“In rural parts of Jamaica, people still communicate by shouting over to their neighbors on mountain tops.” So began our introduction to the island nation of Jamaica from Ethnie Miller-Simpson, who was visiting the New York office of Porter Novelli for three weeks as part of the FORTUNE/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership. Intrigued by where she was from and excited by the opportunity to broaden our horizons, the local chapter of the Porter Novelli Diversity Council asked Ethnie to speak to our colleagues about culture and marketing in Jamaica. In her native land she is co-manager of the branding consultancy firm, BRANDZ Avenue.
After covering Jamaican culture and client case studies, Ethnie spent some time stressing the importance of self-branding. She asked: “Where is your place on the shelf?” She went on to talk about the importance of knowing what you bring to the table for your company and how everything about you reflects your brand – from your email address to the clothes you wear.
As communications professionals, we exercise this type of thinking for our clients every day, but when it comes to shining the spotlight on ourselves, it leaves some of us speechless and paralyzed. After Ethnie’s presentation, I gave a lot of thought to my own brand. It was challenging, since I’ve always felt like I fit into many categories and the question isn’t always where I belong on the shelf, but which shelf do I belong on. As a third-culture kid, sometimes it’s easier to identify myself with what I’m not, rather than what I am.
Then as I was flipping through the Saturday edition of The New York Times, I ran across another clue to help me with my quest. When discussing how he hires employees, Deloitte’s chief executive Barry Salzberg explained that one lesson he imparts to up-and-comers at Deloitte is personal branding:
“ Make sure people know who you are and that you stand for who you are. Be honest about yourself. I don’t want you to show me who you think I want you to be. I want you to be yourself, but find out who you really are and drive it. Be unique about something. Be a specialist in something. Be known for something. Drive something — that’s very, very important for success in leadership because there are so many highly talented people. What’s different about you — that’s your personal brand.”
That’s when it hit me and I realized that by following my passions, I picked an aisle long ago.
If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me in the diversity section, on the top of the shelf.