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personal brand branding

Leadership insights


Branding is a buzzword that is frequently used by business and marketing experts. It is a strategy to expand visibility and interest in commercial products. In his 1997 Fast Company article, “The Brand Called You,” Tom Peters highlighted the importance of branding when building a personal reputation. Leveraging this business strategy can ensure that nurses are positioned to influence the changing healthcare system.

Transforming health care requires that more nurses step into leadership roles. In a 2009 Gallup poll, thought leaders from the insurance industry, corporate world, health services, government, and university faculty believed that nurses should have more influence in shaping the healthcare system. Yet few nurses are appointed to such positions. One way of increasing nursing’s influence is through personal branding.

Cynthia Saver, MSN, RN, a communications expert, recently hosted a personal branding seminar at ANA’s 2014 Quality Conference, held in Phoenix, Arizona. She described a personal brand as a means for nurses to operationalize their mission. “It helps you achieve your mission, realize unknown opportunities, and gain professional and personal satisfaction,” said Saver.

Personal branding is an evolutionary process that grows with the professional nursing journey and reflects an individual’s passion and expertise. Particularly with increased use of digital media and social networking, personal branding is an easy and effective way for nurses to build a professional reputation, manage first impressions, and enhance their professional image. A personal brand provides a way for you to differentiate yourself from others and be recognized as an influential leader.

Consider these concepts when establishing a personal brand.

Identify a goal or destination

When considering a goal or destination, use your interests and passions as a guide. A goal may be broad, such as being recognized as a content expert in a specific subject matter. Destinations may be more specific than goals, such as being appointed to a particular governing board or policymaking body. If a goal or destination is not determined, it is difficult to define success.

Leverage unique contributions

When developing a personal brand, identify and share your unique personal contributions. Perhaps you have developed a unique intervention with a specific patient population that can enhance patient care or reduce costs. On the other hand, you may be great at connecting people. Nurses traditionally hesitate to highlight their successes. Yet by sharing specific contributions you can bring to board service, a project, or an organization, you are more likely to be seen as an influential leader.

Write a brand narrative

A brand narrative is a quick, simple, yet coherent statement that describes one’s value. The exercise of creating a short paragraph that incorporates both past achievements and future goals helps focus thoughts and energy in a positive direction. For nurses, the key to writing a brand narrative is to emphasize their unique characteristics and contributions. The Virginia Action Coalition in partnership with the Virginia Nurses Association created a leadership toolkit to prepare and support nurse leaders and promote the inclusion of nurses on boards.

As Angela Barron McBride, PhD, RN, FAAN, FNAP, former president of Sigma Theta Tau International and author of The Growth and Development of Nurse Leaders, wrote, “A career is a long-term commitment through which self-realization and service to others are both achieved.” Both self-realization and service are important components to a satisfying nursing career. Creating a personal brand offers expanded opportunities for nurses to chart their own course. Whether contemplating a career move, seeking a board appointment, or enhancing your reputation, examining your personal brand can help.

For further information, visit these links:

ANA Career Center


Leadership toolkit


ANA Leadership Institute


Terri Gaffney is the senior director of New Product Development at ANA.

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