Brands: not just for businesses anymore
Consultant teaches Castilleja seniors personal branding in the digital age
The rise of social media in professional and social situations has made deciding how to present one's self more important — even for teenagers, according to branding consultant Karen Kang.
As part of Castilleja School's Global Week, in which the all-girls school welcomes speakers for a series of lectures, Kang explained the importance of personal branding, which she described as a person's reputation and image. Kang, the founder and CEO of BrandingPays and author of a new book on the subject, stressed that building a personal brand is a practical pursuit.
"I want to dispel this myth that personal branding is narcissistic," the Palo Alto resident said.
Kang has consulted for more than 100 organizations and has given numerous seminars at business schools, including Stanford University.
She told the group of seniors that women can be at a disadvantage when it comes to the perception of them in the workplace. Some might not see them as stern enough or as decision-makers. To respond to this, she encouraged the girls to have presence in a room and to "own their space."
She said it is important for a person to decide how to present themselves, what messages they will present to their audience, their strategy and how they network.
"This is an opportunity for them to learn the tools for branding in a changing world," said Stacey Kertsman, director of the Awareness, Compassion and Engagement Center at Castilleja.
Kang talked about how she hired her intern, whose resume caught her eye because she was an intern for Disney and a blogger at a digital-media firm. She said that catching someone's eye is important.
Kang explained her own branding strategy, which is summed up as "bake the cake, then frost it." The cake includes the "hard skills" and the frosting includes the "soft skills."
Hard skills include being a strategic thinker or having clear, persuasive communication. Soft skills include emotional intelligence and social skills.
She said it's important to stay consistent with one's core values and to think about what brand attributes are being put out there.
She gave a local example of Hillary Freeman. Freeman, who was known in the community but not by the electorate, was elected to Palo Alto's City Council in 2001. She won with the most votes that year. Kang helped her develop an image as a politician.
"You can't be known for everything. You have to be known for something," Kang said.
She said people will have about 10 jobs in a lifetime, and it is important to reinvent one's self each time.
Going into college, "it's important to at least put a stake in the ground" and pick a major of interest, even if it will change down the road, she said.
Student Sarah Shen said the information will be useful going into college and internships.
Kang had the students try "elevator pitches." A 10-second pitch might include a brief description of what school they go to and where they want to go to college.
A 30-second pitch would allow for them to reveal more information, such as volunteer work or other accomplishments. A 60-second pitch would allow even more examples and might include hobbies. She directed students to walk around the room in pairs while giving their pitches, a simulation of trying to present yourself to someone in a short amount of time.
"They want to see a little of your personality, a little of your humanity," Kang said.
Afterward, the students said they felt challenged to make sure the pitches flowed and were memorable and to list things they were passionate about and to provide a context.
"It was exceptionally helpful," student Camille Townshend said. "Learning how to present yourself was a great opportunity. I'm definitely going to take it with me through the application process."
Students Gabriela Castro and Rebecca Pless echoed Townshend's thoughts, saying they felt it was a great opportunity to advance women and something they would never be taught in class.
"We don't have to be men in the workplace," Kang said, stating the importance of embracing all types of skills.
Editorial Intern Rebecca Duran can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.