IT Career Development: Develop Your Brand

Career development and getting to the top of the heap means taking charge of your own image and promoting yourself. Here’s how.

Excerpted from “Fame 101,” published by Sutton Hart Press (2011).

Jay and Maggie Jessup

The very foundation of Fame 101 and the formula for fame is simple:

Fame = Personal Branding + Publicity + Brand You Market + Personal Financial Development + Brand Longevity Strategies

It’s really that simple (though that’s not to be confused with easy) and it can work for anyone. This formula, which we’ve taken a decade to develop and understand, is the proven process for making it to the top of your field, reaping the benefits and keeping that elite position for life.

Using the fame formula, a priest became a pope, an unknown local television weather girl became Oprah, a caterer working out of her house became Brand Martha, a homeless writer became best-selling author J.D. Rowling—and it’s exactly how the successful leading voice of your own industry captured that lofty position.

Our business is making people famous and that’s where the fame formula came from. We studied successful brands from Alexander the Great to Benjamin Franklin to Billy Graham and ultimately to brand Obama. Although these people and the 100 others we studied could not possibly be more diverse in their activities, they all rose to the top with an intuitive or learned understanding of the activities that create fame.

What’s truly amazing is we found that anyone can catapult themselves to the top of their field in about a year, definitely in less than two, with the correct mix of the fame elements: personal brand strategy, personal marketing, publicity and personal evolution. There are no shortcuts. We’ve looked for them and watched people fall off a fame trajectory by trying to skip a step. So don’t look for a way to skip past any part of the fame formula. It won’t work.

Applying the fame formula is hard work and most people don’t have the resolution to do what it takes to make it happen for themselves; millions think about it, tens of thousands take a run at it, thousands make it pretty far along, but only a few hundred of any generation join society’s elite. It’s these people we call famous. They’re the ones who did the work and stuck to it long enough to achieve that fame.

People want to know them, meet them, elect them to office, give them the best tables, make sure they get front row tickets, and make sure they’re financially successful beyond the dreams of the common man. Fame is nothing less than using what’s unique about yourself to become a powerful personal brand. It’s fun, it’s cool, it’s exciting beyond measure—it’s fame, and you can have it.

The formula is in your hands. Remember there are neither shortcuts nor free rides, although you can do all this with little or no money. We’ll give you a 30,000-foot-level look at each element of the formula so you can have a sense of how it all works together.

Publicity: The Ticket to Big Visibility

Our formula is the recipe for fame and publicity, the first element is the yeast or catalyst in that recipe; it’s what makes everything else work to its maximum effect. Whether you are an entertainer, chief executive officer or garden guy, you won’t achieve the peak of your profession without it. The top people in your field know the power of publicity and they use it to their advantage.

Publicity is how:

  • Cisco CEO John Chambers is selected to be on the cover of Fast Company magazine so frequently.
  • Christina Applegate heads this last year’s People magazine 100 Most Beautiful People list, and how most of the others made the list too.
  • Some people get $5,000 to $25,000 for a 40 minute speaking engagement, while others in their field are fighting to speak for free at the local Kiwanis Club.
  • 99 percent of the famous capture the media’s spotlight and keep it.

Publicity is how authors get on talk shows, candidates get media coverage and actors build recognition, and it’s that special ingredient in the fame process that enables a professional in any field to leap from the pack to become a powerful personal brand.

Being in the media keeps you visible and creates an implied endorsement of your personal brand that our society, correctly or incorrectly, accepts as more valuable. Publicity gets you that media. A physician, florist or charity head jumps ahead of the competition with one People magazine profile. An Oprah appearance can put your brand into the stratosphere.

Publicity confounds accountants. It’s absolutely impossible to quantify and yet it typically offers the best return on investment when used properly. If you have any doubt, ask yourself whether you’d give more credibility to a plastic surgeon who has full-page color ads in Scottsdale Lifestyle magazine every month for six months or to a provider who had a weekly column in the Phoenix newspaper or a profile of her in its Sunday supplement.

Unfortunately, for many, publicity is likely the most misunderstood fame element. People confuse advertising with publicity and they think publicity is all about getting your name in the paper. Publicity is critical to your success and you must understand some basic definitions in order to fully absorb the fame formula.

Publicity is based on the situation that every day, sometimes twice a day, newspapers must fill thousands of column inches with something. It’s the same with magazines, although most of those are monthly—still lots of column inches. Television news shows, evening magazines and radio must create hours of programming every single day, even when there isn’t anything super-newsworthy going on.

To capture some of those column inches or minutes of television time, your publicist connects with the right person who decides what goes on and what doesn’t. They pitch that person with the idea and ideally the client gets coverage. Publicists are the people who create and manage publicity. Publicity in turn starts when a publicist connects with a journalist to present an idea for a story, typically featuring or including one of the publicist’s clients.

There are many ways for the publicist to make the connection, but the first connection is customarily pitching the idea on a phone call or by e-mail. Note here that the “pitch” is not a press release; many people stumble here because they skip this vital direct-connection effort. Many believe a press release is sufficient to draw the media to their door, but this is old school thinking.

The press release, which was an effective first-communication tool years ago, has become almost valueless due to overuse, or at least valueless when distributed randomly with no phone or e-mail connection prior to that distribution. A pitch is a short and instantly intriguing communication between the publicist and a member of the media.

As an example of an effective pitch, consider the lead might be: “Most people don’t know that Kiefer Sutherland has a twin,” or “Have you heard that a doctor in Los Angeles has isolated the gene that makes people obese? And he’s got an inexpensive method to turn it off.” Whatever your field—it doesn’t have to be as high-profile as entertainment or medicine—strategically used publicity will get you in the media.

This is publicity in a nutshell. We’ll talk more about each of these steps and how to use publicity to enhance your personal brand, but for now let’s have a look at the next fame element: creating a powerful personal brand.

Personal Branding: Creating Power Brand ‘You’

The very basis of fame is having a powerful personal brand; becoming the Nike of your field. Anyone can name a dozen huge personal brands like Oprah, Tiger, Heidi, Donald or Martha. No one can doubt their power. Each of these brands creates a definite emotional response when we hear it spoken, and a multibillion-dollar industry has grown up around turning personal brands like these into money. Our next section will be on monetizing your personal brand, but for now let’s look at exactly what personal branding is all about.

We live in a branded world; it’s impossible to buy a golf shirt without a logo. FedEx, UPS, AOL, ABC, CNN and other acronym-companies spend fortunes on branding, and their efforts cover much more than logos; it’s the whole brand experience. A foundational element of the fame formula requires you to accept that you, yourself, are a brand, just like Coca Cola or Target Stores.

The next step is learning lessons from these big brands. It’s one secret to standing out from the crowd and prospering, whatever your field. You’re in charge of Brand You and creating, building and marketing it should be the defining force of all your professional efforts. This applies to candidates, actors, authors, real estate professionals, doctors, attorneys—anyone.

If you’re working in a corporate structure, branding can make you a valuable free agent: you’re lending your brand to whatever company is paying you at that time, but you have big value on the open market—at least if you build yourself into a powerful personal brand.

Great personal branding is the difference between being the vice president of product development at a company and being that “hot new creative guy we’ve got on a two-year contract.” Same position, same person—quadruple the perceived value and likely quadruple the compensation. The fame formula focuses on building you into one of these powerful brands.

Once you accept that branding principles apply to you, the first proactive effort is to create a unique role for yourself. This is a value that you very visibly bring to the market and a set of feelings or emotions that the mention of your brand creates among your target market.

There’s a lot of material on creating your role, your value and your brand in Fame 101, but remember, at its core, the effort is to create the best authentic you; not something superficial or something that doesn’t ring true. The market intuitively spots phonies and bars them from fame; the same market heavily rewards uniqueness and, above all, authenticity. This of course doesn’t mean being too casual, untrained or unprepared; what we’re talking about is your best authentic self.

Personal branding starts with taking the time to define your role out in the world: What is that thing that makes you special, makes you remarkable and makes you different? If you can describe that difference in 20 words or less, and it’s the best authentic you, you have completed the most important step in personal branding.

Unfortunately, most people haven’t taken the time to take on this exercise and thus they’re still that vice president of product development at a big brand corporation rather than the micro-celebrity product development guru we described earlier. For those people who have taken the time to design their 20-word personal brand description: Is it effective? Is it concise? Does it convey power?

A test of your short description of your brand is to ask yourself whether or not someone would do a double take at a dinner party when you delivered that message. Would your statement suddenly grab their interest? Would they be eager to hear more? This is especially true when working in your target market, but it should be sufficiently interesting to capture an outsider’s interest as well because a positive result there is indicative of how your brand will be received by the mainstream media—a necessary partner in building a powerful brand.

So, what’s your pitch? How do you present your brand? If you don’t know, get to work on this foundational element of your success. Time spent in this area can yield lifelong rewards. The how-to part of creating your personal elevator pitch, your 20-word personal brand description, is found in its own section later in the book. Now that we’ve looked at your role, the next brand step is defining the playing field.

Expand Your Brand Playing Field

The fame formula requires you to develop a powerful personal brand; you know this and you now see how to identify Brand You. The next step in your personal branding process will follow the path of Pepsi, Amazon and the other big company brands. This requires you to identify the industry or arena you’re playing in, and we encourage you to think broadly here because it’s the breadth of your playing field that will be the only limit on your personal success.

What we mean by broadly is best understood by example. You’re not an international patent attorney specializing in solidifying the rights of your clients in Southeastern Asian countries. You’re an intellectual property lawyer. This is the broader arena where you work and this broadening allows you to develop and capture more opportunities.

If the media needs a talking head on any intellectual property matter, you’re eligible. If a sportswear company needs a law firm to take over all their international patent work, you’re eligible. This is often a hard concept to grasp as, especially after a decade of working in a field to become a micro specialist, you’re asked to comment on something outside of your expertise; there’s hesitancy, and that can be a fame killer. Just assume if you’re a patent lawyer, you can comment for a few minutes on any related subject, given some time to prepare. We’ll talk a lot more about this later.

For another personal brand expansion example, you’re not the manager of a midsize company that sells custom blogging software to medical and legal professionals. You’re a social media guru. You can see where we’re going here. For branding purposes you must create some room for yourself and your brand to grow. So whatever you’re doing, whether actor or candidate or florist, expand your definition of your brand out one or two levels to create a geometrically larger market.

Here’s a test on the concept. One candidate for mayor in Seattle, Wash., is focused on the issue of building a light rail system to connect this spread-out metropolis. What’s his personal brand—or, in the case of candidates, the question is more often, “What’s his campaign brand?”

Is he “Seattle’s light rail guy” or the “advocate for smart environmentally friendly transportation solutions in metro areas?” What’s the winning brand? The first is a one-issue local candidate with no potential for brand expansion and enhancement. The second is a potential author, speaker, consultant and commentator of regional or even national stature. It’s the same guy with the same skills; just a better presentation.

A nationally branded candidate has an immense advantage over a local candidate in local elections. This candidate is more powerful if elected because he carries the stature of his national brand, his author status and leading voice branding. If he doesn’t get elected he still has a book deal, lucrative consulting opportunities and paid speaking engagements until the next election if he wants to run again.

As you’re building the foundation for your brand, expand your thinking and create room for a powerful personal brand to grow.

Marketing Your Powerful Personal Brand

Marketing your personal brand is the next element of the fame formula. Some people have the wrong idea about what’s included in marketing. Their definition is something tacky involving sales gimmicks and loud pitch men. They confuse marketing with selling, and no one likes selling. If you do your marketing correctly and pay attention to the rest of the fame formula, others will always do your selling for you.

In our fame formula, marketing is a huge concept, but in essence it’s the process where you take an idea of how to fill a need in the market and convert that idea into a packaged product or service that is then presented to the buyers in the market. In this case that packaged product is Brand You and the value you offer. As you put together a marketing plan for your personal brand, we want you to always remember that what you’re doing is creating interest in and demand for your services.

Personal marketing is initially about packaging the role you’ve defined for yourself in the most appealing manner. Your personal marketing plan will also require you to research your playing field to spot the leading personal brands and to research their message, their marketing and their effectiveness. You’ll want to look for a gap in the market that your skill set and interests allow you to fill.

Once you’ve defined the market, or what we keep referencing as the playing field, you’ll need to design your approach to positioning yourself to capture the market. There are quite a few common strategies used by the Super Elite personal brands that you’ll find throughout “Fame 101,” but your effort will be to use those examples to design a specific marketing plan of your own.

Personal marketing is thus, just as with personal brand strategy and publicity, one necessary element of the fame formula. The personal brand you define must be packaged and rolled out to the market you define. There’s one more element in our recipe for fame. We call it Personal Evolution.

Personal Evolution: Your Brand Must Constantly Evolve

Every element of the fame formula so far has a big element of fun. Thus, it’s easy to skip over the final element of the fame formula because it’s disguised as work. Publicity can be a blast if you let yourself enjoy it—feature articles, morning talk shows, radio interviews and the rest.

Creating a powerful personal brand is also an entertaining experience. The process requires you to lock down your dream life and the role you will use to grow into that life. What human endeavor could be more exciting? Personal marketing, with all the micro decisions that go into packaging and rolling out Brand You, is an amusing process also.

The thing to watch out for here is that all these cool activities can divert you from a critical activity: Personal Evolution. We’re not talking here about some New Age concept of consciousness raising or achieving some higher plane of existence. This is something much simpler and absolutely necessary for your fame effort.

Personal Evolution is constant, continuous learning. Other than the 50 faces you see on the mind-candy supermarket magazines, the successful famous people in every field understand that while being visible is valuable, you must be able to back it up with smarts, talent and ability.

Cadillac makes a great car, but it has an R&D lab that’s working on evolving this iconic vehicle to its next level. Where would this brand be if the company just accepted the 2010 model as a great car and never evolved a new one? The same thing applies to brand you. You must have your own virtual R&D lab and you must learn, train and practice your profession.

If you’re an insurance broker seeking fame, the rules are the same as with Cadillac or any sports star. You need to constantly study the new products and services in the industry, but to be a real player and have a shot at the elite 1 percent you need a broader view of your personal evolution. Insurance is a financial product, so you should learn how it fits among other financial products and then learn more than your competitors about those other products.

Then, as part of the evolutionary process, you must constantly study the big picture. A lot of fame is about the relevant big picture, which is the economy and business environment. So you’re not just taking continuing education courses for insurance brokers, although those are good and necessary. You’re consistently reading general business magazines from Fast Company to Forbes.

Then, you’re attending seminars on collateral fields as diverse as marketing and social media technologies, or taking a few high-end business courses at the local university. You’re attending lectures presented by any business leader of repute and you’re reading the high-end business authors. This is the personal evolution we’re talking about to build power Brand You.

The list of evolutionary activities is different for every field, but you get the idea. Smart is cool, up up-to to-date is necessary, broad- expertise is necessary. All of these concepts go into the fame element of Personal Evolution. Don’t get diverted by the fun parts of building fame. We’ve seen many fame seekers stumble on the fame path because they thought they could skip this crucial element of learning and constant professional development.

It’s not necessarily the most fun element of fame, but it’s absolutely necessary. You need the big-picture knowledge base to do a great interview and you need the out-of-your-industry connections to spot new opportunities for brand expansion. Constantly evolve—it’s the key to fame.

That’s the Fame Formula

Everyone wants a formula for success, and you now know the path. It’s the precise formula that made Picasso possible and Princess Diana the most notable royal of a century, and put the established leader of your industry in that position.

Here’s the real secret: just having the formula isn’t enough. We’ve got a great recipe for making bread, but we’ll starve unless we do something with it. OK, this is a weak kitchen analogy (unless, of course, you’re the next Rachael Ray), but what we want to point out is that you must go over all of the material in Fame 101 to see how it works and to learn the keys to making each element of the fame formula work for you.

Building, marketing and publicizing a personal brand is a lot of work, and it will take at least a year before you start to see real results—but the rewards are nothing less than achieving your maximum personal potential and all the life perks that you get when you make that happen. You’re holding the fame formula in your hand. Use it.

Maggie Jessup

**Jay Jessup**is a leading figure in personal and corporate branding strategy. He speaks frequently at nationwide business and professional events, including Mensa conferences and national trade shows. Platform Strategy’s client base is a who’s who and who’s next of high-income professionals, winning candidates, innovative visionaries and leaders in various industry sectors. Prior to co-founding platform strategy, he was the chief marketing officer for two technology firms, and the rainmaker for a national global professional services firm that worked in the publishing communications and entertainment industries.

Maggie Jessup

Maggie Jessup* is a former investigative journalist for the* Atlanta Journal Constitution and Houston Chronicle*. She co-founded Platform Strategy, a boutique publicity and brand-strategy firm, where she leads a team of publicists, social media and Web technology experts, graphic artists, publishing professionals, media and speech trainers, and marketing professionals focused on building and managing compelling brands*.

Learn more about “Fame 101,” at and