Personalized branding

June 3, 2013
I envision autonomy with collaboration. I envision compassion with confidence. Today, I envision dental hygienists acknowledging their commonalities while promoting their uniqueness.
Let your true colors shine through your professional business card

by Judith M. Stein, RDH

I envision autonomy with collaboration. I envision compassion with confidence. Today, I envision dental hygienists acknowledging their commonalities while promoting their uniqueness.

We are no longer a cloned workforce dressed in white uniforms, white shoes, and white socks. The amazing profession of dental hygiene has evolved over the past 100 years into a thriving force of highly motivated and educated professionals. Today we must begin marketing ourselves in a way that communicates and reflects the menagerie of expertise we each hold. Now is the time!

Whether you are seeking an edge in a competitive job market or would like to establish yourself more securely into your existing place of employment, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the concept of personal branding. Personal branding is defined on reference.com as "the process whereby people and their careers are marked as brands." Now, I'm not suggesting you begin selling your soul or the rights to your biography just yet. I am, however, strongly encouraging you to begin a journey of self discovery. Take just a few moments to create and define a unique image of yourself. Personal branding is a fun, creative, and effective method to ascertain and communicate who you really are.

So let's begin at the beginning. In our educational training, we are taught to seek out experts in the field of inquiry. Applying this to the concept of personal branding, one must seek out advice from public relations experts. The field of public relations is an incredibly exciting profession that affects every tangent of our lives. Public relations experts are utilized in political arenas, corporate enterprises, healthcare facilities, nonprofit organizations, and many other fields of interest. The following is a short list of terms to acquaint yourself with before we begin the branding process (all definitions are from businessdictionary.com):

  • Public Relations--The profession or practice of creating and maintaining goodwill of an organization's various publics (customers, employees, investors, suppliers, etc.), usually through publicity and other nonpaid forms of communication.
  • Marketing--The management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer.
  • Advertising--The activity or profession of producing information for promoting the sale of commercial products or services.
  • Logo--Recognizable and distinctive graphic design, stylized name, unique symbol, or other device for identifying an organization or person.
  • Branding--The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumer's mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme.
  • Personal Branding--The process of developing a "mark" that is created around your personal name or your career. You use this "mark" to express and communicate your skills, personality, and values.

Now that we've done our background work, let's have some fun. Let's begin by developing a logo identity – something you create that best describes you. This logo could then be used on a business card or website header. It could even influence your uniform wardrobe selection and operatory setup. It is recommended you carve out some uninterrupted time for yourself and prepare for a little soul searching. Get comfortable, relax, and lean into yourself. There is no grading system. No pass or fail. There are no time limits or constraints. Just bring your whole self to this project and keep an open mind.

Adjectives, objects, and color

Adjectives--We all remember our days in English class when we were asked to identify nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. Today I need you to focus on adjectives, an element of English grammar that describes a particular quality of a word. To guide you along this journey of personal branding, identify five adjectives that best describe who you really are. Please dig deep within this quest. No one is looking over your shoulder. These words will not be broadcast onto your website. This is just the launching pad of discovery. After you have identified five adjectives, I'd like you to narrow the list down to two words: one word that describes the inner you, and one word that describes the more public you.

For example, the five adjectives I recorded that best describe me were compassionate, eager, dependable, curious, and faithful. For me, these qualities seem to encapsulate both personal and professional elements of myself. As encouraged, I then narrowed my list down to the words compassionate (personal) and curious (public). The adjectives you unveil may spill over into both your personal and professional lives. That will be for you to decide. Remember, you will be using these qualities to communicate to the public – not just your family – who you are. Hold onto these qualities and commit them to memory. We will reflect back on them during this process, but you may also need to draw from these attributes during an interview or job performance review. It is not uncommon in today's employment market to be asked questions such as "What word or words best describes you?" Do your homework. Be prepared.

Objects--This element surprised me. What does object identification have to do with personal branding? Well, after reading the blog "Geek a brand. Geek yourself" by Ashley Stein (ashleyelainestein.com), I was intrigued enough to follow the suggested process and continue on.

You are now encouraged to identify five objects with which you associate positive attributes. Think big. Think small. What activities do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies? Is there an object involved with that activity? What parts of nature bring you joy? What style houses are you drawn to? What model car do you drive or would like to drive? Remember, an object is anything visible or tangible and is relatively stable in form, so the sky is the limit. After you have chosen five objects, look at the shape of these objects. Are there common forms they share? Are there common lines to their shape? The above blog cites a page from design-skills.org that encapsulates subtle meanings behind shapes and forms. The following is a synopsis of their efforts:

  • Circular shapes can reflect tenderness, friendship, care, protection, affection, and compassion.
  • Squares, rectangles, and pyramids can reflect stability, strength, power, balance, reliability.
  • Vertical shapes and lines can reflect strength, masculinity, power, aggression, courage, dominance.
  • Horizontal lines can reflect tranquility, femininity, calm rest, peacefulness, composedness, silence, nonmenacing.
  • Soft curves can reflect rhythm, movement, happiness, pleasure, generosity, femininity.
  • Sharp angled lines can reflect energy, liveliness, anger, rapidity, dynamic movement.

Interesting, isn't it? Again, reflecting on my own object choices I was drawn to heart shapes, flowers, trees, bicycles, and quilts. Following the suggested process, I discovered that my chosen objects held common forms such as soft curves, circular shapes and vertical lines. I was not surprised with the outcome of this self-discovery. My object choices plugged right into personal characteristics with which I identify. I strongly suggest you record and organize your gathered information. Splurge on an organizational binder. Draw out your objects; clip out pictures. Place the information alongside your list of adjectives. Collecting and storing this information will allow you the ability to return to this process at any time or even add to the existing choices at your convenience.

The business card and logo were developed using Microsoft Illustrator. The chosen background color is a combination of my dominant and accent colors. The font was chosen because it reflects my favorite objects that include gentle curves. The phrase "Registered Dental Hygienist and Community Volunteer" was pulled from the list of personal adjectives that I felt best described me.

Color -- The final step in the suggested logo identity process is color scheme. I love color! Even after more than 30 years in dental hygiene, I still offer each patient the choice of their color toothbrush. That may sound trite, but I believe we all, to some degree, react to color. Now, challenge yourself to NOT read ahead before you choose a dominant color that you are most drawn to. Yes, black, gray, white, pink, violet, orange as well as the basic primary colors are options for you. Think about what brings you joy, serenity, and comfort as well as confidence and power. Look around your home. Look at your wardrobe. Take your time.

After you have chosen your dominant color, you will then need to indentify a contrasting color. This color will become the background to your dominant color. This color needs to act more as the supporting cast in your color theater. Finally, pull from your box of crayons an accent color that you could use to splash over your other color choices. You should now have three colors identified. A dominant color. A contrasting color. An accent color.

Logo Identity

At some point in this process, you should end up with words, objects, and colors that best describe your true self. This is the material you will use to assemble your logo identity. I suggest you place this information front and center. Allow yourself time to meander around the items you've collected. You may be struck immediately with an idea or observation. You may need time to walk around the items until clarity is found. Whenever that time is for you, consider composing a business card that reflects this gathered information. Keep it simple. Your beginning may include only the colors you want on this card. Eventually you may be inspired from the object identification list to choose a certain font that reflects you. What about a short mission statement or blurb on this business card? Your chosen adjectives should guide you with that verbiage. With this information, you can confidently walk into any office supply store or printing business to formalize the final chosen product.

Don't stop now. You are on a roll. There is much more that can be influenced by your logo identity. What about your professional wardrobe? Do the colors and styles that you wear to work truly reflect you? Maybe they do, or maybe you could tweak this element of yourself a bit. What about objects placed in your operatory? If you have control over their placement, how could they be positioned to more accurately reflect you? Feeling brave? If you are drawn to sharing your professional passions, consider joining online professional networks, creating a blog, or even incorporating your logo into an existing social media account. The influence logo identity will have in your life is endless.

It is my belief that no one should exist secluded on any island, be that work, home, or play. When we leave our work environment, our professional attributes leave with us. When we leave our home, our personal core values follow us to work. Wherever you are, let the community witness your amazing self. Put into play your newly discovered personal branding attributes in every area of your life. There is a plethora of employment doors waiting for you to open them. Be ready to walk through them. Be true to yourself. Be true to your profession. Be true to your identity. RDH

JUDITH M. STEIN, RDH, is a 1981 graduate of Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Mich. Judy has enjoyed a variety of professional opportunities in her hygiene career, is committed to lifelong learning, and is now employed in private practice. The author is an active volunteer in several professional, community, and faith organizations. She can be reached at [email protected].

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