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Speaker emphasizes developing ‘personal brand’

Kiera Johnson | Monday, November 4, 2013

Companies devote great efforts to developing their brand, and Stephanie Hightower feels that a person should heed the same efforts with their personal identity.
Hightower, president of USA Track and Field and member of the 1980 Olympic track and field team discussed developing and protecting one’s personal identity in a lecture titled “Developing your Lifelong Brand” on Friday in the Vander Vennet Theatre. Cross Currents Program Collegiate Speakers Series, Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative at Saint Mary’s College and Key4Women cosponsored the event.
Hightower said the idea of brand in business is just as valuable when developing one’s own personal image and individuality.
“Meaningful brands go far beyond any product,” she said. “They express what a company is, what they stand for and how they want to be perceived. Most of all, a brand is based on the experience they have with it. Apple would not be seen as cutting edge if buyers could not see, touch, hear, and know that were true and I am here to tell you that this idea of brand is just as valuable when it comes to your own self image and identity.”
Hightower said there are four questions that one must ask when creating their personal brand.
“What and who you are, what you stand for, how you want to be perceived, and what kind of experience people have when they work or interact with you these are all parts of defining your own personal brand,” she said.
She said creating an authentic and reliable personal brand requires sticking to the truth and starting from the ground up.
“You want to define your authentic self, your brand should be built on the truth of who you are, not someone else,” she said. “Next you have to build your brand from ground up. If you say you are a champion, you got to work to be a champion. If you say you are committed to excellence, then everything you do should be aimed at that goal.
Hightower said building a personal brand requires a person to act in accordance with their words, because authenticity is key.
“Building your personal brand means owning and polishing what is most essentially you. … Remember, it is not what we say, but what we do that counts. People want to know if you will backup your words with action. If your brand is the authentic you even when the spotlight is not shining,” Hightower said.  
Hightower said she began developing her own personal brand when she was running the 100- and 60-meter hurdles at Ohio State.”I was working toward a singular feat: to compete in the Olympics. Everything in my mind, in my body, and in my soul in my activities was towards making the 1980 Olympic team,” she said.
She said developing one’s personal brand was difficult, and destroying it is much easier.
“Off the track is where they forget about building and protecting their image and uniqueness. There was the first offer of money from an endorsement deal, taken without thinking through who wrote the check. Then there was the first glow of the spotlight and the parties that followed, enjoyed without thinking about the national or international attention that comes with it,” she said.Hightower said it is never too late to start developing one’s personal brand, whether it is as a young adult in college or as someone with a steady career.
“For those of you who are in college and for those of us who are in the market place and out here with jobs. This is still the primetime to start defining what your personal brand is,” she said. “None of us are too old to define what our personal brand is. … You need to take this opportunity in your life to define your brand, to build your brand, and most important to protect your brand.”