How to Balance Personal and Business Brands

By Bill Chiaravalle, Barbara Findlay Schenck

You need to build a brand for yourself and, if you own a business — even a one-person, part-time business located in a corner of your living room — you need to build a brand for your business as well. On top of that, you have to keep the strength of each brand in check with the other.

Keeping your personal and business brands in balance

Obviously, you want to enhance the image, visibility, credibility, and trust of brands, so this next sentence may surprise you: You have to be careful not to overdevelop your personal or your business brand. You have to keep each one in sync with the other and with your goals.

Here are examples of what can happen when one brand eclipses the other:

  • The personal brand of George Zimmer was so synonymous with Men’s Wearhouse that when he and the business parted ways, news reports called it “the firing heard around America.” Zimmer had closed countless ads with the line, “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”

    The business promise had become his personal promise and his abrupt departure shook investor confidence in a way that might have been avoided had the business shifted brand visibility before transitioning its powerfully branded founder to “a smaller role at the company.”

  • A restaurant owned by award-winning chefs famous for leading the sustainable-dining movement is for sale at a price the owners feel is in line with the fame and following they’ve acquired. Last time the listing was checked, a buyer hadn’t been found. A million dollars is a lot to pay for a restaurant people love primarily for the brilliance of its owners.

  • A business owner — or a business employee — who is such a strong business brand ambassador that her title and company affiliation is the overarching theme for everything from her LinkedIn profile headline to her social encounters to her appointment to local boards fails to create a personal brand that serves as a transportable identity.

    As a result, when it’s time for a change, she literally has to rebrand herself with the personal brand she never adequately developed during her business stint.

Imagine your personal and business brands are riding a teeter-totter. Does one outweigh the other?

Keep your personal and business brands in check

If you’re building brands for yourself and your business, consider these questions:

  • Do your brands share equal levels of awareness, or is one significantly more powerful than the other?

    • Put each name into a search engine. Are results for each name equal in terms of quantity, quality, and how well they reflect your desired brand image?

    • Review recommendations, publicity, online mentions, and comments by others. If they refer to you personally, do they also mention your business name, and vice versa?

  • Does each brand support but also stand independently of the other? Would each brand have credibility even if the other disappeared?

    • Is your business brand strong enough to survive without the power of your personal brand? If you sold or left your business tomorrow, would its brand be dramatically diminished by your exit?

    • Conversely, are you, personally, adequately visible within your business brand? People humanize businesses and go where they can’t, such as to networking events and into community or leadership positions. Is your personal brand strong and visible enough to boost the power of your business?

Based on your findings, you may need to take one of two steps:

  • If your personal brand is weak in comparison to your business brand: Develop your awareness and value in your business arena, industry, community, and online. Make personal branding a priority — power up your personal identity, awareness, and credibility — especially if your business could benefit from a more personal face or if you’re planning to pursue personal opportunities outside your business.

  • If your business brand is weak in comparison to your personal brand: Start reducing the emphasis on you and your own name and turn the spotlight onto your business and its name, team, processes, and assets. Make business branding a priority. If your business doesn’t have a website, launch one. If you don’t have a business logo, get one and feature it in your personal email signature and on personal online pages.

Cross-promote your two brands

When you build personal and business brands, you establish two sets of positive images in the minds of others. Your business name unlocks one set of images and your personal name unlocks the other. By consistently linking your brands through cross-promotion, you make each brand an asset of the other, fortifying each brand and extending the reach of both.

Connecting your brands can be as easy as presenting the logo, web address, Twitter handle, or other identifiers for your business brand on your personal sites and clearly establishing yourself as the business founder or owner in all business introductions. The result is greater reach and credibility for both brands.

Conduct a Google search and assessment for your brands. Keep an eye on which brand is most visible and adjust brand emphasis if and when the balance becomes out of line with your personal and business goals.