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Building Your Own Brand

Your success in business depends, in part, on building your personal brand. That’s according to a group of University of Miami alumni, brought together by  the School of Women’s MBA Club for a panel discussion in October. 

“Reputation just is. Brand can be influenced by PR and marketing,” said Linda Flewelling (BBA ’83, MBA ’84), senior vice president and managing director of Northern Trust, who moderated the panel. “Our brand is really a reflection of who we are, how we’d like to be and how people perceive us … and interestingly branding is a verb. So it’s something we actively and proactively engage in,” she added before the audience of alumni and students.

Flewelling starting by asking each of the panelists a pointed question: What is your personal brand? One by one, Kourtney Ratliff (BBA ’03), partner at Loop Capital Markets; Danielle Price (BBA ’98, JD ’02), partner at Holland & Knight; Jeanne Becker (MBA ’84), senior vice president of public relations firm Wragg & Casas; and Carol Brooks (AB ’84), president & co-founder  of Continental Real Estate Companies, shared their perception of their own brand. But the running theme throughout the discussion could be summed up in a single word: authenticity. 

“Your brand isn’t what you do, it’s who you are,” said Brooks, stressing that your personal and professional brand should be indistinguishable. “When you are creating your brand, the key word is authenticity. If you are pushing from a place of values that are not real to you—that aren’t really who you are—it’s not just going to work out.”

Brooks pointed to two prime examples of authentic personal branding based on a values approach: singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams and hip hop music label Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons. She says both men have taken their passion—music—and infused it with their core values of spirituality to amortize it across a myriad of companies.

Ratliff also zeroed in on authenticity and values. Hers include honesty, being thorough, and working hard. “You want to make sure that you’re conveying who you are and standing by what you say,” she said. “If you are going to meet with someone, do your homework… find the commonality.”

Becker is authentic in her community service—and she has a long history of it.

Becker serves as the secretary and is on the board of trustees of Temple Judea. She served as president of Cherish Adoptive Families, a support group for adoptive families, for 12 years, and was the 1993-94 chairperson for the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, among other civic duties. “Community service and volunteer work has helped me build my business, build me as a professional and build my practice,” Becker says. “I am very committed to it.”

Price is all about authenticity. “I don’t wear skirts and I don’t wear makeup,” she declared. “You are going to get me. I think people appreciate that because if you can’t keep up with a certain standard that you put out there on a consistent basis they are going to know you aren’t authentic about what you are doing and saying.”

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