) the larger organization's brand. Does that mean you want to talk about how much you love hospitals and the medical field? No. Does it mean that you might talk about how important affordable, quality healthcare is, and that your experiences in the hospital as a child or with your parents made that a priority? Yes. If you want people to trust and listen to you, they have to understand that you're invested in the process.