You, the Brand.

It's been almost 15 years since Tom Peters famously wrote about "The Brand Called You" in Fast Company, a concept I was reminded of just this morning via Tony's Tidbits. But somehow this concept seems fresher now at a time of economic challenge and turmoil than it did in the g0-go late 90s. For those I'm closest to --those in the digital media and marketing world -- it ought to be required reading.

The idea of tending your personal brand may seem second nature to some, self-involved to others. But your brand isn't something that just comes together through good intention, nor is it something you can live without in this day and age. For starters, our business world is attention-starved and unforgiving. To get anything done in the digital world you need to connect with and influence a small village of decision makers and supporting players, all of whom are distracted, somewhat cynical and quite able to hide behind voice mail, out-of-office messages and other sentries. Your brand -- the perceived value that's attached to your name -- will likely make the difference in you breaking through at all.

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by PulsePoint, the digital technology company that helps publishers gain deeper visibility in to audience and content, increase first party ad sales revenue and access new opportunities to drive greater business results.

Think it's enough to have a well-known media or agency brand name on your business card? Or maybe that of a hot start up? Think again. Most of us will change jobs a half-dozen times in the decade ahead. Agencies lose accounts, companies buy other companies, management teams turnover, and there's always a patch of greener grass just over the fence. As the currency of corporate affiliation devalues, the personal brand takes on ever more importance.

But don't think this is some Ayn Rand, objectivist rant: screw the company, I'm in this for me. As it turns out, what's good for your personal brand is really great for your employer too. So, what shape is your personal brand in today? On a scale of 1-5 (1=very weak, 5=very strong), honestly rate yourself on the following qualities:

  • Empathy for the struggles and views of both customers and co-workers.
  • Generosity with your time and attention; you don't keep score.
  • Curiosity about processes and relationships -- including those not directly affecting your sale or your job.
  • Optimism that there is a solution to be found.
  • Owning responsibility for the experiences customers or vendors have with your company.

If you score yourself above 20, you are probably delusional (not a good personal branding trait). Below 15, you've got some work to do. And be sure to have your co-workers -- those close to you every day -- rate you on the same qualities.

Not the list you expected? Looking for big stack of Twitter followers? The awards? The panel slot at the next conference? Those are not the building blocks of a personal brand; they are by-products. No, the ingredient list is deceptively simple....and ultimately controllable. The brand "You" is your own construct. And if well maintained, it will simplify a complex world, open an infinite number of doors, and pay you a career's worth of dividends.

Want to discuss this Drift with your team members? Here are some suggested themes: What short term benefits does a strong personal brand create? How did your team members feel rating themselves? What do they think of one another's scores? Ask each for a commitment he or she will make toward developing their brand in the coming week.