November 2021: This post has been updated from an earlier post.
Personal branding may seem strange or unimportant to industry veterinarians. Yet in a competitive employment market where online perception can make or break opportunities, how you manage your personal image can be considered more important than ever to grow your reputation and career.
Personal Branding Works Much Like Business Branding
Why do some people choose one product over another, even though both products are virtually the same? The answer is emotion. According to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman in his book How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, “95% of our purchase decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind,” where emotion rules. So, people regularly make decisions based on brand perception—what they feel about a company.
Nike Knows the Power of Emotion
Nike’s immortal slogan “Just Do It” has nothing to do with shoes. Rather, the slogan speaks to people in an emotionally encouraging way, effectively saying, “Whatever your goals are, go for it.” Nike’s shoes are simply vehicles by which they can reach their goals, athletic or otherwise. So, buying a pair of Nike shoes represents a larger investment by people into their ultimate vision of themselves, and because of Nike’s encouragement, people like Nike and buy their shoes to the tune of 780 million pairs each year.
For industry veterinarians, personal branding works the same way. Experience, skills, and professional credentials are certainly important, just like Nike would be nowhere if they also didn’t know how to create good-quality shoes. Yet practical considerations typically have far less impact for people than things with emotional resonance. For example:
- What you stand for and value
- How you inspire and elevate others
- Your views on industry developments
- Your connections with colleagues and how you relate to them
- Your willingness or ability to be humorous where appropriate, conversational, and thereby relatable
Don’t Be Afraid to Use Humor and Conversational Language
Some industry veterinarians particularly shy away from humor in the belief that humor is subjective and may not appeal to everyone, and that’s certainly true. Yet all subjects are subjective, and the power of humor and informality to build personal brands within the veterinary field is evidenced by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang (Pawcurious) and Dr. Andy Roark. As veterinary authorities, both regularly use appropriate humor and conversational language to engage people and build their brands as educators, speakers, and media personalities. Indeed, the value of humor is why many business publications recommend adopting appropriate humor to enhance your personal brand.
If humor and informality aren’t your cup of tea (or coffee), they’re certainly not deal-breakers for people. The sheer emotional influence of overall emotional resonance is the key, and why people with strong personal brands are known as influencers.
Personal Branding Is Not Marketing
Branding is the process of looking beyond doctorates, medical degrees, and even the furniture to identify what truly sets you apart as an industry veterinarian. Do you have unique experience to share as a member of a committee or association? Have you overcome some challenge that can inspire others to overcome their challenges? Do you have networking experience that can help someone uncomfortable with networking? Whatever makes you unique, personal branding is the consideration of how to communicate your uniqueness to others to create an indelible image.
How to Begin Identifying Your Personal Brand
To help develop an idea of your personal brand, ask colleagues, friends, and family members what they think identifies you as unique as an industry veterinarian. Once you gather your information, identify one differentiator that both sets you apart from other industry veterinarians and has emotional resonance. This exercise will help you boil your key brand identifiers down into one or two sentences that will guide you in all your personal branding assets and activities, including:
- Social media images, profiles, and posts
- Website design and blog style
- Speaking engagements and handout material
- Newsletter content and style
- Content contributions to industry websites and publications
Keep Messaging Consistent in Personal Branding
Nike may create new shoes every year, but behind them all, Nike maintains the same “Just Do It” message introduced in 1987, and it’s the same with personal branding. Blogs, social posts, and other individual elements in your branding will naturally change over time. Yet consistent fundamental messaging helps ensure steady growth in your personal branding, reputation, and career growth.