Personal Branding: How Do You Spell “Success”?

Kevin P. Dincher

I was once told that I am persnickety when it comes to grammar. Okay, I have been told that more than once. Apparently, it was supposed be a criticism.  Having lived abroad and experienced the frustration of conversing in a language I hadn’t mastered, I do admire those for whom English is a second (or even third) language.  But it is also true that I cringe inwardly (and probably visibly) when I hear native English speakers say “between you and I” instead of “between you and me.” And truth be told, I will never really understand why it is so difficult for native speakers to distinguishing among (among, not between) there, their and they’re. Most of the time, however, I will probably understand what you are writing with no real harm done beyond my momentary psychic spasms.

Paying attention to grammar can be mildly amusing. The title of Lynn Truss’ book bemoaning the state of punctuation in the United Kingdom and the United States, ” target=”_blank”>East, Shoots and Leaves, is a joke derived from bad punctuation.

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons. “Why?” asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder. “Well, I’m a panda,” he says at the door. “Look it up.” The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. “Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Sometimes Spelling Counts

In a 2004 review of Truss’ book in The New Yorker, Louis Menand pointed out several dozen punctuation errors in the book—including one in the dedication. If you are going to write a persnickety book about grammar and punctuation, then you probably should get your own punctuation right.

Most people generally know that it is a bad idea to show up late for an interview. But hiring managers consistently report that having a spelling or grammatical error on applications or in resumes is worse that arriving late for an interview—and worse even than swearing during an interview. This is not about being “grammar fascists. It is about the impression you create:  if you are careless with something as important as a resume, the first impression you create is that you will not care enough about the work you send out representing the company and your boss. Your personal brand suffers.

Your Personal Brand:  Who You are and What You Want to be Known For

These days there is a great deal of talk—both pro and con—around creating a personal brand. What a personal brand boils down to is this:  whenever you interact with people, they build up an image of you. That image can either help you or hinder you in achieving success.

You are constantly creating impressions—sometimes purposefully, but more often unintentionally. What can you do to manage those impressions so that what people see about you is what you want them to see?

Be genuine.

  • Know yourself, and be yourself. Judy Garland once said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of someone else.” Branding is not about creating a false persona. It is based on what is authentic in you. Authenticity is the reason we put our trust in certain brands and not in others. Being yourself ensures that you are seen as genuine and trustworthy. Being yourself also means that you will be able to deliver on what you say about yourself.

Be clear.

  • Know the impression you want to make. Personal branding is successful when you are clear on the message you want to send about yourself and what you have to offer. You want people to know what you are good at, what sets you apart from everyone else. If you are not clear about that yourself, then you will send mixed messages.

Be consistent.

  • Rolex would destroy its brand by selling watches in drug stores for $19.95. If you are trying to establish yourself as a dedicated and hard-working employee in the mind of your boss, don’t contradict yourself on Monday morning by complaining about how tired you are even if your boss doesn’t mind—or is complaining too. If you want to establish yourself as a good communicator or as someone who has an eye for details, do not undermine that message with spelling and grammatical errors. Once you are clear about the impression you want to make, you need to deliver that message with consistency—regardless of how you are communicating, with whom you are communicating or where you are communicating.

We all have a personal brand, whether we realize it or not. Our brand at its best helps us achieve our goals; at its worst, it sabotages our efforts and limits our chances for success. But your personal brand is ultimately in the eye of the beholder; it is the impression that people have of you. And sometimes spelling counts.

We all have a personal brand. Is yours intentional?


Kevin Dincher is an organization development consultant, professional development coach and educator with 30 years of experience that includes not only OD consulting but also work in adult education,  counseling psychology and crisis management, program and operations management, and human resources.

LinkedIn: Kevin Dincher

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